NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe Reacts to the Bond Act-funded School Bus Incentive Program

It’s time to get on the all-electric bus. We are thrilled to see the first application period open up for the Bond Act-funded New York School Bus Incentive Program, and we strongly urge all school districts to apply and begin the process of transitioning their school bus fleets to electric. The mandate to make all school buses electric by 2035 statewide was a major environmental and public health victory; it will reduce air pollution that is poisoning our children’s lungs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet. 

Diesel school buses expose kids to exhaust 23-46 times higher than what the EPA lists as significant cancer risk. One in 10 children in New York State have asthma — the number one cause of school absences among children — and that number jumps to an appalling one quarter for children that live in low-income communities and communities of color in New York City. 

For the sake of our children’s health and for the sake of the planet, it is critical that we get the transition to electric school buses right. And while a lot of work lies ahead to get there, it is an achievable goal. With state funds beginning to flow along with investments from the U.S. EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, and by bringing innovation, community voices, and operational expertise to the fore – like we are doing with our case-study project, “Electric School Buses in the Bronx and Beyond” – we can begin the hard work of blazing the trail so all school districts have a clear path to reaching a 100% clean energy bus fleet. 

The Bond Act-funded New York School Bus Incentive Program provides up to $100 million in funding to school districts and third-party school bus operators for electric school buses (including repowers) and charging infrastructure. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t miss this opportunity for essential funding. 

NYLCVEF and our partners are here to help as school districts across the state embark on this transition. WRI, for example, is helping districts take advantage of Bond Act and other funding sources by providing free resources on the school bus electrification process, including an NYSBIP cheat sheet, step-by-step guide, a power planner for working with electric utilities, and a market report/ buyer’s guide detailing the electric school bus models on the road today. 

NYLCVEF Hosts Troy Mayoral Environmental Candidate Forum

On September 14, the New York League of Conservation Voters hosted an environmental candidate forum in Troy, NY, featuring Mayoral candidates Nina Nichols (D) and Carmella Mantello (R). Spectrum News reporter Kate Lisa moderated the program, which was held at the Arts Center of the Capital Region and co-sponsored by Clean + Healthy New York and the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter.

[Watch the full Troy Mayoral Candidate Forum here.]

Troy, like many communities, faces a myriad of environmental challenges, from lead pipe replacement to improving sustainability and accessibility. Both mayoral candidates took the opportunity to address these issues and outline their visions for a greener and more environmentally responsible Troy.

In her opening remarks, NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe placed the discussion firmly in the context of the climate crisis. 

“After this summer, I think it’s fair to say that the environment isn’t just top of mind for voters–it’s permeating into their daily existence,” said Tighe. “We’ve seen apocalyptic hazy orange skies, the hottest temperatures the earth has ever seen, and multiple torrential rain storms which have caused flash flooding in Troy, delaying work on city infrastructure projects and wreaking havoc on travel.” 

One of the critical issues discussed during the debate was the replacement of lead pipes in Troy. As a major health concern, both candidates acknowledged the urgency of addressing this problem. Mantello emphasized her commitment to securing federal and state funding to continue the lead pipe replacement program. She also stressed the importance of collaboration with schools, colleges, universities, and landlords to raise awareness about the issue.

Nichols proposed a community-oriented approach, emphasizing the need for direct outreach efforts and suggested working closely with educational institutions and local partners to spread awareness about lead pipe replacement and ensure that all residents are well-informed.

The candidates also discussed the expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, with Nichols intending to work closely with Troy’s sustainability task force to develop a comprehensive strategy for increasing the availability of electric vehicle charging stations. Mantello’s plan involves seeking public input and collaborating with developers to install more charging stations throughout the city. 

Both candidates expressed support for the city’s composting program. Nichols proposed creating additional drop-off sites and expanding the program’s accessibility to encourage more residents to participate. Mantello highlighted the importance of leveraging small dollars into larger investments to further develop the program. 

When asked about their top priorities for utilizing federal and state funds, Mantello emphasized the vast potential of Troy’s eight-mile waterfront stretch. She intends to make it a focal point for economic development and environmental protection by creating connecting trails and promoting its accessibility.

