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Saranac Lake nearly a bronze Climate Smart community

SARANAC LAKE — This village is only 16 points away from becoming a bronze-certified Climate Smart Community.

CSC is a state Department of Environmental Conservation program that helps local governments take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. The program offers free technical assistance, grants and rebates for electric vehicles. Out of all the 294 CSCs in New York, 32 have reached bronze status. Only two are silver, Ulster County and Tompkins County. None are gold.

Saranac Lake took the pledge to be a CSC in 2018. The village Climate Smart Communities Task Force is a volunteer effort, and the village provides meeting space and administrative support.

Task Force Coordinator Erin Griffin said a lot of the work her group has done so far has been researching what the village already does that makes it eco-friendly.

“When we first started, one of the things that we were surprised by was all the things the village had already done that I feel like most people in the community don’t know about,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We are excited that this process is raising the visibility of a lot of sustainability initiatives the village has already done.”

For example, the village was awarded points for measuring its energy usage in buildings in 2016. It gets points for the 2013 biking and walking master plan. The village also gets points for hosting local farmers markets. It takes 120 points to be bronze, and Saranac Lake has 104 so far.

“Even though some of our time has been spent documenting projects to get points, we’re also developing new partnerships, developing new relationships with each other and building a capacity within our task force and all the organizations that we represent to take on bigger actions in the future,” she said.

Outside of what the village has already done, the task force set up social media accounts with the help of local high school students and hosted a climate symposium at the First Presbyterian Church in April 2019.

During the task force’s Wednesday meeting, other initiatives discussed were measuring how much solid waste the village produces and researching energy-efficient vehicles for village use.

Griffin said all the research the task force has done is setting the village up for a climate action plan.

“That would look more at what kind of action and what kind of infrastructure improvements might help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and also make the village a better place to live.”

Griffin said the task force would like to apply for a CSC grant, but they aren’t sure what it should go toward yet.

“We do know the biggest — based on the greenhouse gas inventory — the biggest energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases are the wastewater treatment plant and transportation,” she said. “I’m sure any project that we consider will look at those areas.”

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