Though the coronavirus pandemic forced much of its outdoor activity indoors last year, Ardsley’s Conservation and Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) was able to provide a solid account of its accomplishments and future plans at the Ardsley Board of Trustees meeting on June 21.
Since its formation last summer, CEAC made strides toward its two overarching goals: to promote reduction of greenhouse gas emissions toward meeting the state’s nation-leading targets defined by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act; and to establish collaborations and programming on climate change issues at the local level.
CEAC’s 2020 annual report cited Ardsley’s designation as a Clean Energy Community, by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the village board’s decision to apply for Climate Smart Community status, under the state Department of Conservation’s CSC program.
A CEAC task force submitted an application for CSC bronze status, and the result will be announced in September, according to CEAC chair Eda Kapsis. If approved, Ardsley will receive a $5,000 grant and points toward the next level of certification, Silver.
Though launched during the height of the Covid-19 crisis, CEAC’s ambitious “Ardsley CAN! By 2030” initiative is on track to reduce village emissions by 50 percent by that date. The website ardsleycan.org provides an overview and program details. CAN stands for the pillars in the program — C: Carbon Reduction, A: Act Sustainably, N: Neighbor by Neighbor.
The carbon reduction component included webinars offered in 2020 and 2021, and cooperation with neighboring villages to promote the Con Edison GridRewards program; the latter earned each village a $5,000 NYSERDA grant and points toward their Clean Energy Community ranking.
The CAN program calculated Ardsley’s carbon footprint and its sources using data from combined methods, but the progress report notes that the greenhouse gas estimates “will be adjusted later in 2021 using data from ICLEI… We expect the reported figures to decrease.”
The report states, “Securing licensing of a measurement methodology and tool kit will be key for emissions reductions. CEAC anticipates that the ICLEI license will be the best fit.” CEAC obtained that license.
ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) is a Bonn, Germany-based global network that helps municipalities with local responses to climate change, aiming toward low-emission, nature-based, resilient development.
“ICLEI creates common definitions and measures all over the world, providing everyone with the same raw data, the same formula on how to do an inventory about cost savings,” Kapsis explained. “An inventory… gives you a way to determine what the benefit would be to making changes.”
The ICLEI data can be used to estimate the greenhouse gas reduction and fuel savings of the existing solar panels on the roof of Ardsley’s firehouse and could be applied to future changes CEAC would like to see, including an electric fleet of the smaller vehicles used by the DPW, village hall, and police and fire departments.
“The fire chief is already looking into when an electric firetruck would be available,” Kapsis clarified. “This is not near-term; we have to have a very long timeline to plan for such things.”
CEAC’s educational programming focused on practical actions individuals and municipalities can take to foster sustainability, such as changing lawn care habits, conserving water and electricity, composting food waste, and planting pollinator gardens. The committee itself became a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense partner this year, agreeing to “promote the value of water efficiency and WaterSense-labeled products, new homes, and programs,” and feature WaterSense on websites and related promotional materials.
The Pollinator Pathways Project, spearheaded by Carol Sommerfield, has become so high-visibility, especially since its pollinator garden tour on May 15 that Sommerfield has been invited to partner with Mai Mai Margules of Tarrytown’s Pollinator Pathways to create pollinator demonstration gardens at Hart's Brook Preserve and Anthony F. Veteran Park, starting this fall. Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner sponsored the proposed collaboration.
Kapsis made clear that CEAC has been mentored by or partnered with county departments, the school district, regional organizations, and local groups, and shares best practices with six similar committees in an inter-village group.
CEAC acknowledged its need for a grant writer, and replacing volunteers such as co-founder/vice chair Asha Bencosme, who will run for village trustee this November. The committee has engaged roughly 20 percent of the population and expects to expand its outreach.
CEAC’s upcoming activities are planned to align with the Village of Ardsley’s Comprehensive Plan. CEAC has been making recommendations to the board about approving the NYStretch Energy Code and a Complete Streets resolution, and encouraging the use of “low embodied carbon concrete” in construction when possible. (Some streets slated for reconstruction are set to use this material.)
CEAC is also advising village administrators on incorporating green building practices in the construction of the new DPW building off Heatherdell Road, using renewable energy to operate that facility, and preparing to charge electric vehicles as they are integrated into the fleet.
Regarding the committee’s full plate, Kapsis said, “Half of this is fun, not work. We want to carry that forward. That lays the foundation for community participation. Success is really community engagement — and adding more value for the committee.”