Environmental Citizen Soapbox 

First Presbyterian Church of Beacon,  October 23, 2017

Event Summary

Welcome from Pastor Ben

Intro from Brian DiFeo: We want Beacon to set the bar for the region for being more sustainable. Green Beacon’s mission is to bring together like-minded residents to support and protect the environment and to make Beacon greener. The event format: Speakers get 4 minutes to talk about any topic related to the environment, followed by 1 minute of audience questions.

Speaker 1 Brian DiFeo: Chair of the CAC. There is no recycling in any of our parks except Long Dock, but this is picked up by Zero to Go. We have so many beautiful parks and lots of tourists visit them, it does not reflect well that we don’t have recycling there. He wants to see bins in all of the parks and thinks it's a shame it’s not happening - maybe a community effort around signage could be helpful.

Speaker 2 Jeff Domanski: there’s so many opportunities to do better and it’s hard to even pick a place to start! He organizes Hudson Valley Green Drinks. Energize NY has been increasing the opportunities to get homeowners access to free energy audits and it’s like money on the ground free for the taking. Beacon is one of the cities where they’re working and we should all take advantage of it. It’s free unless you make $175k+, in which case it’s $50! Awesome opportunity to help you have a good experience doing this. http://beacon.energizeny.org/

Jeff also noted city is getting an EV charging station, maybe around the visitor’s center

Speaker 3 Bill: Bicycle Through the Community was an event that happened 25 years ago. 6 age groups, well organized. It brought people to Beacon and made people see that there was a better way to travel. Gas shortages were a thing then so it took off. Route was from Quinn’s around to DeWindt to Veteran’s Street, 5 laps. Streets were blocked off and it was safe and fun! He proposes we do this ride on Earth Day 2018.

Speaker 4 Sharon, artist: plastic bag reduction. Slow down and consider your choices. IF there was a charge that could work. WE need to find motivation for people to bring their own bags. If we could get kids involved through the schools where kids were contributing to this effort, that would be great! Kid-designed tote bags. There’s inexpensive ways to make this happen. If we can get the parents to slow down a little, that would be so great. If the kids felt important and saw their work out there, they’d be inspired. All to talk to Sarah W at the end to get a meeting together

Speaker 5 Wren Longno from Clearwater: a bit about Clearwater: a 50 year old NPO founded by Pete Seeger. Her experience with Young Women at the Helm: more than half had never been on a sailboat. Quick show of hands to see who had been on the Clearwater - half! First, cell phones were taken away from the attendees before they learn about Hudson River Art painting on the sloop, microplastics study, music, food, sharing, navigating. Camping in Alpine NJ in front of the Kearney house, 150 year old house, was amazing. Activism is a really big part of our clean water.

Speaker 6 Kate Stryker from Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a national org that wants to put a tax on carbon. Looking to recruit members to pressure reps to put a tax at the source. Legislation on taxes on oil when it’s coming into the country. Dividend checks cut to all. Monthly meetings at the local level.

Speaker 7 Frits Zernike, county legislature candidate for District 16, Ward 4. Wards 1, 2, 3, 5 and 16 in Fishkill. His concern is transportation. The spur line that may or may not take place at the old Texaco property. There’s currently a bit of community outreach around it which is greenwashing. Let’s get people onto their bicycles and onto the streets! The sharrows on the road weren’t here when he moved here, but it’s not making a huge difference. You see a lot of people texting and driving.

He’ll be working for more stringent laws around transportation if elected.

Audience question from Bill → wants to see the rail line saved in case we’re all forced into mass transit and won’t have cars any longer. What you’re opinion on opposing the tearing up on the rail?

Frits: wants to see the spur line preserved. MTA owns it when it will be capped and turned into a trail but he wants to see it go right back into being a rail line. The quicker we get off fossil fuels the quicker we can turn the tide.

Pastor Ben: how is a County Legislature have the capacity to implement?

** examples of banning plastic bags, styrofoam. Jeff says that it’d be perfect to have a sustainability coordinator to move these things along.

Dave: he hears people talking about trolleys and buses to get back to the train.

