BY KATHY SCHREIBER AND TRACY STEIN
The Town of New Castle is leading the way in promoting a sustainable Westchester. Galvanized by the United States withdrawal from the UN Paris Climate Agreement, the Town joined hundreds of cities and states pledging to uphold the Paris Climate Accord’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions, an important step in the fight against the consequences of climate change. The Town of New Castle is working to define and implement measurable goals to reduce emissions 26% by 2025 (based on 2005 levels) as part of its action plan.
Guiding the Town’s initiative is the New Castle Sustainability Advisory Board (“SAB”). This group, comprised of eleven dedicated Town appointed members and many additional volunteers, works behind the scenes to advise the Town on best practices for leading local environmental and conservation efforts, all with an eye on cost savings measures. While broad emission reductions require Federal and State leadership, SAB has promoted and been the driving force behind implementing a number of actions, empowering a local commitment to reducing New Castle’s carbon footprint.
Composting Pilot Program
The SAB is currently spearheading a voluntary recycling program to reduce food waste, one of the largest components of our trash. A win-win as the town’s food scraps are turned into compost at a commercial facility becoming something useful, rather than a contributor to waste and pollution. The Town’s food scrap recycling program provides an alternative to those residents who don’t compost at home. Participants in the pilot program purchase kits (comprised of two collection bins and compostable liners) for $25. These kits are available at the New Castle Recycling center where the food scraps, stored in approved compostable liners, can be dropped off during regular business hours.
Barbara Cardone, a Chappaqua resident recently purchased a compost kit for her four-generation household. She is glad she did because her garbage disposal now will hardly be used so the impact on her septic tank will be less. She keeps both the small container and the large container in her kitchen. “There is absolutely no odor with either of them. Disposing of the food waste at the recycle center is quick and easy,” Cardone said.
The program also provides an opportunity for residents who compost to recycle food waste like bones, shells, meat, napkins and even junk food that are unsuitable for home composting. As commercial composting becomes more widespread and efficient, New Castle may ultimately be able to offer curbside pick up. The Town’s food scrap recycling program will pay for itself and is predicted to even save New Castle money through reduced waste and hauling fees, which is becoming increasingly important as rules on recycling plastic and metals become more restrictive.
Possible Ordinance on Leaf Blowers
The Town is also considering a measure that would have a large impact on emissions reductions – restrictions on leaf blowers. A SAB-recommended leaf blower reduction ordinance would be similar to laws already in effect in 17 other Westchester towns and counting. Most people are unaware that in addition to creating noxious noise and blowing hazardous dust particles and other pollutants into the air, gas leaf blowers emit large amounts of carbon emissions. One study estimates that a single half-hour use is equal to driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck from New York to Alaska.
Using leaf blowers to clean grass clippings is a relatively recent phenomenon while leaving grass clippings where they fall instead offers beneficial composting nutrients to yards and grasses, something that homeowners may not realize. The restriction under consideration would prohibit the use of gas and electric leaf blowers during the summer when air quality is at its poorest levels, but would not impact fall seasonal cleanup.
One SAB initiative helped to cement New Castle as a leader in sustainability. As the first town in New York State to pass a comprehensive bag law, the Town eliminated hundreds-of-thousands of single-use bags and is now a model for multiple Westchester towns. The SAB regularly consults with other towns and the efforts were rewarded when Pleasantville and Lewisboro recently passed bag laws modeled after New Castle’s.
The SAB’s website, newcastlesab.org includes additional information about these initiatives and ways for residents to lower their carbon footprint. The SAB welcomes volunteers. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.