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Bedford 2020 Helps Energize New Castle

NEW CASTLE, N.Y. – For the second time in as many weeks, the sustainability advisory board hosted an environmental event at New Castle Town Hall that featured a packed house of community leaders and members hoping to join in on the discussion.

Bedford 2020 Coalition was the board’s guest of honor on Tuesday night, as the group – dedicated to conserving natural resources and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions – hoped to expand on a discussion that began Nov. 16, when the board welcomed climate change expert Jessica Haller to town hall .

Since its inception in 2010, Bedford 2020 has helped develop a climate action plan, adopted by the Town of Bedford, featuring 70 projects and actions steps for the town to take. One goal of the coalition is to reduce Bedford’s greenhouse gas emission by 20 percent by 2020. Co-founder Ellen Conrad said the first step to achieving any goal is educating the community on the severity of the issue and what can be done to help.

“At the end of the day, this whole concept of sustainability is about changing behavior,” Conrad said. She said the biggest hurdle in achieving progress is trying to reach people who are stuck in their ways, which could be something as small as using plastic bags at the grocery store.

Conrad compared the environmental movement to the inclusion of seat-belts in cars. She said that there was initial resistance from the general public, but people eventually got used to them and laws were then past to make them requirements. Conrad believes that is where their mission is heading.

Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard hopes with the help of Bedford 2020, New Castle can brainstorm ideas how to build on the group’s progress. Sustainability advisory board chairperson Beth Sauerhaft advised residents to have a home energy assessment performed in their households to see how much energy they are actually using.

Gerrard said New Castle is a "climate smart" community that integrates sustainability issues into every decision it makes. In efforts to decrease its environmental footprint, the town installed a solar wall at the water treatment plant to help reduce the need for heating oil and offers preferential parking at the train station to "clean" vehicles.

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