One of EcoPel’s bedrock goals is to raise the environmental consciousness of local government officials in support of policies that promote a greener, cleaner Pelham.
Recently, the Village of Pelham has moved steps closer to that goal as its Board of Trustees explores the creation of a sustainability advisory board (SAB). Such a body would develop programs and recommend policies that contribute to the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the Village.
“A sustainability board can provide more than green window dressing,” said VOP Trustee Ariel Spira-Cohen, who is spearheading the effort with Trustee Xaira Ferrara. “Municipalities that meet a number of environmental goals can receive grants for their efforts, in addition to enhancing their towns going forward.”
Though still in the exploratory stages, the board would potentially be made up of six members appointed by the mayor with trustee approval, along with a liaison from the Village government. Sustainability members might come from like-minded civic organizations such as EcoPel.
Generally speaking, sustainability boards provide non-binding advice and expertise. For instance, while residents may express interest in food-scrap composting, to put that into practice requires a relationship with local governing bodies. “We have a great civic organization here, EcoPel, but we don’t currently have a sustainability committee that is very aligned or integrated into village government like some of the other Westchester municipalities,” Spira-Cohen said.
For an example of how a sustainability advisory board might work, EcoWise reached out to Steve Wolk, chairman of the Town of New Castle SAB. In recent years, it has helped establish a town-wide plastic bag ban and coordinated a shift from dual stream recycling – which requires that paper products be sorted separately from other recyclables — to single-stream recycling, which is more efficient.
Spira-Cohen said the idea of a Pelham SAB has come up for a number of reasons, including a desire by the trustees to modernize the tree committee that is currently part of the Village code. (The duties of the tree committee are largely carried out by the Village’s private contractor.) “An SAB is more beneficial than one-off initiatives,” she noted, “because it focuses on a long-term working relationship towards a set of goals.”
Pelham Manor isn’t currently discussing the creation of a formal advisory board, according to Manor Trustee Michelle DeLillo. But she noted that the Village is serious about sustainability, as evidenced by its robust recycling and waste management program that includes electronics recycling and curbside collection for leaf composting. It is also a member, as is the Village and the Town of Pelham, in Sustainable Westchester.
Interest in sustainability and environmentally-friendly policy is growing in Westchester, and an SAB can serve as a crucial linchpin, connecting the ideas and desires of citizens to improve their communities with the municipalities that can help enact them.