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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right

New technology brings an update to a beloved phrase.

Authored By: Curtis Dorval and Brooklyn Flick

If you grew up during the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s you probably remember seeing or hearing public service announcements for recycling: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” three chasing arrows in a triangle, and a feel good message of communities saving the planet. The “three R’s” are probably one of the most effective messaging campaigns ever created. Not only is it easy to remember, but those three simple words convey the entire meaning behind the message.

As we celebrate the phrase’s 50th anniversary, it’s important for us to reflect on both its influence throughout history and its impact within our lives today. Specifically we need to understand how it affects our finances, the environment, and environmental justice issues. But to begin this process, we must start by learning about the unspoken “R” in the concept, otherwise known as Recycling “Right”.

Importance of Recycling Right

There are both ethical and financial incentives to recycling; but recycling is only worth doing if it is done correctly. Our planet does not hold infinite resources, and the failure to protect and reuse what we have is greatly impacting our survival. While it may seem as though we will never see the effects of resource scarcity, we have already felt them in our lifetime with water. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think of how recycling right, or the lack of it, affects other resources as well.

Environment & Conservation of Resources

Conserving resources is a major component to preserving the environment. Extracting new and raw metals or materials to produce goods comes with a number of consequences including: species and habitat loss, degraded water quality, and air and soil pollution. But when we begin Reducing and reusing waste, we curtail the amount of greenhouse gasses (ghg) that are released into the air during raw material extraction and landfill decomposition. With fewer ghg and hazardous emissions, there is less pollution to ravage the planet and to ravage our health. If you want to see the impact of your contributions, the EPA has a nifty tool called the “Individual Waste Reduction Model” or iWARM, which shows just how efficiently someone can live by recycling various materials.

Financial

When we create less waste and recycle properly, we spend less money and can use the savings to invest towards incentives for the community. In fact, many people do not know that municipalities have to pay a fee to send trash to the landfill and if the quantity of trash is reduced, then the associated costs of disposal also decrease. The result is efficient tax dollar usage, leading to improved technologies and business incentives (when the government invests in updated infrastructure, businesses are more productive). The job market also benefits immensely from proper recycling. According to the EPA, in the United States alone, there are currently 681,000 jobs, 37.8 billion in wages, and 5.5 billion in tax revenues to be had from recycling. These numbers parallel many oil and gas companies in size.

Climate Justice

Most landfills, incinerators, and waste management plants are located in communities with the majority of its tenants being low income and/or People Of Color. As history has shown, this is unethical, and the voices of the people who are most affected are often underrepresented or ignored despite having the same basic constitutional rights as any other American.

The importance of recognizing the effect of proximity to waste is crucial, especially when exposure to waste disposal sites has been the subject of numerous health-related studies. While conclusions vary, most research indicates that there are direct risks associated with living near disposal sites, including an increased risk for birth defects, cancer, and asthma.

We also know that the financial aspect is clear; waste disposal sites drive down home values. But why should we care about where people choose to live? The reality is that sometimes there is no choice.

For decades, federal and state institutions engaged in redlining. In short, banks and realtors refused to provide lending to People of Color and access to certain communities. This restricted People of Color to live in neighborhoods with low home values. Redlining stifled wealth building for these homeowners. While the full solution is much more complex (one instance can be found here), one solution is improving communities and home values.

By improving recycling technology alongside implementing greenspaces and community run programs, the desirability of these neighborhoods will improve. This can happen faster if we reallocate financial resources to invest in improved waste disposal technology, brought about by reducing waste expenses.

In addition, the UN has devised a set of 17 SDG’s or Sustainable Development Goals that recognize the intersectionality of equitable treatment of environmental issues. The utilization of these goals in the response to excess waste can be helpful as a basis for thinking of potential solutions in the future.

Action Steps

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has introduced the ‘Recycle Right NY Program’ to inspire both children and adults to recycle through entertaining, useful initiatives which spread information and incentivize recycling with proper waste management. The largest tool being offered is a state funded organization with the same name. One major goal of the program is to end a phenomenon known as “wish-cycling”: when someone unknowingly tosses non recyclable waste into the recycling bin with the hopes that it will be properly handled.

