Posts Tagged ‘dell joyce’

American-Made Christmas

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Americans, already cash-strapped from a sagging economy, are shelling out more than $22.9 million this holiday season to buy toys for lucky little girls and boys. This $22.9 million would make a sweet bail-out for U.S. toy manufacturers if we actually had any. Unfortunately, most of that money is already on its way to China where almost all toys are made that are commercially available in big box stores.

Chinese produced toys are far cheaper than American made, but are they worth it? More than 60 percent of the recalls issued this year and 79 percent of toys recalled last year by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission were from China. But those products were just a tiny drop in the flood of 17 million shipments of everything from Chinese organic produce to medicines and housewares.

The flood of consumer goods from China has nearly tripled since 1997, and the number of recalls has grown proportionately. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is deluged by this flood. The FDA has only 1,317 field investigators for 320 ports of entry. The agency inspects just 0.7 percent of all imports, half of what it did a decade ago. David Acheson, an assistant commissioner for food protection at the FDA, points out that it would be impossible to test all Chinese imports. “It’s got to be based on risk,” says Acheson.

And risky it is. Just think of the 100 Panamanians who lost their lives using cough syrup made in China with diethylene glycol (mislabeled as glycerin). Or the people who were injured from ingesting tainted seafood, slipping on faulty swimming pool ladders, or in auto accidents caused by shoddy Chinese-made tires. Even worse are the homes lost to fires caused by faulty electrical wiring in Chinese-made lighting, extension cords and heaters. China has even reintroduced lead poisoning to American children through paint and metal on cheap toys.

“After discovering that a toy I purchased for my grandson was recalled in May,” says Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., “I asked myself the same question parents across the country are asking today: Who is in charge?” Durbin was disturbed to learn that one employee at the CPSC is responsible for testing toys and ensuring toy safety throughout the country. Durbin is sponsoring legislation to expand the CPSC.

FDA inspectors report tainted food imports from China are being rejected with increasing frequency because “they are filthy, are contaminated with pesticides and tainted with carcinogens, bacteria and banned drugs.”

Last summer, China quietly surpassed the United States as the world’s top polluter. China has no real environmental safeguards in place to protect drinking water from contaminants, no labor laws to keep children out of sweatshops, no legal ethics to keep entrepreneurs from producing dangerous products. In addition, our communities suffer financially when we buy imports over locally made goods. When we opt for a cheaper import, our dollars flow out of our community and fund a system that degrades people and the planet. Our small businesses suffer, manufacturing jobs leave, and we find ourselves with boarded-up storefronts in our downtowns. This economic exodus further devalues our currency and increases the demand for “cheap.”

A recent economic study conducted in Austin, Texas found that if each household in Travis County redirected just $100 of planned holiday spending from chain stores (carrying cheap imports) to locally owned merchants, the economic impact would reach approximately $10 million. Imagine what $10 million could do for your community.

Walden’s Library Takes 10% Challenge

Friday, November 4th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Josephine-Louise Public Library in Walden signed on for the Ten Percent Challenge and is taking measures to reduce its energy usage by 10 percent. Director Ginny Neidermier describes the library’s motivation as mainly to replace many of the old windows in the building. “For a very long time we knew the windows on the first and second floors, and the balcony doors of the second floor had to be addressed. Due to the deterioration of the wood, many of these windows and doors either failed to open or close securely, rendering them essentially useless, and causing significant energy loss.”

Neidermier notes that “as the windows began to deteriorate, it became difficult to keep them open, and they certainly were not air tight. Storm windows were old, with some storms missing. During winter months or cases of extreme wind, the windows and doors would offer their seasonal rattle!  Every year we would get out our duck tape and try and seal the spaces! Needless to say, there was significant heat loss. A NYSERDA audit was completed around 2008 with recommendations and proposals for the Municipal Building. As with everything else, it would cost the Village money that simply was not there.”

Many municipalities face the same budget crisis that the library has: They would like to replace old windows and be more efficient, but efficiency costs more upfront and pays for itself over time. Right now, NYSERDA is offering free and reduced-rate audits for municipalities but will be doing away with this program within the month. Municipalities have to move quickly to take advantage of the free audit incentive before it expires this year. Sustainable Montgomery has a link to the audit application on their website at

Neidermier is very resourceful and community-minded. She and her staff were able to find a way to replace the windows in the public library without having to raise community taxes. The library filed for a matching grant through the Division of Library Development. The library shares the Municipal Building with the Police Department and the village offices. The grant funds were only available for the library portion of the building. The municipality is already looking for ways to fund changing windows, fluorescent fixtures and other energy leaks in the rest of the building.