Nichols highlighted her interest in conducting an energy audit for the city. This audit would provide valuable recommendations to improve energy efficiency and sustainability, aligning with Troy’s commitment to becoming a “Climate Smart Community,” Nichols said. 

WABC, the local NPR affiliate, and CBS 6 NY were on hand to cover the forum. The full program is available to watch here

Each year, NYLCVEF works with local partners to hold nonpartisan candidate forums throughout the state. These forums connect voters to candidates for office in federal, state, and local races and they give voters the chance to hear directly from candidates about their positions on environmental issues. These forums not only educate voters but they also motivate candidates to add environmental protection to their platforms, promises which we hold them accountable to once elected.

Early voting begins on October 28 and runs through November 5, and Election Day is on Tuesday, November 7.

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Away on Vacation

If you are thinking of going somewhere warm for spring break, here are a few green steps you can take to keep your house safe while limiting the amount of energy being used in your vacant home.

While many of these suggestions are for people living in a house, some apply to apartment dwellers as well.

  • First thing, consult with your plumber and/or electrician about the lowest temperature you can set your thermostat to while you are away without a danger of freezing pipes. Temperatures may vary  depending on the size of your home and how well your home is insulated.
  • Discuss with your plumber whether you should or should not turn off the water and the hot water heater.
  • If you are concerned about break-ins and want to leave a light or two on, buy the most energy efficient light timers and set it so a light or lights are on only when you think it’s necessary. 
  • Consult with your electrician about the most energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Before leaving your  home, make sure all windows are firmly closed.
  • Remember, heat rises, so you may be able to set your thermostat upstairs on lower temps than downstairs.
  • Be sure to leave all bedroom and bathroom doors open so that warm air in the house circulates. Leave cabinet doors open if pipes are hidden away in those walls.
  • Unplug all electronic devices that use electricity passively, like clocks, cable TV boxes and chargers. 
  • If your fridge needs a cleaning, clean it just before going away and leave it empty and unplugged while away.

Also, we’re learning that thinking about the above steps can have a lasting impact, making us all more conscious of conserving energy even when we are not on vacation.

Remember, the less energy we use, the smaller carbon footprint we are leaving. Safe travels! 

Upper Delaware River Watershed: Beauty, Recreation and Sustenance for New York

by Peter Aronson

This may not be common knowledge to people living in New York City and the surrounding counties, but the Upper Delaware River Watershed is crucial to the millions residing and working in this area. The watershed region, located in the Catskills and the contiguous southern part of the state, supplies more than 50 percent of the daily water supply for those areas. 

In 2022, for the first time, the watershed, which encompasses 2,390 square miles in New York State (primarily Delaware and Sullivan Counties), was awarded $300,000 in funding through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), for conservation and watershed protection.

NYLCV wants the 2022 EPF funding to become permanent as an annual line item in the state’s budget. 

The watershed area, historically, had pollution problems. Recently, however, the water is cleaner, but there are still threats, including: accelerated erosion, sedimentation of local streams, development pressures, climate change, invasive species and flooding. 

Protecting the region and our drinking water is an absolute necessity. The NYLCV has joined forces with the Friends of the Upper Delaware River and the Orange County Land Trust, calling on New Yorkers to sign a petition at Greenactions.org urging Gov. Hochul to maintain this funding for the EPF.

The Upper Delaware River Watershed sits at the northern portion of the Delaware River, as it flows south 330 miles from New York to the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, and into Delaware before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The river is home to more than 45 fish species and supports bird and mammal species, including the bobcat, coyote, and our national bird, the bald eagle. Spanning 200 miles along the border of NJ and PA is the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, home to valuable hemlock tree ravines as well as nearly 200 lakes and ponds. The river provides drinking water for 17 million people in five states. American Rivers named it River of the Year in 2020

The Delaware River and its tributary rivers and streams travel 4,062 miles in New York State. They feed into 188 different freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs, covering 24,932 acres.  

For technical data about the watershed, visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website.  