What is most helpful about the Recycle Right program and its technologies is the actionable “how-to” aspect missing from most environmental agencies. Since this project’s inception, Sustainable Westchester has dedicated significant resources to the program. The modification of their website and smartphone application seek to provide the municipalities of upstate New York with tips and tools for recycling in their local area. While someone may be informed of the importance of recycling, the instructions for knowing how to recycle properly within their local municipality may not exist. This is what the Recycle Right program was created to offer.

Westchester County Implications

Found within Sustainable Westchester’s website and phone app is a personalized community guide with technologies such as the Recyclopedia, which explains what items can and can’t be recycled, as well as how to properly dispose of said item. With this knowledge, someone can then utilize the calendar feature describing how, when, and where to dispose of these items. The custom tailoring of information is extremely thorough within each municipality and covers information all the way from the state, down to the individual street one lives on. The best part of this modern take on waste management is the subsequent app that makes all this information accessible through our phones. Embedded in the app is a reminder tool to send push notifications on waste collection days so someone does not forget to take care of their waste even during holiday schedules.

What is most helpful about the Recycle Right app and website is its unbiased nature. Each person who uses the app can rest assured that the information being given offers the most environmentally conscious option available, even if it is the occasional recommendation to discard an item rather than contaminating the entire recycling bin. Integrating the user-friendly smartphone app and matching website, recycling can be added to a daily routine with ease.

It can also be interesting to see what companies around us are conscious of their waste footprint and implement aluminum cashback programs or used product collections like clothing, furniture, etc. The Recycle Right app has also implemented alternatives to simply disposing of an item: such as selling it, repurposing it, or shipping it to individual collection sites where they can possibly receive unique rewards.

In reality, almost all of our waste is recyclable or compostable; there is only a fraction of a percentage that is not. The end goal is zero waste, where all resources are utilized to their most efficient ends. This is not some pipe dream. Within the US, there are states like Maine producing initiatives that increase recycling and its efficiency that we can draw inspiration from. It is possible and Americans have been improving our recycling for decades. All we need to do is “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Right.”

Octubre: Mes de la Herencia Hispana y el Mes de Concientización sobre la Energía: Familia, Comunidad y Medioambiente

By | Our Blog

Octubre: Mes de la Herencia Hispana y el Mes de
Concientización sobre la Energía:

Familia, Comunidad y Medioambiente

Todos los años, los norteamericanos celebramos el Mes de la Herencia Hispana desde el 15 de setiembre al 15 de octubre, una celebración de cultura, tradiciones y contribuciones. Aquí en Westchester celebramos la rica historia y cultura de la comunidad latina y todo lo que ellas aportan a la estructura social del Condado.

Como el final del Mes de la Herencia Hispana coincide con el comienzo del Mes de la Concientización sobre la Energía, aprovechamos esta oportunidad para hablar de la importancia de la energía sustentable para el bienestar de nuestras familias, el medioambiente y las generaciones futuras.

Los latinoamericanos representan lo mejor de los valores de nuestro país: familia, comunidad, fe, el amor por la tierra y el medioambiente. Somos conscientes, sin embargo, del hecho que muchas de las comunidades latinas viven en áreas del Condado que tienen una carga mayor de lo común en lo que se refiere a los efectos dañinos de políticas medioambientales que se encuentran en vigencia en la actualidad y un porcentaje mayor en costos energéticos.

A medida que continuamos protegiendo y nutriendo a nuestras familias y les continuamos enseñando a nuestros niños, es necesario hablar y explorar formas de proteger al medioambiente y asegurarnos que todos los miembros de la comunidad pueden acceder a los beneficios de un futuro energético justo, sustentable y limpio. Debemos usar nuestros recursos naturales de forma eficaz e inteligente y continuar tomando el camino de las soluciones de energía limpia para el futuro.

Sustainable Westchester, un consorcio sin fines de lucro integrado por cuarenta y cuatro municipalidades del Condado de Westchester y el Condado mismo, ofrece una variedad de programas de energía limpia para beneficio de todos los integrantes de la comunidad.