The project for window replacement and restoration is almost complete, and Neidermier is tabulating the results of their efforts using this season’s upcoming heating bills, and reducing the use of air conditioning in milder weather. Neidermier says, “We are hopeful the reduction will be more than 10 percent. However, we have already experienced a difference. The drafts from the windows and doors from past years are non-existent, as well as the “street noise.” The windows are also treated with a “uv ray” coating, protecting some of the book collection from long-term sun damage.”

For Josephine-Louise Public Library the Ten Percent Challenge has been a win/win situation. Neidermier says, “It seemed a natural fit to sign on. This year we have applied for the same matching grant from the Division of Library Development and are currently waiting on the final outcome of funding. The goal of this project is to upgrade some of the electric and plumbing on the first floor library, making energy improvements where possible and allowing more efficient use of water and conservation.”

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, a benchmark business in the Ten Percent Challenge.

Adapting to Global Weirding

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Many scientists agree that we have waited too late to address climate change and are now suffering some consequences. What is debatable is how severe, and long-lasting those consequences might be.

We still have a chance to act now to reduce the impact on our children and grandchildren. It is only a matter of time before a carbon cap is legislated, and we begin to reduce emissions. Atmospheric carbon can have up to a 100-year lifespan, so even if we stop all emissions today, we will still have an impact on climate for the next century.

So how can we adapt to our changing climate and prepare our communities for the weird weather we are enduring? Adaptation at a local government level begins with reducing emissions then preparing for drought, or deluge (depending where you’re located), rising sea levels, changes in agriculture and growing seasons, and the loss of livelihoods. There is an organization that helps local governments learn where they are vulnerable, and to take steps to reduce the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

ICLEI (which doesn’t have an acronym) is an international agency that thinks globally but acts locally to help communities. Annie Strickler, ICLEI communications director, suggests that “you can’t just choose mitigation or adaptation strategies; they go hand-in-hand. While we’re working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many if not all communities need to prepare for impacts that are currently happening or will happen in the years and decades to come.”

Strickler also notes that it is much cheaper to adapt now, than try to catch up later or pay to clean up the consequences of not adapting. To help local governments, ICLEI cooperated with the Climate Impacts Group and King County, Wash., to produce a free guidebook.

The guidebook “takes the mystery out of planning for climate impacts by specifying the practical steps and strategies that can be put into place now” to help communities adapt.

One ICLEI success story is Keene, N.H. Keene is in a low area that is experiencing terrible flooding. In 2005, more than a third of the city was submerged, causing massive evacuations.

Scientists are predicting more frequent extreme precipitation for the Northeast, and so, Keene got proactive and worked with ICLEI to assess how to adapt now to avoid catastrophes.

The process engaged all city department heads, medical, social, and emergency personnel in brainstorming and goal-setting. What they discovered is a need for better storm water management, green building codes, and a way to feed the community when all the roads are washed out by flooding.

Some of the adaptation ideas included:

–Providing loans to companies that might be affected by a warming climate, such as the ski industry, snow plowing, and maple sugaring industries.

–Supporting local farmers to increase local food security by 20 percent, so that when droughts and floods disrupt outside food supply lines, local farms will be able to feed the population.

–Building stronger roofs to handle wetter, heavier snow in the warming winter.

–Using porous pavement to prevent stormwater runoff, and improving infrastructure such as storm sewers to handle a higher flow.

Keene has forged a path that other cities – including Fort Collins, Colo., and Fairbanks, Alaska – are following, too. Keene City Planner Mikaela Engert points out that “this is something that can be replicated, whether you’re a community of 1,000 people or 1.5 million, it doesn’t matter. You can do this. Ultimately we’re talking about protecting people property and our community.”

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Orange County, N.Y.

