The chairwoman of “725Green” on free energy surveys, the importance of walking and biking instead of driving, and preaching the gospel of Green
Could you give me a general idea of how 725 Green was created and who initiated the idea?
Over a year ago, the mayor, Greg Ferraris, created a task force to make the municipal buildings more energy efficient and “green.” In the fall, it was decided that we would expand that to include all of Sag Harbor.
How did you become involved in 725 Green and who else is involved?
Some time ago, I tried to put solar heating panels on my house. The ARB opposed the idea, but because of my interest in solar, I was asked to be on the task force. When they asked me to chair the expanded group, I said sure. I love Sag Harbor and I’m happy to help. Although I have to say, I had no idea what a huge project I was taking on!
A lot of people are involved. We have a core group that includes Greg Ferraris, who is incredibly supportive and helpful; Kathleen Mulcahy, who is working with the schools and helping to design a website; Sara Gordon, who really launched this whole effort; Zachary Studenroth, who is working on zoning issues; and Russell Diamond, who worked on a similar group in Connecticut. Then we have dozens of great people working on particular projects and subcommittees.
What do you perceive to be the primary goals of 725 Green and what do you hope will be accomplished in the coming year?
We’re working on so many projects, it’s hard to put them in order. Probably the single most important thing we can do environmentally is to get people to make their homes more energy efficient. We are working with LIGreen, who is making free home visits (see www.ligreen.org/725green). We are also working to increase recycling, to coordinate efforts in the schools and the businesses, to promote biking and walking, to encourage (or allow) alternative energy (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal). We are also interested in being part of the international organization ICLEI, which will help us measure our carbon footprint and identify ways to reduce it. We’d like to get our website up and running.Â
Most immediately, I would like to hold a town meeting to hear people’s views on all these issues — solar panels, wind turbines, parking lots, bikes, recycling, and so on, and also to talk about things we, as individuals and as a group, can do to protect Sag Harbor and make it more sustainable.
725 Green’s main purpose to is coordinate the efforts of existing groups and of individuals, to give them muscle, and to be sure that voices are heard and projects move forward. For example, most business owners are concerned about environmental issues, so 725 Green worked with the Sag Harbor Business Alliance to organize a meeting regarding these issues. Now they are looking at the possibility of putting solar panels along the flat roofs on Main Street and restaurant owners are talking about more ‘eco-friendly’ containers and bags, better recycling, etc.Â
What have you done since the organization began this past fall, and how has the general public responded?
In addition to the business meeting and some of the other projects I’ve mentioned, we’ve been talking to haulers to improve recycling, started efforts to open Cilli Farm, looked into community composting, worked with the schools. We want to empower the students and teachers because they’re very enthusiastic about it.Â
People have been very supportive. I don’t think anyone is opposed to being ‘green.’ I just think we have to balance our historic heritage, the natural beauty of Sag Harbor, and the need to shrink our carbon footprint. Do we want this to be a walking/biking village, or do we want tiers of parking garages? Do solar panels conflict with the wonderful, almost museum-like quality of this village? Would wind turbines be an eyesore? We need to discuss all of this. Keep in mind, we have a windmill in the center of town; wind energy is our heritage. I think historic preservation and environmental sustainability can work perfectly together, and I believe Sag Harbor can be a green model for other historic villages.
How do you think changes in the current political administrations both locally and nationally will affect the environmental concerns of 725?
I think there is a lot of support locally for environmental initiatives. And the switch from Bush to Obama, well, I’m not sure any comment is needed. The Obama administration has talked about creating green industries.
Your organization, 725 Green, began just as the economy plunged into what looks like a long recession right now.Â How do you think this will affect environmental issues in general and your program in particular?
The economic downturn works for and against us.Â There will be less money to spend on some projects, but on the other hand, when people are economical, they are usually more green. For example, insulating your home is both environmentally and economically beneficial. The mantra of green, is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Well, when money is short, people are less consumer-oriented, less wasteful, and more apt to reduce and reuse.
What are you hoping for in the future?
Right now, I’m hoping for active volunteers. I need people who don’t just say they care, but who will actually take a few hours, do some legwork, and make a difference. We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful place, but we can’t just depend on someone else to take care of it.