Al ofrecer soluciones de energía responsables, viables y sensatas en lo que se refiere al medioambiente, estas iniciativas ayudan a crear comunidades sanas, resistentes y sustentables. Todos los días trabajamos para mejorar nuestros programas y así poder satisfacer mejor las necesidades de nuestros vecinos latinos, ofreciendo soluciones que proveen acceso seguro y aprobado a energía renovable, así como la oportunidad de ahorrar dinero en las cuentas de electricidad.

Los pequeños pasos tienen un gran impacto

Muchos de estos simples pasos relacionados con la energía se pueden tomar desde la comodidad de su propio hogar.

Westchester Power ofrece acceso a energía asequible, limpia y renovable por medio de un programa aprobado por su municipalidad. Las tarifas fijas y un cierto nivel de control de los costos proveen un seguro contra las posibles fluctuaciones de los mismos. El programa provee una forma aprobada y fácil para que los residentes y pequeños negocios de la municipalidad participen en opciones de suministro de energía renovable sin tener que transitar por el confuso mundo de las Compañías de Servicios de Energía (ESCO, por su sigla en inglés).

Los participantes también pueden acceder a mucho material educativo por medio de Sustainable Westchester, incluyendo “Como leer la factura” y más. Visite https://sustainablewestchester.org/wp/ Para ver si su municipalidad participa en el programa, aprender cómo inscribirse y leer el material
educativo sobre energía.

Community Solar permite que los usuarios de NYSEG y Con Ed – propietarios, inquilinos,
organizaciones sin fines de lucro, iglesias y muchos negocios – apoyen el uso de energía limpia y ecológica producida por una granja solar local al mismo tiempo que reciben el beneficio de ahorrar dinero en sus cuentas de electricidad. Al no tener costo de inscripción ni cancelación, el programa Community Solar de Sustainable Westchester hace que conservar el medioambiente sea fácil y asequible. Los participantes se registran con una granja solar cercana y los créditos de energía solar se reflejan en su cuenta mensual de electricidad con descuentos grupales de hasta un 10%. El programa apoya el acceso a los beneficios de la tecnología solar para residentes de todos los niveles socio-económicos y alienta el desarrollo regional ampliando así la capacidad de elaborar energía solar. Dé el paso, apoye a Community Solar y visite https://sustainablewestchester.org/solar/.

GridRewards es una aplicación creada para mejorar la eficacia de la red eléctrica y rastrear el uso de energía casi en tiempo real, lo que así le permite tener un mejor control de cuánta energía usa. Esta aplicación utiliza la instalación de medidores inteligentes en todo el Condado de Westchester, lo que provee a los usuarios la oportunidad de participar en programación para tener una mejor idea del consumo de energía en un ciclo mensual dado. Al final, los usuarios se vuelven más conscientes de lo que está ocurriendo en la red regional a la que pertenecen, aprenden a ahorrar energía y dinero y ganan premios en efectivo al reducir el consumo de energía cuando la red eléctrica está más cargada.

GridRewards apoya la acción colectiva para llegar a un futuro de energía limpia al alentar la participación en eventos de demanda y respuesta, reduciendo así el uso de energía cuando la red está en su punto máximo de carga. Este esfuerzo ayuda a reducir el uso de plantas de electricidad que se activan cuando las redes eléctricas tienen más demanda. Estas plantas usan las fuentes de combustible fósil más contaminantes, por lo general se encuentran ubicadas en comunidades de color de bajos ingresos y tienen un impacto devastador en la salud pública de los residentes que viven en las cercanías de las plantas. Los residentes pueden inscribirse en GridRewards ahora y enrolarse en los eventos de demanda y respuesta para el verano del 2022. Para obtener más información, visite https://sustainablewestchester.org/gridrewards/

El programa EnergySmart HOMES puede ayudarlo a detener el desperdicio de energía, eliminar el uso de combustibles fósil incrementar el valor de su casa y obtener ahorro adicional por medio de la eficacia de energía y actualizaciones limpias de los sistemas de calefacción y aire acondicionado. Se le pondrá en contacto con expertos en energía en el campo de eficacia de los sistemas de calefacción y aire acondicionado, quienes le ofrecerán equipos de última tecnología en lo que se refiere a energía limpia. Los expertos primero llevan a cabo una evaluación energética para diagnosticar su casa, y luego comienzan con soluciones de modernización que se amortizarán con ahorros y comodidad. ¡Aproveche estos programas e incentivos significativos que incluyen bombas de calor geotérmicas y alimentadas por aire! Llame a un contratista para fijar una cita para la evaluación o póngase en contacto con Sustainable Westchester para recibir ayuda. Visite https://sustainablewestchester.org/energysmarthomes/ o llame al (914) 242-4724, interno 2, para recibir asistencia en español.

