Taking on climate change in Bedford

Building on the success of its Bedford 2020, the environmental group Bedford 2030 seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the town by 80% in this decade and to preserve the community’s natural resources.

In 2009, a group of concerned Bedford residents got together to see what they could do about climate change close to home. The Bedford Environmental Summit drew 1,000 community members and led the town to
adopt Westchester County’s first Climate Action Now plan, which set itself an ambitious goal — reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020.

By 2017, Bedford 2020 had more than doubled its efforts, reducing emissions by 44%. But why stop there, particularly when the situation is so dire? This past February, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that spelled out the consequences of global warming increasing by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next two decades. Heatwaves, droughts and floods leading to species extinction and food and water insecurity in Africa, the Arctic, Asia and Central and South America await us even with just a temporary exceeding of the 2.7-degree threshold.

“We have just a short window to reverse this situation,” says Midge Iorio, executive director of Bedford 2030, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Bedford by 80% by 2030 and to preserve the town’s natural resources. “We don’t want people to be paralyzed by this. We want them to act on it.”

In a recent conference call with WAG, Iorio and Karen Sabath, Bedford 2030’s board president,   outlined a three-pronged approach:

Buildings — Bedford 2030 enables homeowners in any community to have a free Zoom consultation with coach Bob Fischman to help make their homes more energy-efficient.

Transportation — “We are big proponents of encouraging people to make their next car electric,” says Sabath, noting that there are federal and New York state rebates available for electric and hybrid vehicles. (She is speaking to us from the road in her electric Hyundai Kona.) Bedford 2030 also encourages alternatives to automobiles — walking and public transportation — and is working with the town to add more bicycle lanes. 

But even taking the bus adds to the carbon footprint, so Bedford 2030 is also working with local schools to acquire zero-emission buses, Iorio says.

Rooted solutions — “As we go into the next 10 years, we know that reducing emissions is not enough,” she adds. Bedford 2030 has conducted a Natural Resources and Carbon Inventory of the area to replenish trees, forests and wetlands, which mitigate the effects of climate change. Forests absorb carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming; filter pollutants from rainwater and thus rivers and lakes; and enhance biodiversity. Wetlands also improve water quality, afford coasts flood protection and lessen shoreline erosion. Bedford 2030 has promoted what Iorio calls “an increase in our tree canopy” with sales and plantings of saplings. 

“Providing opportunities for community members to plant trees will continue to be a priority going forward,” she adds.

Another way to help the environment, Sabath says, is to allow your lawn to go to meadow, thus eliminating the pesticides and herbicides used to maintain a green lawn. 

And landscapers and other gardening enthusiasts can also contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions by using electric-powered blowers and mowers instead of gas-powered machines that add to noise pollution as well — something Bedford is considering, Iorio says. 

Meanwhile, she adds, Bedford 2030 is encouraging the community to reduce food waste by buying only what it needs and engaging in more effective composting — returning vital nutrients to the soil instead of to the garbage pile.

As you might expect, Earth Day (April 22) is a red-letter day on the organization’s calendar, but it’s not the only one this month as Bedford 2030 celebrates Earth Month. The fifth annual Bedford 2030 Earth Day Festival will be held noon to 4 p.m. April 24 at Depot Plaza in Bedford Hills. Bedford 2030 hosts a free energy coaching event with Bob Fischman, “Wine, Cheese and Bob,” from 7 to 9 p.m. April 28 at Bedford Playhouse.

Capping the month off at 9 a.m. April 30 on Zoom are the finals of the Greenlight Awards, a competition open to high school students in Westchester County that rewards creative solutions for environmental conservation and restoration, like a solar-paneled bus shelter and an elementary-school composting project. Bedford 2030 is also teaming with the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester.

“It’s their future,” Iorio says of the big emphasis on youth programs. “It’s their world.”

In the meantime, it’s one we can all enjoy with the organization’s Moon Dance fundraising gala at 6:30 p.m. May 21. The event, which will feature a farm-to-table dinner, will celebrate goals and accomplishments past, present and future.

Will there be a Bedford 2040? Not if Bedford 2030 plays its environmental cards right — exceeding its goals and getting to zero emissions.

“Our greatest achievement,” Sabath says, “will be if we can put ourselves out of business.”

For more, visit Bedford2030.org. And for more on the May 21 Moon Dance fundraiser, email Midge Iorio at midge.iorio@Bedford2030.org  or call 914-620-2411.

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