A Message from Sustainable Warwick

by Geoff Howard, Sustainable Warwick (SWr) board chair

I am a member of Sustainable Warwick (SWr), located in New York’s Hudson Valley. Andy McLaughlin, a member of Sustainable Woodstock, asked me to share some thoughts with you on what we have done, are doing, and might be doing in the future. His thinking is that the more we are aware of other groups that are fighting for environmental sanity, the stronger we all will be. So with that goal in mind …

Let’s start with Warwick itself. Warwick is an hour-plus from the City, an inconvenient commute that has prevented major suburbanization and helped preserve our strong agricultural heritage. We grow onions and vegetables in the lowlands–the famous Black Dirt, and apples and peaches in the rolling uplands. It’s pretty, it’s a major part of our economy, and it’s at the heart of our environmental awareness.

One example is that we have over 4,000 acres of farmland permanently preserved via a Purchase of Development Rights program. This was before SWar entered the picture, but it speaks to the community at large and their willingness to twice vote to increase their taxes to make this possibility a reality.

So it is in this context that SWr functions, and I have the sense that there is a similar synergy between SWd and the greater Woodstock community. I certainly hope so because it makes a lot of things much easier.

Looking over the past decade or so, here are some of the things we’ve been able to get done:

  •  A community garden and orchard
  • A community compost/mulch program with our Village DPW
  • A town-wide ban on fracking and extractive industries
  • Major campaigns—Energize Warwick, Solarize Warwick, and HeatSmart Warwick — to promote sustainable energy practices
  • A bi-monthly “Repair Cafe” where residents bring in things to be repaired by community volunteers, instead of throwing them away
  • An annual “Too Good To Toss” exchange—a huge, free yard sale where people bring things they no longer need and others find things they really do need.

And there are some fights we’re still waging:

  • Opposing, so far without success, a major new electric generating plant that uses fracked gas imported from Pennsylvania
  • Working to get a ban or fee on single-use plastic bags

As for the future, we are hopeful that the recent shift in Albany to a significantly more progressive State Senate and Assembly will open up a host of new policy possibilities from plastic bags and styrofoam to a real commitment to renewable energy throughout the state. Folks from SWr worked hard to get our local progressive candidates elected, as did environmentally oriented groups throughout the state … and it made a difference.

OK, that’s us, and I hope that, as you read this list, you see the beginnings of some possibilities for things that might work in Woodstock. And I’m sure there are things you’re doing or thinking about doing that we would like to know more about. Here’s hoping that this is the start of a great collaborative dialog among folks fighting the good fight.

But in closing, one request: Woodstock has already taken three of Warwick’s best—Andy McLaughlin, Joby Thompson, and Anne Macksoud … that’s enough!


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