Ten Percent Challenge Takes Root

Monday, June 20th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
The Ten Percent Challenge is taking root in the Town of Montgomery, where the Village Board recently passed a unanimous resolution to support the challenge, pledging to reduce energy use at the municipal level by 10 percent or more in the next year. Also, the village will be getting 10 percent of its residents to join in. This challenge will result in fewer tax dollars being spent on municipal utilities and residents lowering their utility bills.

Montgomery joins Walden in pledging to reduce energy use. Walden Mayor Brian Maher first embraced the challenge issued by Sustainable Hudson Valley. He called public meetings, attracting residents from all over the Wallkill Valley. The group formed into the Ten Percent Challenge committee and has been meeting monthly ever since. The next meeting is at Montgomery Village Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6.

The Ten Percent Challenge is a baby step toward energy independence. The more efficiently we use the energy we have, the less energy we need to import, or produce through environmentally damaging methods like fracking. Energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins points out that “it’s much cheaper to buy efficiency than it is to buy energy.”

The goal of the Ten Percent Challenge Committee is to get Maybrook and the Town of Montgomery on board as well, and have the whole Town of Montgomery committed to the challenge. Neither government has been approached yet; but interested residents should come to the next meeting to find out how they can take a resolution before the board.

NYSERDA is making the pledge simple for residents by offering free energy audits through their website Residents can take part in the challenge by signing the pledge at their village halls on July 16. Informational tables will be set up in all three villages to tell residents about the pledge and the free energy audits. At most tables, residents can speak to an auditor directly. The tables will remain in village halls for the week of July 17-23 with free literature. Walden will have a booth at the big block party on Ivy Hill on July 16th.

Warwick recently made headlines by announcing its own version of the Ten Percent Challenge called “Energize Warwick” where they are offering a $10,000 cash bonus to the nonprofit that gets the most “points” for households reducing their energy usage. This incentive is a great way to get community groups like the Boy Scouts, Little League, churches and other nonprofits to mobilize their memberships. It would be a real boon to the Town of Montgomery to have an incentive package to offer as well.

All municipalities are in competition through Sustainable Hudson Valley for a prize to the one that reduces its energy usage the most. Among other prizes, the winning municipality gets a solar thermal unit installed on a municipal building, and a vacation at Omega for the municipal leaders. While prizes are nice, the real winners of the Ten Percent Challenge are the residents who will pay lower taxes in the winning communities. Let the change begin with you, take the challenge with us, get involved, and let’s make a change!

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School, a nonprofit arts org in Montgomery that is a benchmark for the Ten Percent Challenge. The entire org will reduce its energy usage and encourage ten percent of its members to do the same.

Freecycling Lessens the Waste Stream

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Each one of us produces 1.2 tons of garbage per year, which is mainly bagged household trash. What’s not included in that figure are all the perfectly usable goods that get thrown out each year such as old furniture, clothes, books, obsolete technology and working appliances.

Many of these items are yard sale fodder or can be found parked by the curb with a “free” sign attached. If you can’t find what you need through curb shopping, or the classifieds in the paper, try websites like Craig’s List, and Freecycle. You can pretty much search any category from ab-workout machines to xylophones and find what you need. For cash-strapped families, or people who just wish to avoid adding to the consumerist culture, buying second-hand is the way to go.

The good news is that it also creates more economic impact in your local community when you buy something used from a neighbor than new from a big box store. In addition to filling your home with beautiful, new-to-you furniture, it helps reduce the solid waste stream flowing into our landfills. It takes a lot of energy and resources to produce new consumer goods each year. By reusing items, we extend the lifecycle of such goods, and reduce the environmental impact of our purchases.

In my circle of friends, we exchange garbage bags full of used clothing freely. We often have parties centered around exchanging used clothes, or trading hand-made things. Some of these parties have been open to the public, and leftover clothes were donated to families of migrant workers.

There are a few stores in the area that cater to a reusing crowd, like the Goodwill store in Middletown and Recycled Style in Montgomery. Walden has several, and Newburgh has Habitat for Humanity’s Restore for usable building materials. New Paltz is the new home of the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange, which specializes in redirecting usable things from the waste stream. Many materials can be used for art and educational purposes.

A paradigm is a collection of assumptions, concepts, beliefs and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. Our current paradigm dictates that more stuff is better, that infinite economic growth is desirable and possible, and that pollution is the price of progress. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm, based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.

