By Brandon Loomis
Saranac Lake celebrated its “bronze-level” certification as one of New York’s 62 Climate Smart Communities on Thursday. In the Adirondack region, Saranac Lake joins Warren County and Lake George in receiving that bronze-level designation.
The achievement follows a village task force’s progress in assessing and addressing the local contribution to climate change. Perhaps the most ambitious achievement was completion of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory on every village government building, vehicle trip and light bulb.
The state’s program, which Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said now incorporates communities containing nearly half of all New Yorkers, sets benchmarks for certification and awards points toward it for actions that the village and task force took, such as reviewing power bills and fleet logs for the inventory, making lighting changes, creating a biking and pedestrian plan and hosting a farmers market.
The inventory, based on 2017 and 2018 records, found that the village emitted the equivalent of 1,119 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2017 and 1,065 metric tons in 2018.
“The next step is to work on a plan to reduce those emissions,” said village task force coordinator Erin Griffin, who also manages the Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program in Tupper Lake. There’s no playbook for creating such a plan in a community as small as Saranac Lake, she said, but she expects it could take six months and will involve the public.
The village is at work on or planning energy programs including hydropower and wind that will help achieve the state’s silver designation, Mayor Clyde Rabideau said. It will squeeze more power out of the dam at Lake Flower, use gas produced during wastewater treatment to produce heat, and work with Clarkson University’s small-profile wind program to generate power on Mount Pisgah, a local ski hill, he said.
“We’re going to make sure that every light is LED,” Rabideau said.
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Seggos traveled to Saranac Lake on Thursday to honor the village’s achievement, and he invited Adirondack Diversity Initiative Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson to mark the state’s commitment to environmental justice alongside climate action. The state’s new Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for pointing a significant portion of the benefits of and involvement in shaping a greener future toward communities that have weathered environmental injustice, Seggos said.
The Adirondack Diversity Initiative is working to invite children and “people who don’t look like you” from New York City and other regions to enjoy the mountains and become invested in protecting them and demanding climate justice, Hylton-Patterson told the largely white audience at Saranac Lake’s Riverside Park.
“This is critical, critical work,” she said.