Nuestra comunidad se une: Un futuro equitativo y sustentable

Como parte del Mes de la Herencia Hispana y el Mes de la Concientización sobre la Energía, hemos estado celebrado a los líderes latinos, tanto en los negocios como en el medioambiente, que sirven como modelos para las generaciones futuras. Por favor, lea nuestras publicaciones de este mes en los medios sociales Facebook e Instagram. Nos complace poder celebrar el trabajo que la comunidad hispana está llevando a cabo. Es un ejemplo que nos inspira a todos a seguir.

También los alentamos a participar. Siempre existe la oportunidad de cambio en lo que se refiere a la equidad ambiental, el cual proveerá un estándar de vida más alto y saludable para todos. La participación puede ser compartir historias familiares, cultivar una huerta comunitaria, u organizar una caminata con su familia para recoger basura, mirar un documental o compartir un libro. También hay cosas simples y eficaces que incrementan la conciencia sobre la energía y tienen el beneficio de ahorrar dinero, tal como apagar las luces, apagar el refrigerador o bajar el aire acondicionado, desenchufar aparatos, cargadores o electrodomésticos pequeños
cuando no se estén usando, reemplazar las bombillos de luz con bombillos LED de bajo consumo, reducir el consumo de agua o simplemente permitir que la Madre Naturaleza caliente o enfríe su casa al cerrar o abrir las persianas o seque la ropa tendiéndola al aire libre.

También alentamos a todos a ponerse en contacto con nosotros en Sustainable Westchester para aprender más sobre los problemas y las soluciones, para ver cómo usted y su familia pueden participar, o para responder sus preguntas sobre la energía.
Aunque estamos viviendo en tiempos inciertos, podemos dar pequeños pasos para proteger la salud, seguridad y resistencia de nuestra comunidad y el planeta. Todo acto aumenta el impacto. La acción colectiva de nuestras familias, amigos y comunidades pueden ser poderosos agentes de cambio no sólo para el presente, sino también para permitir que las generaciones futuras cumplan con sus propias necesidades energéticas.

October: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month & Energy Awareness Month: Family, Community & Environmental Action

By | Our Blog

October: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month & Energy
Awareness Month:

Family, Community & Environmental Action

To read in Spanish click here

Every year, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage month from September 15 to October 15, a celebration of culture, traditions and contributions. Here in Westchester, we celebrate the rich history and culture of the Latino community and residents and all that they bring to the fabric of the County.

As the end of Hispanic Heritage month coincides with the start of October Energy Awareness Month- we are taking the opportunity to discuss the importance of sustainable energy for the well-being of our families, our environment, and future generations.

Latino Americans embody the best of American core values – family, community, faith, a love for the earth and environment. We are aware, however, that many in the Latino community may live in areas of the County that bear a greater than average burden in terms of the harmful effects of current environmental policies and a greater percentage share of energy costs.

As we look to protect and nurture our families and continue to teach our children, we need to discuss and explore ways to protect our environment and ensure that all community members are able to access the benefits of a just, sustainable and clean energy future.
We must use our natural resources efficiently and wisely, and continue to embrace clean energy solutions as the path forward.

Sustainable Westchester, a nonprofit consortium of forty-four Westchester County municipalities and the County itself, brings a variety of clean energy programs to benefit everyone in the community.

These initiatives help to create healthy, resilient and sustainable communities by offering socially responsible, environmentally sound, and viable energy solutions for everyone. We work each day to enhance our programs to better serve the needs of our Latino neighbors, bringing solutions that provide vetted, safe access to renewable energy as well as opportunities to save money on electricity bills.