Our Irish ancestors had a philosophy of “make do with less” and “want what you have.” This paradigm shapes a resilient culture that thrives on minimal goods, and builds community rather than personal wealth. Many of our grandparents survived the Great Depression and learned to live simply. Hopefully, we don’t have to suffer through that deep of an economic drop before we adopt voluntary simplicity.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning newspaper columnist and the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Sustainable Living-Community Gardens

Monday, May 24th, 2010

by Shawn Dell Joyce

The economic downturn has left many communities looking decimated with empty lots, vacant stores, and unemployed people with too much time and too little money. Some of these people have started a positive trend across the country by taking over vacant lots, empty rooftops, and unused parks to create community gardens.  These community gardens are a great way to get both children and adults involved in beautifying the neighborhood and benefitting the community with better nutrition and green spaces.

In the Wallkill Valley, we have a few community gardens that you can be part of. The Town of Montgomery Community Garden was started by Walden Resident Richard Phelps in an effort to help preserve Montgomery’s Benedict Park. The park is located on Rte 17K one mile west of the village. The garden is in the front field on the left in two acres of high ground. The community garden is divided into 56 single plots most 20 ft x 20ft and available to be gardened singly, double, triple or in quadruple combination for $25 per plot, plus two hours of community service.

The community garden has been a community effort with donated fence posts, donated well from Tompkins Well Drilling, and a communal compost pile. The garden is open to the public, so visitors to the park can drop in and see flowers in bloom and tomatoes swelling on the vines.

In the hamlet of Wallkill, Local businessman and lifelong resident, Stewart Crowell won a grant to develop his own land into a community garden. He enlisted support from the Wallkill Public Library, the Town of Shawangunk Council, the Wallkill High School Honor Society, the Wallkill Reformed Church Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, the Wallkill Farm Market, as well as the local community enhancement committee, Woman’s Club and Girl and Boy Scouts. Plans are underway for this effort which will compliment Crowell’s Wallkill Community Farm Market which he began last summer. 

The Wallkill Library will lend a hand by creating an “ABC’s and Edibles” children’s reading garden, teaching children about plants and veggies and incorporating the planting of seeds and plants into story time programs.  Local high school students are joining the project to lend a hand in building beds and laying mulch and harvesting and distributing the produce. By encouraging young people to participate in the process, Wallkill is fostering an appreciation of farming, and working in harmony with nature. By making it a hamlet-wide effort, residents feel a sense of pride in making our community look its best.

Why not take part in one of these community gardens now, while it is still early enough in the growing season.  For more information on the Wallkill Community Garden, please call Mr. Crowell at 341-7381, for a plot in the Town of Montgomery Community Garden,contact Richard Phelps  (845)778-2736

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Shawn’s Painting of the Week, 3/9/10

Monday, March 8th, 2010


Disposing of ‘Disposables’

Monday, February 8th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

At some point today, you will probably be faced with the choice to use a disposable cup or not. Here are some factors to consider about how disposable that cup really is.

If we were to look at how much energy it takes to produce cups made from paper, polystyrene and ceramic, most people would automatically think the ceramic cup is the greenest choice. You’d have to use the ceramic cup 640 times before it would equal a polystyrene cup, and 294 times to equal a paper/cardboard cup, in terms of the energy it takes to produce the cups, according to

     In terms of air pollution, polystyrene produces the least amount of emissions to manufacture one cup. It also takes more water to manufacture a ceramic cup than the entire life cycle water consumption of the other two. Before you toss out all your ceramic cups and replace them with Styrofoam, Treehugger went on to find the ceramic vessel much more functional and durable with up to 3,000 uses compared to single-use paper, plastic or polystyrene foam.

If you go by just the energy expenditures, Styrofoam cups seem like the way to go. However, there is much more to a cup than its function. What happens to these five cups after their useful life is over?

Glass takes over a million years to decompose, but it is recyclable and when recycled it reduces pollution by 20 percent according to California’s Project New Leaf.

Paper can be recycled, but most paper cups are coated with plastic or wax and cannot be recycled. Even coated paper will biodegrade in five years, while uncoated and unbleached paper will be gone in a few days according to 

Styrofoam and plastic do not biodegrade. Instead, they photodegrade, breaking down into smaller and smaller particles that will eventually wind up in our bodies.

