Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Time to Divest Ourselves of Polluters

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Fossil fuels are polluting the planet.

Fossil fuels are polluting the planet.

By Patrick Gallagher

Recently, lots of energy has gone into trying to convince universities to withdraw support from the fossil fuel industry. Polluting for profitability is slowly becoming as attractive an investment as apartheid or a slave-based business model.

Student and activist efforts have begun to sway the investor culture we live in while farsighted analysts are beginning to perceive murky futures for securities that rely on profits from smokestacks, pipelines, industrial runoff, groundwater degradation, air pollution and mountaintop removal.

In Silicon Valley, at the heart of 21st century emerging industries, Stanford University has joined 11 other colleges and universities nationwide in removing coal from its investment portfolio.

Foundations, cities and states are recognizing they are made up of people who want to breathe clean air. Seattle, San Francisco and Portland are climbing on board the divestment train, having decided to join the smarter money by divesting of coal and investing elsewhere.

During Hurricane Sandy, many buildings around Wall Street in lower Manhattan could be accessed by pontoon boats via second-floor windows. This winter, the UK experienced otherworldly flooding attributed to carbon-driven climate change.

Worldwide banking customers are persuading their banks to not lend to fossil-fuel producers.

Major financial player Blackrock has teamed with the Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC to create a fossil free stock index. Blackrock is not chartered or known as a green or particularly socially responsible index group, but it is the world’s largest asset manager with $4 trillion (with a T) in assets.

The London Financial Times calls this move a sure signal that the global campaign against fossil fuels is entering the financial mainstream. Strictly business. In fact, options for alternate investments are now easily available with all the data to support wise decisions at hand for review. The fossil-free indices exclude companies that extract or explore for fossil fuels.

It’s an absolute truth that for the moment we all share the sun and that alternatives energies of all stripes are rapidly achieving parity with fossil fuels.  At this point, the first steps towards clean and sustainable energy independence are going to have to come from a sea change in how we subsidize the choices we make.

Divestment is right in front of us. Clean, renewable choices are at our fingertips.

To me it’s very simple.  I will not invest in handing a cup of dirty water to any of the kids in my neighborhood. I don’t wanna and I’m not gunna. If there are two canisters filled with oxygen and one is polluted I want the clean one. If the earth’s atmosphere is the only canister available I want it to be cleaned up.

I’d also like to share it with my neighbors.

If I can eat real food that is not densely laden with hydrocarbons and grown in mercury-rich soil brought to me by coal emissions from neighboring states, I’d just rather have the local healthier stuff, thank you very much.

I ‘m not interested in a dirty atmosphere in my home so I need to act accordingly by withdrawing my implicit financial permission in the form of investments from extractive and pollutive industries.

In taking this approach, we can launch a truly new era of investment and job creation that broadens the opportunities for the generations that will be forced to clean up this mess.

Ask the 300,000 folks in Charleston, West Virginia, if they wanted to divest themselves of the entire cities supply of contaminated drinking water last February and then maybe ask yourself, “What’s in my wallet?”

Patrick Gallagher lives in Warwick.

A Locally Grown Energy Upgrade

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Elizabeth and John Capello signed up for the Ten Percent Challenge last summer, and decided to retrofit their historic Walden home with energy efficiency upgrades. The Capellos started off by having a home energy audit performed by the Regional Economic Community Action Program (RECAP), based in Middletown. The RECAP auditor made several suggestions that would reduce the Capellos’ energy use and utility bills by 10 percent or more this year.

The main suggestion was to reinsulate their attic, insulate the basement and floors, and upgrade the lighting. The Capellos decided to follow through with all the auditor’s suggestions and have RECAP perform the upgrades. A modest investment, and a few months later, the work was done and the savings began to show.

Elizabeth says that her home “feels warmer and more comfortable” with the thicker insulation. John agrees, adding that it’s safer as well since many of the upgrades improved the electrical usage and reduced the heat output of lighting and home heating. Additionally, the Capellos increased the value of their home, and lowered their monthly utility bills.

According to their recent bill from New York State Electric & Gas Co., the Capellos used four fewer kilowatt hours of electricity and three fewer therms of natural gas, much more than the initial 10 percent goal they set for their home by signing up for the Ten Percent Challenge. If you would like to save money and improve your home’s efficiency, you can sign up today, March 8, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Walden Village Hall, 3rd Floor, 1 Municipal Square, Walden.

Bring your past utility bills, or a 12-month summary of electric and heating use for a Home Energy Makeover, and become part of a county-wide effort to reduce energy use (and costs) by 10 percent or more this year.

If you are looking towards renewable energy systems to reduce operating costs, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers significant incentives for solar panels (photovoltaic), small wind and solar thermal systems, and a new program that allows you to finance the efficiency upgrades and renewable energy systems through your utility bill. That means the cost of owning a solar hot water system is financed at a very low rate and deducted from the energy savings on your bill. You don’t notice the added expense because it’s financed to be less than the energy savings. Your bill doesn’t increase but your energy efficiency does.

