By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — The Government Rethinking Energy and Environment Now Committee, or GREEN Committee, in Clifton Park has two main objectives: give residents a greener town, while also letting them keep more green in their wallets.
The GREEN Committee is responsible for making suggestions to the town board regarding what can be done in Clifton Park that will save residents money but at the same time be environmentally friendly, according to committee chair and town Councilwoman Amy Standaert.
“We try and look for ways to combine the green in the money-saving aspect, and the green in the environmental aspect, and put that together,” Standaert said.
She explained that while the committee has a handful of members who are active all the time, in total there are between 15 and 20 volunteers, and meetings are held quarterly for the committee as a whole. However, smaller meetings are constantly held with more active members to keep momentum going.
“We don’t like to meet just to meet,” she said. “We want to get things done.”
Standaert has chaired the committee for the past four years, and explained that it as something she wanted to be involved in as soon as she was elected in 2013. GREEN, which operates without a budget, doesn’t necessarily come up with a new game plan for a new project every quarter, she explained. Instead, they try to look ahead to smaller energy and money saving programs that they can actually implement, including the installation of LED lights in some municipal buildings.
“It is tough, but that just means you have to be creative,” Standaert said. “We try to pull the focus into things we can actually implement.”
One major recent endeavor taken up by the GREEN Committee is a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. The town has placed a large container at the Clifton Park Transfer Station, where residents may drop off gently used building materials, furniture, and anything that can be reused. Habitat for Humanity does a pickup at the Transfer Station once a week, and sells the goods at its ReStore location.
Right now, the committee is trying to secure funding via a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant. Standaert said that at this point, there isn’t a plan set as to how the committee would use the grant money, but members have been speaking with officials from other town departments to try to determine from them which environmental initiatives would be the most useful.
One hurdle the GREEN committee will have to clear in the future is whether or not the recently proposed cuts at the federal Environmental Protection Agency will have any effect on municipal energy saving and environmental programs. Though the cuts have not yet affected the GREEN Committee in a negative way, if the committee receives its NYSERDA grant, Standaert said, one of the programs the committee would hope to utilize is an EPA program, and she doesn’t know at this point whether or not the program would even survive the cuts.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Standaert said. “There are certain programs that are funded by EPA that filter down to just our little old GREEN Committee, and it leaves a lot of questions, but I don’t object to having a more efficient EPA. We have a saying here. We do more with less, and we really do try and adhere to that.”
Other activities under the GREEN Committee’s umbrella include the town-wide clean up day, which will be held on April 22 this year, as well as the town’s shredding program. Endeavors such as the town clean up day not only help the town physically, but they also bring the community together and provide a hands on role in boosting town pride.
“Clifton Park is very unique in the sense that its residents… they really demand having an environmentally responsible government. They really want to be involved,” Standaert said. “So, we put those things together- folks who have a passion about environmental issues and having the need and the want and the desire to give back to the community. You put those two together and that’s where you come up with the GREEN committee.”