Scientists are just now learning the effects of photodegrading plastics and polystyrene on the environment. These substances have only been around about 50 years and are just now breaking down into microscopic sizes. As plastics get smaller, they are eaten by smaller creatures. As these creatures are eaten by larger creatures up the food chain, these plastics (and toxins) get concentrated inside living bodies, even in humans.

“Except for a small amount that has been incinerated,” says Tony Andrady, a Senior Research Scientist at North Carolina’s Research Triangle, “every bit of plastic manufactured in the world for the last 50 years or so still remains. It’s somewhere in the environment.”  

Nothing is really disposable. Many of the things we consider disposable, will probably outlive humanity as a species.  The greenest choice is to cup your hands and drink out of them as our ancestors have for millennia.  That may not go over to well in the school cafeteria, so get in the habit of bringing your own cup.

 Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Making Clean Energy Affordable

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce    

Recently, we heard President Obama recommit to creating green jobs in our country after we watched in horror as China surpassed us as the world leader in green technology. But there’s positive movement on the local green front. Last week, Congressman Maurice Hinchey  announced that he’s bringing many green jobs to our area with a project at Stewart Airport. Meanwhile, municipalities have the opportunity through a new state law to create green jobs at a level that this year’s high school graduates can take advantage of, and that will benefit individual taxpayers as well.

 Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a state law that allows local governments to help homeowners finance upgrading their homes’ energy efficiency and add solar hot water, solar electric, wind turbines, or whatever green energy is appropriate. The beauty of the program is that it makes green technology affordable and within reach of average middle-class homeowners.

Here’s an exampe of how it work. If a homeowner decides he wishes to upgrade his home to solar hot water he can “opt-in” to the PACE program through the local town or village board. The cost of the retrofit and solar installation is financed through a mortgage company tied to the property taxes. What that means is that you don’t have to put any money down on the system (in most cases) and it is paid for through your property tax bill over the next 20 years. If you sell your house, the system — and the cost — goes with the house.


The benefits are immediate. The savings on utility bills is far greater than the amortized cost of repaying the loan through property taxes. An average solar hot water system costs about $5,000 installed, after rebates and incentives. Spread that out over 20 years and you notice a rise of $250-$300 in your property tax payment compared to the dramatic savings on your electric bill (18 percent and more in most cases.)

This makes pricey solar panels within the reach of average homeowners and protects mortgage lenders because the payment is secured through the municipality. It lowers the homeowner’s cost of living and raises property values.

PACE programs are planned or already under way in Albuquerque, NM; Athens, OH; Austin, TX; Babylon, NY; Berkeley, CA (which pioneered the concept); Boulder, CO; Palm Desert, CA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; and Santa Fe, NM; and at the state level in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. New York recently passed PACE as well, and is offering municipalities the possibility of implementing the program.

Under the State Energy Program, the Department of Energy has received approximately $80 million worth of applications that could potentially use a PACE financing structure, out of $3.2 billion in total funding. The Department of Energy is also issuing a Funding Opportunity Announcement of $454 million under its Competitive Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. This “Retrofit Ramp-Up” program will pioneer innovative models, including PACE loans, for rolling out energy efficiency to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in a variety of communities.

Orange County Planning Commissioner David Church is setting up grant opportunities for municipalities to implement PACE. What is your municipal government doing about it? Most of our local elected officials run on a platform of lowering taxes. While that has been proven difficult at best, what they could do is lower our cost of living instead for the same net effect.

There’s another benefit. If only 15 percent of residential property owners nationwide took advantage of clean energy community financing, the resulting emissions reductions would contribute 4 percent of the savings needed for the U.S. to reach 1990 emissions levels by 2020 according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

This one program could do more to generate green jobs in our area than anything coming down the federal pike. Imagine the resulting boom this legislation would have in the building trades. We would immediately see a rise in jobs for energy auditors, insulators, plumbers, solar installers, and many other local jobs that our children could do with a little training.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, artist, and director of the Wallkill River School in Orange County.

Shawn’s Painting of the Week, 2/2/10

Monday, February 1st, 2010



By Shawn Dell Joyce
Heirloom Peppers, a pastel of all the varieties of peppers grown on local farms. Notice how brilliant and colorful our fresh produce is. These local peppers are in season in the late summer. Check out more from my Heirloom Series at Come take a class with me at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.