The river and its watershed provide tremendous economic, recreational, and ecological value to New York state. Recreational activities attract more than 5.5 million visitors to the region every year, and for good reason. The Delaware River features 73 miles of scenic and recreational parks in New York, as well as one of the finest cold water wild trout fisheries in the country. The value of natural goods and services provided by the Delaware River’s ecosystems in New York State is $3.5 billion, illustrating how crucial the area is to the State’s economy. 

The fact that the Delaware River flows south from New York into our three neighboring southern states makes it even more important that New York protect its portion of the river.

A little over 50 years ago, the river was heavily polluted and filled with sewage, uninhabitable for marine life and negatively impacted local communities. Fast forward to today, the Delaware River is much healthier due to monetary support and recognition at the federal level, and because of the broad coordination of restoration efforts by various state agencies, academic institutions, and advocacy groups. The NYLCV is part of this group to make sure a focus remains on the region, so the water and the entire region is protected for generations to come. 

Curbside Composting Comes to Queens

Queens residents can now take advantage of the Department of Sanitation’s curbside composting pickup service. This program–the largest of its kind in the country–is a three-month pilot program and the city’s first borough-wide collection of compost through curbside pickup. Compost will be collected on recycling days and will be used as soil for the City’s parks and gardens, and it could even help reduce the rat population in the city.

Compost is decomposed organic food waste that is recycled for other uses. Thirty percent of all waste contains food and yard scraps that could otherwise be composted. If composted, organic waste can become a useful fertilizer that adds nutrients to soil for trees, gardens, and farms.

Composting is an important method of inhibiting the climate crisis. Composting your food waste keeps these natural scraps out of landfills where they take up space and release methane – a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon. Food scraps and other organics do not break down in landfills the same way they do in compost piles. Not only does composting reduce waste, it can also be used to make renewable diesel through anaerobic digestion.

The New York League of Conservation Voters applauds Mayor Adams and the Department of Sanitation on pushing this program forward. While the League supports expanding this program citywide, for now, even if you are not a resident of Queens, you can still compost and take advantage of local drop-off sites, like those available here: NYS Food Scraps Drop-Off & Collection Programs.

We hope you take advantage of composting wherever you are in the state! 

How to Participate in Climate Week NYC 2022

Climate Week NYC is a week of events run by The Climate Group that has taken place every year in New York City since 2009. The summit takes place alongside the UN General Assembly and brings together international leaders from business, government and civil society to showcase global climate action. This year Climate Week runs from September 19th-25th. 

There are numerous events open to the public throughout the week which you can find ?on the Climate Week website. We encourage you to register for and attend these events to learn more about how major companies, businesses, and government officials plan to address the climate crisis. If you are not located in NYC, some events may be available to attend virtually. 

If you are unable to attend any of the events, you can still celebrate Climate Week by making an effort to create sustainable habits in your everyday life. Checkout some suggestions below! 

  • Turn it off: Saving energy is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Leaving electricity on when it’s not being used consumes unnecessary energy. Press the off switch and you will see significant improvements- most noticeable on your electric bill! 
  • Eat less meat: Careful eating is at the heart of a greener approach, and cutting back on meat consumption can make a big difference. Cutting out red meat, even two or three days a week, can have a huge impact on reducing your carbon footprint. According to The Science Report, if everyone in the country reduced their consumption of red meat by a quarter and replaced it with plant protein, we’d save about 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
  • Stop wasting Food: The United States discards more food than any other country in the world. Nearly 30-40 percent of the entire US food supply is wasted each year. This equates to 219 pounds of waste per person. Americans often discard perfectly good food because they misunderstand expiration labels. Food waste can be reduced by mindful consumption, improving storage spaces, and educating yourself on true lifespans of different foods.
  • Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: You’ve heard this term a million times, but it is a very effective mantra to live by if you’re trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. The first step is reducing the amount of products you buy in general, leading to lower emissions related to production, transportation, and eventually waste. Reusing your products for as long as you can will also prolong their lifespan, thus also lowering emissions related to producing and purchasing a new product. Finally, if you are able to, please recycle your waste. Recycling programs are specific to the area you live in, so check out your town’s recycling programs and policies to get started. 
  • Cut down on Plastic: Plastic seems to have made its way into every aspect of our lives. But giving it up isn’t as hard as you might think — take a reusable bag with you when you go grocery shopping, buy products in bulk when you can, and start using a reusable water bottle. According to this article, more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away everyday in the US. 

