Sunday morning, April 19, was a picturesque and warm spring day, with a light breeze wafting over the walls of Kensico Dam. As I walked along the grassy lawn towards where the booths had been set up, I marveled at the light green reusable shopping bags everyone seemed to be carrying. "Where can I get one of those?" I asked an event coordinator. He responded that the free bags were all gone. What?! It was only eleven thirty, and the event just started at ten. Didn't they have over 500 to give away? "Sorry," he responded. "People were lined up here at 9:30." Such, I suppose, is an accurate indicator of the roaring success of the 2009 Westchester County Earth Day Celebration.
Slightly despondent and bag-less, I proceeded to walk around the exhibits. My spirits were instantly raised by the sheer abundance of green (and tie-dye shirts, but that's a different story). A large white tent sheltered over 20 vendors, ranging from energy audit companies and solar panel installers to environmental activist groups and nature preserves. One organization of notice was CHI energy, which stands for Community Housing Innovations. As employee Andrew Fischer explained to me, the not-for-profit offers free energy audits over the phone and in person. After the audit, CHI will then research and process all energy efficiency grants for your needs and refer you to contractors to get the improvements done. CHI also offers free training for people interested in becoming energy auditors; after their course, they will steer you towards proper certification. Green jobs and energy efficiency - I love it! (For more information, you can contact CHI at 914-235-5733. They also have a new sustainable housing development called Minerva Place opening soon in White Plains; applications can be made by calling Alcia Hall at the Department of Planning at 422-1299.)
"You know, we don't make a lot of money doing this sort of thing. But I'll tell you, it's just so damn satisfying!" remarked Peter Bell of Hudson Valley Energy Consultants
, referring to work his company does with another great program for free energy audits. It's called EmPower
, run by NYSERDA through the Honeywell International. EmPower provides free energy audits for low-income households. With government funding, the program is receiving $6 million from New York state with the goal of updating 6,000 homes. The state will even pay for the energy efficiency improvements needed! Sound great? I thought so, too. But as Mr. Bell explained, they're actually having trouble finding enough homes to participate. So spread the word and take advantage of this great opportunity!
The Sustainable exhibits were crowded with kids and adults carrying around green sheets of paper, furiously scribbling away. Curious, I soon learned that the sheets were for a "Green Raffle": for every three correct answers, which could be found among the booths, to the 18 questions given, you got one free entry into the raffle. The prizes were impressive, but after learning there still weren't any bags being given away, I decided to recycle my entry.
One highlight of the day came around 12:14 with the Earth Day Awards ceremony
. On a stage unfolded from a special truck in front of a small crowd of spectators, County Executive Andy Spano gave over 63 awards to local residents and organizations that have been champions of environmental causes. The 5 new coveted Sustainability Awards were given to the likes of the Global Warming Task Force, a committee of 33 members who worked tirelessly to create the Westchester Action Plan for Climate Change and Sustainable Development
("a practical guide for climate change activities for educators, businesses, local governments and individuals throughout Westchester County and the Northeast" and highly worth the read, I might add). The awards, which honored students, teachers, activists, companies, organizations and municipalities, couldn't help but restore your faith that, with all this talent and enthusiasm, we really can solve any problem. And hey, the certificates were pretty sharp - all the more motivation to take your own iniative!
After the awards, I toured around the dam a little longer, marveling at the veggie-oil powered garbage truck and some solar-powered garbage cans, and later gazing longingly at some organic and home-baked granola and bread. (What exactly the solar cells were powering in the garbage can remains a mystery to me, but it sure looked cool - and as long as it's using renewable energy, who am I to complain?) I left the day with an armful of brochures and business cards, which I am happy to share with you. Check out the links below for some of my favorite groups featured. If you happened to miss this event, never fear! This Thursday is the CELF Sustainability Expo
, from 2:30 until 6:30 at PACE University in Pleasantville. It's sure to keep the Earth Day feelings running high!
Westchester County Earth Day Links:
Photo Credit: Maddy Yozwiak