These programs and incentives don’t last long, so come to the Home Energy Makeover to learn how to take advantage of them now. If you have questions, contact Meridith Nierenberg, at Mid-Hudson Energy $mart Communities, or 845-331-2238, or the Ten Percent Challenge at or on facebook/MontgomeryTenPercent.

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

10% Challenge Takes Off in Montgomery

Monday, July 18th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

The Ten Percent Challenge has officially passed through the village boards of Walden, Montgomery and Maybrook, making all three municipalities officially on board. This means that the mayors of all three villages have committed their village to reducing its energy usage by ten percent, and activating ten percent of the residents to do the same. This will result in using energy and tax dollars more efficiently.

The 10% Challenge is an initiative of Sustainable Hudson Valley, and is underway in other communities like Red Hook and Warwick as well. There is a “friendly competition” between these communities to complete the challenge, because the winning municipality will get such perks as an installed solar thermal system and a vacation trip for the board members.The Orange County Chamber of Commerce has also signed on to the pledge because they see that it benefits the local economy as well; especially the building trades related to efficiency and insulation.

Village residents now have the opportunity to sign on to the pledge this week during the official “kick off.” Maybrook and Montgomery will have informational tables in their village halls with the pledge available for people to sign on the spot.  Walden will have an informational table in the public library instead with related books. The forms on these tables were donated by Ciardullo Printing in Walden.

Signing up for the pledge is very simple, it’s a form you fill out that the stays at the table so the committee and measure how many people are signing up and from which village. If you can’t make it to the village hall during the next week, you can find the pledge form on the Sustainable Montgomery website: or on Facebook at Montgomery’s Ten Percent Challenge.

The next step after signing is to get a free energy audit through NYSERDA from a local energy auditor. That auditor will show you what you can do to lower your energy usage and how much money you can save in the process. Walden is able to meet the goal of a ten percent reduction in the municipal buildings just by a few lighting changes. Some of these simple and inexpensive changes will save so much that it’s a criminal waste of money not do them!

Take a few minutes this summer and sign on to the Ten Percent Challenge. You benefit, the community benefits, and it’s a great way to encourage your household to work together to lower bills and do something positive for the environment. Next week I’ll show you how to get a free energy audit.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning writer and director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery. The WRS is a benchmark business along with the Times Community Newspapers office in the Ten Percent Challenge, both businesses have signed on and will reduce their energy consumption.  Follow our progress in future articles.

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.

10 Percent Challenge in Orange County

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

I recently received a notice from my utility company comparing my energy usage to my neighbors. According to Central Hudson, I used 61 percent less energy than my neighbors and received a double smiley face on my report. You might think that would warm my green heart, but actually, it shows how inefficient most of our homes are.

I’m not really making an effort to be more energy efficient than my neighbors, I’m just more conscious of energy use and do a few things most people don’t…like weatherize windows, open windows instead of using the fan, and line dry clothes whenever possible. By doing a few simple things like these, I save $1,784 according to Central Hudson’s Home Energy Report.

Imagine what you could save if you really made an effort. Walden Mayor Brian Maher did just that, and committed the Village of Walden to take the “Ten Percent Challenge” issued by Sustainable Hudson Valley. This means that the Village government will measure and reduce its energy usage by ten percent, and get ten percent of Walden households to do the same.

Walden, joins Warwick, and Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, as municipalities willing to adopt simple efficiency measures to use tax dollars more wisely.  By successfully measuring, and reducing energy expenses, these municipalities are reducing tax dollars spent on energy by ten percent, and residents who participate are lowering their monthly energy bills by ten percent, saving money all around. To make it even sweeter, Earthkind is donating a solar thermal system to the municipality that reaches ten percent first. Why aren’t all our local governments participating?

In addition to the Village of Walden, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce,  and the Village of Montgomery expressed interest in joining the challenge. Several local businesses will be benchmarks, like the Walden Library and the Wallkill River School, which will have energy audits and reduce their energy use accordingly.

Jon and Kelsey Buhl are Valley Central students, Walden residents, and a brother and sister team that is setting up the challenge in their school. They committed to the challenge because “we are concerned citizens that want to help out our community in any way possible, and this project was a great way for us to get involved.”

These young people are right, and we need more stakeholders like them to help make the Ten Percent Challenge a success. If you want to join them, along with Mayer Maher, and many of the “movers and shakers” of our community, come to the next Ten Percent Challenge meeting in the Bradley Room on the second floor of the Walden Village Hall on Tuesday, May 17 at 7pm. Better yet, call you town and village board members and offer to carpool with them to the meeting.

“We’re in a new economic era. We have growing resource constraints but lots of under-employed people. If we’re going to achieve a turnaround, in economy and quality of life, we have to build upon our assets, and one of the greatest assets is the power of people who want to make a difference,” says J. Michael O’Hara, Campaign Manager, Ten Percent Challenge.