We hope you have a safe and happy Climate Week! Check back next week for more green tips. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Shopping Second-Hand Shopping

Fast fashion is an environmental problem on a myriad of different levels. The US throws out 11.3 million tons of clothing per year, or 2,150 pieces of clothing per second, 10% of global carbon emissions are caused by the fashion industry, and it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans. The good news is that second-hand clothing is a sustainable, and an increasingly popular option. Buying second-hand clothing avoids the carbon emissions and water waste used to make new clothing, and it prolongs the life-span of clothing by keeping it out of a landfill. Although buying second-hand clothing is great for the environment, it can often be difficult to know where to start. There are many ways to shop second-hand, and the best option for you will be different depending on your budget, personal style, and the amount of time you have available for shopping. This guide should help you get started on your thrifting journey!

Shopping in Person:

The main differences between physical stores depend on their size, price and level of curation. Out of physical stores, thrift stores are the most cost-effective, as they are mostly donations-based. Thrift stores are often the largest and include big stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Vintage stores are the next step up from thrift stores. These stores are more curated, sometimes focusing on a specific style or era of clothing, but that means that prices are higher. Vintage stores are a great option if you are particular about what you want to wear, and want to avoid spending time searching for it. Finally, the most expensive type of second-hand store is a consignment store. Consignment stores focus on luxury items, and they have much higher prices. Consignment stores are often a more affordable option than buying designer clothing new, but they are still very pricey.

To find second-hand stores near you, a Google Maps search is the best way to start. You can also look on local bulletins to find information about temporary sales, like garage sales, rummage sales and flea markets.

When you first go to a second-hand shop, you might be overwhelmed by the amount of options. A good place to start can be by deciding if you are looking for something in particular- like long skirts, or fun graphic t-shirts. Before going shopping, look through your closet and make note of your favorite pieces, and what you wear the most. When deciding on a clothing item, you can think about how well it would go with what you already own, and how much you would realistically wear it. A good rule of thumb is to try to come up with 5 ways you could wear a piece of clothing with the clothes you already own.

Finally, the best tip for shopping in-person is to have fun with it, no matter the outcome. Shopping second-hand can be unpredictable, and the selection of clothing can vary dramatically. If you use shopping as a way to hang out with a friend, or have fun browsing sections like books or cutlery, you’ll be less likely to be disappointed if you can’t find any clothing you like.

Shopping Online:

Recently online second-hand shops have exploded in popularity, and they are an excellent way to buy clothing in an easy, time-efficient way. Like physical stores, there are many different websites and apps for second-hand shopping, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

One of the best places to start for people who are new to thrifting is the website  ThredUp. ThredUp sells clothing at a vast array of price ranges, based on the condition and original price of a piece of clothing. They sell clothing from over 35,000 brands, at discounts of up to 90% off of the retail value. This website is particularly good for beginners because unlike other websites where individual sellers upload photos and descriptions of clothing, ThredUp photographs and measures the clothing themselves. They also include verified information about the condition, fabric and original price of clothing. The website also lets you search by brand of clothing, and size, making it easier to find clothing that you know you will like. ThredUp also stands out from many other second-hand stores because it allows you to make returns on clothing. Finally, if you are eyeing a piece of clothing on ThredUp, hang on to see if a sale is coming up. The website frequently has sales of up to 60-70% off!

