After a year of tireless cataloging, Saugerties’ Climate Smart Task Force aims to unveil a complete audit of each municipal facility’s (of which there are over 60) greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs by the end of the calendar year.
“We’re getting the amount of electricity, kilowatt hours, and the cost of every account in the town for electricity and natural gas in every municipal building — the senior center, all of the sports facilities, [the] highway [department], everything,” said Patti Kelly, the task force member responsible for compiling the audit’s data. “We’re also getting the electricity, the natural gas and we’re also getting all of the other energy sources that we use — propane, kerosene, gasoline in town vehicles.”
Kelly said that the data is “stunning to look at.” The audit will be exhaustive, she said — from the gas mileage on town police cars to each individual street lamp.
“I think [the town can reduce their footprint] in every place,” said Kelly, offering an initial analysis of the data she’s collected. “For example, which vehicle usage, we have a few small electric cars. The police department has one, buildings and grounds have a few that they use to get around. The more we can incorporate electric vehicles into our fleet would be tremendous. That’s just one way. The other is to make everyone aware of how much energy use we use. Do you need to have your computer or lights on all day long?”
New York State developed the Climate Smart Communities program to help local governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut energy usage, shift towards greener sources of energy and spread climate-healthy practices. Saugerties — along with the city of Kingston, Rosendale, Esopus and Gardiner — is one of 244 other communities across New York which pledged to complete a wide-ranging series of tasks for “points.” Once a community has accumulated enough points, they can apply for an audit that will potentially graduate them from a registered community to a “certified” community. At the time of this publication, the Town of Saugerties has accumulated 65 of the 120 points necessary before being able to apply for the first level of certification, the bronze level. This energy audit will earn 16 points.
When Saugerties first registered as a Climate Smart Community in 2009, the town started a Green Task Force to head up the various projects and research necessary to complete their first point-earning goals. Although the Green Task Force was successful in reducing the town’s greenhouse gas emissions and enacted cost-saving energy and waste practices, the task force was dissolved. In its place, the Conservation Advisory Committee was founded, filled via appointment by the town board.
“Even though we’re just a little town on this globe, each of us has to do our part,” said Kelly. “We’re all excited about it, and I think we’re all receptive to it. It’s good to do it and I think that the townspeople and certainly the town board are very receptive to these innovations. We’re lucky in that respect.”
Seeking to bolster the CAC’s numbers, a subcommittee was formed and joined forces with the CAC team to create the currently existing Climate Smart Saugerties Task Force. (That’s 10 more Climate Smart points.)
“I cherish our natural environment,” said Mary O’Donnell, who was appointed as the task force’s coordinator by the town board earlier this year. “I think it’s a precious gift that we have to be good stewards of. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to address the climate change issues and do all that we can do maintain a healthy and sustainable natural environment for all of us.”
The task force, which meets on the third Thursday of every month, holds public meetings where they continue to design projects to earn Climate Smart Community points, as well as talk about how best to advise the town board on local environmental issues.
On the public education and inspiration side of the equation, the task force is planning a large-format event, tentatively scheduled for April, to inform curious Saugertiesians about the benefits of electric vehicles, waste reduction programs and the composting program.