Although climate change is a global concern that is being tackled by governments and activists worldwide, there’s much that we can all do within our own communities to make an impact.
Melissa Everett, Ph.D., co-founder of Sustainable Hudson Valley is helping to lead that mission in the Hudson Valley community. She believes in the power of tackling climate solutions at a regional scale, which she views as “big enough to matter yet small enough to touch.”
Through her work, Everett helps forward the regional 501(c)3 non-profit organization’s mission: To “speed up, scale up, jazz up, and leverage progress against climate change, creating communities where people and nature thrive.”
New York is one of 26 states in the “We’re Still In” movement. They’re committed to the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping temperature increases to 1.5C (2.7F) to stave off the worst climate change impacts. The state has passed one of the most ambitious laws, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which charts a path to carbon neutrality by 2050. The Climate Act calls for a stepped-up shift to renewable energy and adoption of “regenerative” practices.
Together, with a range of partners, Sustainable Hudson Valley offers education and promotes resources about climate action planning. Inspired by Project Drawdown, a scientifically guided presentation of the top 100 climate solutions, the organization is making strides via the rollout of scalable programs that address specific climate solutions for the Hudson Valley region. This includes a shift to 100% renewable energy and tackling refrigerants –the most potent greenhouse gases.
The organization, founded by a group of concerned citizens, was officially incorporated in 2007, but its history traces back to 2001. Its marketplace campaigns – the “10% Challenge,” “Solarize,” and “Drive Electric Hudson Valley” empower people to live more lightly and build markets for clean technologies through consumer education, industry training, group purchases, and other incentives. In the early years of the solar and electric vehicle (EV) markets, the program inspired more than 400 households to transition to solar energy, and 300 electric vehicle sales to private customers and fleets. Today, they are educating consumers via the Clean Power Guide – a regional publication with Chronogram Publishing, which reaches more than 100,000 readers.
“We believe that knowing what to do is 10% of the battle; the other 90% is being capable of getting it done. Climate leadership requires creativity, emotional resilience, skills of communication and engagement, and negotiation. We are not just about advocating good ideas – we’re about creating a culture of human potential and learning, helping everyone who works with us to step up and challenge themselves to excel,” says Everett.
Sustainable Hudson Valley has created a model for an 100% renewables action plan and is working with the Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission. Besides identifying power sources for the town’s electric users, it maps out the transition to renewable heating and cooling, and electric vehicles for the community. Sustainable Hudson Valley has its sights sets on more town programs of this kind for 2021.
The organization is also a proud sponsor of Repair Café Hudson Valley and Catskills Repair Café – free meeting spaces that encourage people to work together to repair appliances, bicycles, furniture, electronics, clothes, and more. Of course, this impacts climate change by reducing production, shipping and landfilling, which reduces the carbon footprint. There are Repair Café locations in Poughkeepsie, Millbrook, Red Hook, and Stanfordville.
The Dutch Repair Café model was introduced to the Hudson Valley by Sustainable Hudson Valley’s late Board member John Wackman, who co-authored Repair Revolution: How Fixers Are Transforming Our Culture.
“Over 30 local Repair Cafés are thriving (even virtually) thanks to the dynamism of one person with a vision. We’ve been blessed to attract that kind of skilled volunteer to supplement the work of our small staff. Sustainable Hudson Valley is committed to nurturing the Repair Café program in John’s memory,” says Everett.
The non-profit is also spearheading a regional process to bring organizations and businesses together for joint climate action planning to increase coordination and leverage. Partners range from the Hudson Valley Regional Council – a council of governments representing seven counties – to Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
Sustainable Hudson Valley is also expanding its focus to support the rapid changes that are now taking place in the private sector. “My favorite example is the Science Based Targets initiative,” says Everett. It provides companies with a clearly-defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. More than 1,000 companies have already signed on. The list includes corporations such as PepsiCo and L’Oréal. The organization is also educating Hudson Valley businesses on this opportunity, including Main Street enterprises.
All this work is based on outreach through networks that cross through government, businesses, education, and kindred non-profits. Sustainable Hudson Valley is making strides through the introduction of new workshops, published guides, and fundraising efforts. Its Resilient Places program will soon publish a guide, Eco-Districts for Small Cities, Towns, and Villages to help communities design resilience into their downtowns and neighborhoods.
As for fundraising efforts, Sustainable Hudson Valley hosts in-person and online fundraisers, in addition to the funding it receives from sponsors, donors, and state contracts. “One of our strongest sources of support are small businesses and successful entrepreneurs,” says Everett. “I think that’s because we’re doing something right in connecting environment and economy.” •
For more information, please visit www.sustainhv.org.