With Mission Accomplished, Rye’s Sustainability Chair Passes The Baton

In October, the City Council received a special “gift” from Rye’s Sustainability Committee — a 103-page plan that looks back at what has been accomplished, and forward to what needs to be done.

sara goddard 2
Published December 6, 2013 5:00 AM
4 min read


sara goddard 2In October, the City Council received a special “gift” from Rye’s Sustainability Committee — a 103-page plan that looks back at what has been accomplished, and forward to what needs to be done.

By Bill Lawyer  


sara goddard 2In October, the City Council received a special “gift” from Rye’s Sustainability Committee — a 103-page plan that looks back at what has been accomplished, and forward to what needs to be done.


The plan was prepared and completed through the hard work of an eleven-member committee, under the leadership of Sara Goddard. The document, which was artfully designed by graphic artist Robin Brown-Friedel, contains a thorough review of the steps leading up to its preparation, so that even newcomers to Rye can quickly understand and get up to speed on its mission. 


The report then focuses on the key sustainability factor for all communities: carrying out a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Following that, the report covers five areas of concern: energy, transportation, waste reduction, water/land use, and community awareness. The final two sections are implementation and tracking and two “sustainability spotlights” — trees, and waste disposal. 


Now that the first phase of the sustainability project has been completed, Goddard is looking to pass on leadership of the project. 


Committee member Mimi Bateman says that she’ll be hard to replace: “Sara worked tirelessly to promote environmental issues and make our community a better place. Her leadership on the committee will be greatly missed.” 


Former City Councilwoman Suzanna Keith recruited Goddard into joining the Conservation Commission Advisory Council in 2009. They had worked together as volunteers with the Twig organization. 


With degrees from Mount Holyoke College and the Yale School of Management, Goddard worked for several years as an analyst for the World Bank and later for an investment company in Stamford. Goddard says her financial background has been helpful in carrying out the complex data gathering and analysis involved in promoting sustainable development in Rye. 


One reason she agreed to take on the leadership role of the sustainability committee is she’s a strong believer in tackling such issues on the local level. 


“People need to commit themselves to making their community better in the long run – not just in the immediate future,” says Goddard, a 16-year resident. “We need to think about how what we do today will determine the character and condition of Rye in the next generation.” 


Throughout the United States and the world, people came to the realization that while it’s important to promote sustainability on the national level, there’s much that can be done locally – in fact, many aspects of it should be done locally. 


That’s why in 2008 the City of Rye joined “ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.”  This led to the creation of a Sustainability Task Force in 2009, and then the formation of the Committee, with Goddard as chair, the following year. 


In looking back over the past four years, Goddard feels that her success as chair of the committee was due to having a great team of volunteers to work with. “Each person took on a piece of the project, which made my job a lot easier.”


She says that perhaps the most important skill needed in designing a sustainability plan is negotiation. This involves continually working with all the stakeholders to find areas of agreement and ways to get people to take the steps needed to get motion underway on the road to change. 


Goddard noted, “Sometimes we sensed some pushback from certain groups or individuals, but I enjoyed the challenge of finding ways of making things happen.” 


As for major accomplishments during her term as chair, Goddard points to generating the base data of Rye’s existing environmental footprint, so that the rate of progress in achieving objectives can be measured. 


The entire committee takes pride in putting together the Sustainability Plan, which can be accessed online through the City’s website, ryeny.gov/sustainability.cfm. Hard copies are available for interested groups or individuals by emailing ryesustainability@gmail.com.


Among Goddard’s other environmental accomplishments were: getting the City’s plastic bag ordinance passed, and reaching out to the community through information workshops, public forums, the “no idling day,” and the “green screen” movie project. 


As for the qualities needed in the next committee chairperson, Goddard says: “Having a committee that works together, and being a good listener.” 


Mayor Doug French says: “Going forward, the continued implementation of the plan and what it represents will be the challenge for the City and the respective boards and volunteers. Sara has made a big difference in our community for now and the future — and that is what public service in Rye is all about.”


And as for other future challenges, Goddard says that sustainability groups from around Westchester County are looking to form a countywide organization, so that groups can utilize the “economies of scale” to get more projects accomplished.  One particular project of interest to Goddard is enacting a new tree ordinance that strikes a balance between individual property rights and community environmental health. 


She urges people interested to contact her. “People can determine the how deeply they want to get involved. There’s lots to be done.”


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