Members of the New Paltz Climate-Smart Task Force are looking to secure the silver designation in a State program, which was designed during the Cuomo administration to help dole out competitive State aid by providing incentives to help save the planet and this species from the consequences of human-caused climate change. During an annual report to members of the Town Board on February 3, task force members reflected on what’s happened in New Paltz thus far and what’s to come. This is an active group of volunteers, who have organized a book club, monthly meet-ups, regular public events on topics such as reducing plastic usage and girding homes against winter weather and creating a natural resources inventory of New Paltz that can be reviewed and studied using an online interactive tool.
One project that’s in the works is establishing a system for residents to use stainless steel tiffin containers to pick up take-out food at restaurants, rather than generating more garbage. Named for a midday meal common in India, tiffin containers are essentially multi-compartment lunchboxes. Task force members confirmed with county health officials that there’s no reason in the code not to use them, and have gotten the owners of most local restaurants to agree. A stainless steel model was selected for the ease of washing and sanitizing it between uses. Next steps include securing a supply of the containers to sell at cost and to provide signage to be displayed at locations where they can be used. Customers will have to advise that a personal container will be used when placing an order.
To make arrangements to buy a tiffin at a cost of $15, contact Jim O’Dowd at email@example.com. The New Paltz Tiffin Project is planned to be a three-phased
program. In the first phase the task force is encouraging individuals to buy a tiffin and bring it to
restaurants both for take-out and for to-go containers used at the end of a meal you can’t finish.
In the next phase, they would like to feature New Paltz restaurants that are willing to
promote the use of tiffins. To help with this project, contact Janelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Community greenhouse gas inventory
The community greenhouse gas inventory that was prepared before the pandemic was not counted while securing the bronze designation, which means that by redoing it, according to the feedback received, that it will be part of the push for silver. Getting to that level will be more challenging, because the projects that require fewer resources and carry smaller short-term costs have mostly been completed. In New Paltz, elected officials have had the foresight to incorporate greener technology into major construction projects, such as the Town’s justice center and the new Village firehouse, just next door on Putt Corners Road. Task force members advised that the next step is the think about the climate impacts of the landscape design for those buildings. For example, lawns are a crop requiring water and fertilizer to grow, and when this crop is harvested — with a mower – it’s a source of greenhouse gases as well as noise, but not a source of food for any humans or native creatures. Supervisor Neil Bettez spoke about how native wildflowers are being planted on Town land where the slope is too steep for most human activity. The supervisor didn’t specifically say if such local flowering plants — or oaks, trees specifically called out for playing a critical role in the ecosystem — would be planted around the new court and police station. Quite a few trees were killed during construction because a space free of hiding spots around the building was considered desirable.
Council members also learned that their participation needs to be more than naming a liaison to the task force: one way to get more points is to demonstrate that the elected officials are active participants in this work. Those elected officials spoke about perhaps switching to having more than one council member act as liaison by attending task force meetings on a rotating basis, but it’s not clear if having one person show up to monthly meetings would be enough to skin in the game to earn more points.
Proposal to make it possible to ride e-bikes throughout the Town
Measures that are underway include a law to make it easier to get around on electric bicycles in the town. State law forbids their use on roads with a speed limit higher than 30 mph, and that fragments how many roads can be legally traversed. Riding bicycles on Village sidewalks is illegal, as well. Bettez will be bringing forth a proposal to make it possible to ride e-bikes throughout the Town. The police fleet is being weaned from gasoline, but highway trucks are more challenging because there’s not a lot of heavy-duty electric vehicles available yet. Electric motors provide much more torque than diesel ones, which may eventually result in higher demand. Council members also passed a resolution in support of the local repair cafe, which includes a commitment to allow it to be held on Town property if that becomes necessary. The events will now also be promoted through Town channels.