Another popular way to buy second-hand clothing is the website and app Poshmark. Poshmark is different from ThredUp because all of the clothing is sold by individual people and boutiques, and not by the company itself. Poshmark also makes it easy to search by size and brand of clothing, but prices are set by the sellers, so they are not as consistent as on ThredUp. This can be good, because you can find great-priced vintage clothing from people clearing out their closets, and you have the option to negotiate on prices, but it also opens up the possibility of getting scammed. If a seller lies about the condition of an item of clothing you will be able to get your money back, but you are not protected against overpaying for clothing. Make sure that you look at the reviews of a seller before buying anything, and check the prices of the new clothing from a brand when deciding if the second-hand price is fair.

Another website and app that is very popular right now is Depop. Depop is structured to resemble a social media feed, and therefore tends to be more creative than ThredUp and Poshmark. People sell their homemade and upcycled clothing as well as thrifted items on Depop, and sellers usually go out and source clothing to sell, instead of selling what they already own. This means that very unique items are often available on Depop, but also that prices run higher. Like Poshmark, you should be wary of scams while shopping. Depop is a great option for people who are comfortable using social media, but the format may challenge those who are unfamiliar with it.

Finally, online consignment stores like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collection are great options for vintage designer clothing. Both websites are very safe, and they authenticate their items, but they run on the pricier side.

Shopping second-hand can seem daunting at first, but it gets easier when you get used to it, and have a chance to come up with your own tips and strategies. This guide should give you a good start, but the most important thing you can do is experiment and find out what fits into your life best. Doing this will make your second-hand shopping experience both sustainable and fun!

By Julia Krushelnycky

Drought Watch New York

On August 16th, New York Governor Kathy Hochul directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to expand the state’s drought watch to 49 counties- every county except for those in the Great Lakes, Adirondack and NYC / Westchester regions. This announcement follows the July 29th addition of 21 counties in Western and Central New York to the state’s drought watch. The current drought risk comes from the combination of above average temperatures and low rainfall throughout the state. New York’s “Watch” category is the lowest risk out of the four drought categories of: Watch, Warning, Emergency and Disaster. Under the drought watch no mandatory water use restrictions are in place, but residents are strongly encouraged to reduce their personal water use. Here are some ways that you can cut down on your water consumption:

  • Watering Lawns: The most effective way to conserve water with your lawn is to water it less often. Turning off sprinkler systems, and reducing how often you water your lawn will both drastically cut down on your water usage. Some other ways to cut back on water use are watering your lawn early in the morning, which can reduce evaporation, and cutting grass at a higher height, which leads to healthier grass that uses less water. You can also collect rainwater, and use it to water your plants. Finally, consider petitioning your local golf course to upgrade to a more efficient sprinkler system, or cut back on how often they water their greens. A 2015 study found that on average US golf courses use 130,000 gallons of water each day per course, numbers that are unsustainable given the current drought conditions.
  • Showers: A great way to cut down on home water usage is to conserve water in the shower. This can include turning off your shower when you shampoo your hair, buying a water conserving shower nozzle, or taking less time in the shower overall.
  • Washing Sustainably: Using running water to wash things such as dishes, produce, cars and sidewalks can use a lot more water than is necessary. Instead of keeping water running indefinitely, using a sponge, or letting something soak in a basin is an easy way to reduce water waste. Next time, try washing your fruit in a bowl instead of under the tap, washing a car with a sponge and bucket instead of going to a car wash, or sweeping the sidewalk instead of hosing it off. For appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, make sure you only use them when they are full.
  • Pipe Maintenance: If you have any leaky pipes, faucets or hoses, make sure you get them fixed! Even small leaks can add up to waste a lot of water over time, and this is the perfect time to work on them.
  • Groundwater Well Regions: The drought watch in New York will most affect the regions that rely heavily on groundwater wells, meaning that New Yorkers in those regions should work especially hard to conserve water. This website has information on the levels of groundwater wells by county, and it can help you find out where your county stands in terms of its groundwater wells.
  • Wildfire Prevention: In addition to the drought watch, the majority of New York State is also under high wildfire risk. Drought conditions feed into the wildfire risk, so it is especially important right now to take steps against wildfires. When camping, use existing fire pits, clear fire areas of flammable materials, and do not leave campfires unattended under any circumstances. It is also crucial to drown out fires with water after use, including any embers that may be covered.

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