Sustainability Committee Brings the Council Up-to-Date on Its Projects

Since the Rye Sustainability Committee was formed back in 2010, it has had a great track record of keeping the City of Rye in the know on a wide range of environmental issues and concerns. 


By Bill Lawyer


Since the Rye Sustainability Committee was formed back in 2010, it has had a great track record of keeping the City of Rye in the know on a wide range of environmental issues and concerns. 


It took three years for the Rye Sustainability Committee (RSC) to develop a formal sustainability plan that was approved by the City Council, and during that time, the Committee worked with the community to make progress on many issues. These included an energy efficiency evaluation of Whitby Castle, an emissions inventory of City facilities, a “no idling day,” the showing of the movie “Bag It,” and the retail shopping bag ordinance. And, even before the plan was in place, the Committee received the prestigious US EPA Environmental Quality Award. 


Since then, the RSC has met on a regular basis to keep the Council and public aware of the issues, needs and accomplishments. The most recent of these updates was held at the September 14 meeting.


Committee chair Sara Goddard began with an overview of the structure and operations of the committee, noting that members volunteer to help in a variety of ways, according to their interests and abilities. 


She then introduced Linda MacKay, who talked about the activities concerning the many aspects of energy efficiency — such as identifying possible funding sources to reduce energy use. This involves attending workshops and conferences. The goal is to make Rye a “Climate Smart Community.” Climate Smart Communities is a network of New York communities engaged in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving climate resilience.


Next up was Gretchen Crowley, who described the Rye “Green Screens” project, hosted by Rye Country Day School. So far three films have been shown: “Bag It,” “No Impact Man,” and “Idle Threat: Man On Emission.” 


The RSC is now in the planning stage for the next Green Screen presentation, tentatively scheduled for January or February of 2017. 


Committee member Lori Fontanes discussed Rye’s involvement on the nation-wide Healthy Yards program. The goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of chemical fertilizer and toxic pesticides and herbicides. 


This would include lawn areas on municipal, school, church, and business properties, in addition to people’s homes. 


Fontanes explained that the RSC has a one-item questionnaire on its website where people can respond to the question: “Should the City of Rye Adopt a Healthy Lawn Policy for its Public Spaces?” The options are agree, neutral, or disagree.


They are also holding a community-wide design contest to create a logo for the official Rye Healthy Yard Program lawn sign. The winning design will capture the spirit of the RHYP mission to promote awareness about the health and environmental benefits of using natural landscaping practices in our community.


The final presentation was by Melissa Grieco, and the topic was promoting the planting of street trees to provide shade, reduce both energy use and stormwater runoff, and enhance property values. She added that the Committee is working with the City to set up a tree-planting fund site, where people can make contributions. 


Sara Goddard brought the update to a close with some thoughts about the future. She said that the RSC is focusing less on institutions and more on individual property owners as the priority in bringing about a more sustainable community. 


She invited everyone in the community with thoughts or concerns about sustainability to visit the RSC website ( and Facebook page, both of which are being updated and improved frequently. The site has many topics covered in a “one-stop shopping” sort of a way. Volunteers are needed to help with the projects described and in other activities. 


Finally, the RSC is currently working on a newsletter, which will be coming out soon. 


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