Earlier this month, the Village of Warwick became eligible for the bronze-level certification of Climate Smart Community, a state program that provides municipalities with funding for green and energy-efficient decision-making.
Village officials have worked toward these initiatives as far back as 20 years ago. Environmental action has always been a big priority, and village officials hope to set an example for other municipalities of Orange County.
‘A framework to help further our sustainability efforts’
“What we recognize is that we had been doing many of the initiatives for many years, and it just made sense to start coalescing these activities and having a sort of gauge of where we are and what we’re doing,” said Mayor Michael Newhard. “Not just as a Climate Smart Community, but as a community that considers environmental action as an important initiative.”
“When we think about establishing and pursuing the Climate Smart Community certification,” added Village Trustee Tom McKnight, “really we see it as a framework to help further our sustainability efforts.”
Some of the significant actions the village has taken include converting its 500 streetlights to LED lights, using wastewater treatment effluent to water village plants, participating in Tree City USA for more than 35 years and creating a reuse system that allows residents to turn their yard scraps into free compost.
“Twice a year the village pays for material processors to come in and grind everything to find material,” McKnight said regarding the reuse program. “They add some manure, they make it to like a mulch or compost, and then the compost is free to village residents.”
Greenhouse Emissions Benchmark
The village also established a Greenhouse Emissions Benchmark, a report that covers three years’ worth of the village’s electrical and natural gas consumption. This helps officials better understand the ways they can reduce energy use where possible and consider alternatives that can still serve their residents’ needs.
“There’s a lot of data, a lot of work that went into this,” McKnight said. “But what it does now is it gives us a baseline to understand what our emissions look like.”
These initiatives not only mitigate the village’s environmental impact but also reduce costs for residents. The LED streetlight conversion, for example, will save taxpayers a few million dollars in the long term.
“It’s expected to save around $2 million total over the next 20 years with taxpayer money, that’s pretty significant,” McKnight said.
For Climate Smart certification, the village completed and submitted 20 action items to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, making it eligible for the program’s bronze-level status. This would make the Village of Warwick the first Climate Smart Community in Orange County and one of more than one hundred certified municipalities in the state.
Village officials are hoping to pursue even more initiatives and reach the program’s silver-level status. Future plans include forming a climate task force, adding another electric car charging station and seeking hydroelectric energy through a Community Choice Aggregation.
“One of the surveys we did, we had a question which was how important is it for the village to prioritize environmental stability on a scale of one to five, five being the most important.,” McKnight said. “Over 80 percent responded that was either a high or very high importance.”