Press-Republican

October 9, 2012

Meeting focuses on sustainability

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Two firms, Casella Waste Management and Ecology and Environment Inc., shared their plans for increasing sustainability in the future.

With the help of a grant from the New York State Regional Economic Council, both companies have been evaluating the North Country’s generation of waste and identifying goals that would reduce waste and increase recycling and conservation of resources, which would save companies and private residents money. 

“We’re starting to write draft chapters of the plan now,” said Christopher J. Rohner of Ecology and Environment, a company based in Lancaster, N.Y., at a public presentation at Clinton Community College.

Rohner showed a pie chart of approximate numbers Ecology and Environment has generated. It found that the North Country generates only 3 percent of New York state’s carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions.

The three factors that contribute to the North Country’s emissions the most are transportation, generating about 46 percent; livestock, at 11 percent; and commercial processes, also with 11 percent of the total emissions.

Town of Plattsburgh Planning Department Director Philip E. Von Bargen asked Rohner how much of transportation emissions are from local traffic and how much from tourism.

“Transportation is probably going to be the toughest nut to crack,” said Kate Fish, executive director of the Adirondack North Country Association. “We’re going to be really creative about how we’re going to think about that.”

SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

A working group comprised of individuals and business representatives from the area is focusing on an aspect of sustainability that includes transportation, waste and water management, economic development, energy, working landscapes and livable communities.

Lynn Edmonds of Jay spoke to the group about the difficulties she has faced living in some of the more rural areas of the Adirondacks and how that relates to the livable communities’ aspect of the sustainability initiative.

Edmonds, who grew up in Keene Valley, had to sell her home because she couldn’t afford the high taxes.

“I think that’s happening to lots of us,” she said.

Keene Valley isn’t a community anymore, she added.

“To me, community means people.” 

Locals can’t afford to live in these more rural areas, she said, and people from outside the North Country have been buying second homes, thus driving up prices.

”We probably need to figure out how to do more of that in this plan,” Rohner said.

Rodney Brown, deputy director for Clinton County, asked that the sustainability of hamlets in the Adirondacks be given some attention in the plan.

Rohner said it should specify how these areas “can reinvent themselves to stay alive and increase the key population and bring people in.”

Later, though, he said the plan that is in progress now will not hold all the answers, as the road toward increased sustainability is in its infancy.

ZERO-SORT RECYCLING

But the plan will provide ideas and direction of where to go after the collection of information and assessment of the key areas the working groups are focusing on, Rohner said.

Bill Meyers, division manager of Casella, shared the progress the company has made in decreasing waste with its zero-sort recycling program now used by many area businesses and residents.

Instead of plastics rated only numbers 1 and 2 being accepted for recycling, Casella now takes numbers 1 through 7, and recyclables, he said, don’t need to be sorted. Many items that would have been waste before, from wrapping paper to pizza boxes, can be recycled now, Meyers said.

Measures as simple as having recycling information for the public and providing them with receptacles in which to place recyclables can decrease waste generation. Casella has used this method to establish zero-sort recycling systems in area schools, at CVPH Medical Center and the Plattsburgh Days Inn.

The underlying initiative, Meyers said, is to connect the environment to the economy in sustainable ways.

“That’s a very important point and really at the root of what we’re trying to do.”