Climate Smart Gardiner (CSG) has been aiming to make sustainable, environmentally-friendly changes to the area since its inception early in 2018, but the core members aren’t climate scientists or ecologists. They are Gardiner residents who want to make the community stronger.
Jason Mayer is the group coordinator and is a psychologist by trade. He was one of the founding members. In the summer of 2017, Mayer read an article about climate change and its possible future impacts, and it struck a chord. “I was worried about how this would affect my kids, and their kids,” Mayer said, “And I thought to myself, well, I should be doing something.” After some preliminary research, Mayer was directed to the New York Department of Conservation’s (DEC) Climate Smart Communities program, which provides support and assistance for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and climate adaptation at the local level.
Though CSG has only been active since January, its 10-person taskforce, along with members of the larger community, is already responsible for the recycling bins that can now be found in Majestic Park, various community education events about renewable energy sources, a potential project to replace Gardiner’s streetlights with LEDs, and even a natural resources inventory project that will catalogue a variety of different natural resources within Gardiner. Rick Irizarry, a sales manager for New York State Solar Farm, serves as a liaison between CSG and Gardiner’s Environmental Conservation Committee and is helping lead the natural resources inventory project. The inventory will identify “the information that’s needed to make decisions for the town that would affect or protect the wildlife and ecology in the area,” Irizarry said.
Other initiatives from CSG aim to help local businesses, too. Holly Shader, a science teacher in Pine Bush and a Gardiner resident, has worked with the group to draft a grant proposal for an electric vehicle charging station. The proposal was recently approved. Shader said she hopes the EV charging stations—hopefully up and running by the end of the summer—will attract visitors with electric vehicles and “really start making Gardiner a destination to spend time in.” Shader, like many other members of CSG, got involved because she wants to see her community come together and grow stronger. “This is my community, and I guess I want to work toward the world I want to live in,” Shader said. “I want to live in a sustainable world, and I want to live in a sustainable community.”
As Mayer said, a big part of what has made Climate Smart Gardiner successful so far has been plugging people into the things that they’re interested in, through coordination with the Gardiner town board, local businesses and local residents.
“We’re trying to help people feel like they’re a meaningful part of their community,” Mayer said. “Are we going to stop climate change here? Maybe not … but at last you can feel like you’re doing something.”
The Climate Smart Gardiner Task Force meets on the first Wednesday of every month at Town Hall. Climate Smart Gardiner is active on Facebook; connect with them at facebook.com/climatesmartgardiner.