Simple Energy Actions Make a Big Impact

Many of these simple energy actions can be taken from the comfort of your own home.

Westchester Power offers access to affordable clean, renewable power through a program vetted by your municipality. The fixed-rates and a level of cost control, providing insurance against potential rate fluctuations. The program provides a vetted and easy way for municipal residents and small businesses to participate in renewable energy supply options without having to navigate the confusing world of Energy Service Companies (ESCOs).

Participants also have access to many education materials through Sustainable Westchester, including “How to read your bill” & more. Visit https://sustainablewestchester.org/wp/ to see if your municipality is a participant in the program, learn how to opt-in and take a look at some of the energy education materials.

Community Solar allows NYSEG and Con Ed utility customers – homeowners, renters, nonprofits, houses of worship, and many businesses – to support local, clean energy produced by a community solar farm, while benefiting from savings on their electricity bills. With no cost to join or cancel, Sustainable Westchester’s Community Solar makes going green easy and accessible. Participants subscribe to a nearby solar farm, the generated solar credits are reflected on their monthly utility bill and these provide savings of up 10%. The program supports access to the benefits of solar technology among residents of all socioeconomic levels and encourages regional development furthering build solar power capacity. Take action and support Community Solar by visiting https://sustainablewestchester.org/solar/.

GridRewards is an app created to improve grid efficiency and track energy usage in close to realtime, thus allowing you to better control your energy use. This app utilizes Con Edison’s installation of smart meters throughout Westchester County, providing account holders with an opportunity to participate in programming to have more oversight over their energy usage within monthly cycles. Ultimately, account owners become aware of what is occurring on their regional grid, learn how to save energy and money, as well as earn cash rewards by reducing electricity usage when the electric grid is most stressed.

GridRewards supports collective action for a clean energy future by encouraging participation in demand response events, reducing energy use when the grid is on peak load. This effort helps to reduce reliance on peaker power plants that are fired up during times when energy grids are in high or peak demand. These peaker plants use the dirtiest fossil-fuel sources, are generally located in lowincome communities of color, and have devastating impacts on the public health of residents who live within proximity of the plants. Residents can sign-up for GridRewards now and be enrolled in the Summer 2022 demand response events; visit https://sustainablewestchester.org/gridrewards/ to learn more.

EnergySmart HOMES can help you put a stop to energy waste, eliminate fossil fuel usage, increase the value of your home and harness additional savings with energy efficiency and clean heating and cooling upgrades. You will be connected with local energy experts in the field of heating and cooling efficiency who offer the latest clean energy technologies. Experts will first begin with a home energy assessment to diagnose your home, and then get started on retrofitting solutions that will pay off with savings and comfort. Take advantage of significant programs and incentives for air source and geothermal heat pumps! Call a contractor to schedule your assessment or reach out to Sustainable Westchester for assistance. Visit https://sustainablewestchester.org/energysmarthomes/ or call (914) 242-4724 x2 for assistance in Spanish.

Our Community Coming Together: An Equitable
and Sustainable Future

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month and Energy Awareness Month, we have been celebrating Latinx leaders, both in business and the environment, who serve as role models for future generations. Please look for our social media postings on Facebook and Instagram this month. We are pleased to be able to celebrate the work that the Hispanic community is doing; it is an inspiring example for all to follow.

We encourage you all to get involved, too. There is always the opportunity for change in environmental equity that provides a higher and healthier standard of living for all. This could take the form of sharing family stories together, starting a community garden or organizing a family litter-pickup hike, watching a documentary or sharing a book. There are also simple and effective actions that increase energy awareness and have cost-saving benefits such as turning off lights, turning the refrigerator or air conditioning down, unplugging devices, chargers or small appliances when not in use, replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, reducing water consumption or using Mother Nature by opening and closing blinds to warm and cool your home or dry clothes.

We also encourage everyone to reach out to us at Sustainable Westchester to learn more about the issues and solutions, to see how you and your family can get involved or have your energy questions answered. Although we are living through uncertain times, we can take small steps toward protecting the health, safety, and resiliency of our community and the planet. Every action adds impact. The collective action of our families, our friends and our communities can be powerful agents of change not only for the present, but also to allow future generations to meet their own energy needs.

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