Frits: the problem has been how to get ppl to and from the train - TOD

Speaker 8 Dave: Complex Adaptive Systems, cybernetics: it’s not that complicated - you already know how this works because your body does it! Anything that learns from how something else works is in this purview. Kids should be taught these things. Biomimicry - taking examples from nature and applying them to design, i.e. trains in Japan modeled after diving birds. We can adapt at a larger scale - i.e. social media memes//bacteria.

Compost: if we can set up systems to not only collect at a large level, like paper routes for kids, we can have kids collecting regularly. Distributed networks with neighborhood piles and a manager associated with that pile. Once we have that, we can do neighborhood tool share etc!

Speaker 9 Helen: turning human waste into a resource. Her experience in North Carolina where she lives in a communal setting. All poop and pee is turned into a resource! Pee is sterilized through a dilution of 10/1. Poop is put into a 5 gallon bucket and covered with sawdust then dumped into an enclosure outdoors for a year - no turning! After 1 year it’s dirt - it’s alchemy and it’s a beautiful. In nature there’s no waste haulers picking up, there’s no pollution.

Housing moratorium is in part related to our water supply - we don’t have to poop in our drinking water. Neighbors might object to you doing this in your backyard, so there’s a possibility of in the future, kids on trikes can come by and pick up!

Discussion: Nick’s question: local regulatory issues? She’s looking into it. Do we need variances?

Anna’s comment: this solution isn’t very realistic, There are also composting toilets that you do have to turn with a crank. There are also other kinds of home sewage treatment systems where it all goes into the basement and turns into water.  

A whole complex could do this with the help of a greenhouse - Dave’s seen this before.

Marshlands need protection - best filters!

Speaker 10 Sergei, filmmaker: countywide switch to electric landscaping equipment. Program he saw in Louisville KY: if you buy an electric lawn mower you get a high rebate ($100!) and old gas one is taken away for free. Landscaping equipment emits more CO2 than a Hummer - there’s no catalytic converter. Mowing 1 hour = driving 2 hours in an average car. Exhaust creates emissions and respiratory problems. Electric is way quieter, too! Can we look into this at a county level?

Also - he’s very interested in Fishkill Creek and wants to help clean it up. His house is on the creek and he sees the warning signs about pollutants but it’s not clear which fish you can eat. He saw that there was 26 release permits in the past. IBM, Texaco, and more all have these permits. Fishkill Creek Watershed Alliance is regrouping and needs more members.

Speaker 11 Anna: tracking our emissions and going carbon neutral. To do real upgrades you have to know where you are now to track where you’re going. Community dashboard to see goals and where we currently are. A very simple website to see how we’re doing right now. If we track and set a goal and tie what we’re doing to how we’re going carbon neutral, we can be a beacon for other cities.

Discussion: Oberlin, OH does this and maybe Ft. Collins, Colorado Springs, do this already. She works for the Interstate Renewable Energy in Albany. Have other cities our size done this yet? We’re 5 miles sq and dense. Look at Burlington VT. Solar is coming down in price and regulatory changes are making it easier.

Speaker 12 Nick Page, county legislature candidate District 18 (Wards 1,2,3 beacon and one in fishkill). The legislature hasn’t been proactive: community choice aggregation at a county level (pay for renewables for less than we pay Central Hudson). Better public transit, banning plastic bags, etc!

Speaker 13 Amber Grant, City Council candidate, statement read by Nicole Porto about the importance of city becoming a Climate Smart Community

Speaker 14 Sarah Womer from Zero to Go speaks all about compost in Beacon and beyond.

Speaker 15 Jace, he is starting a new collective and can help with websites and technical stuff

Speaker 16 Shannon, Chevron/Texaco in Glenham is going to be a major impact and we need to be watching and be involved. 90 acre parcel on the mountain (adjacent to Hiddenbrooke) and a 60 acre parcel that could be mixed use. People need to show up!!! Next meeting is going to be in the Fishkill planning board.

*Nomad Yoga anniversary at Hiddenbrooke at 1pm on Saturday