community groups in sustainability initiatives
|Catalyzing the transition to a
greener, more sustainable and more resilient New York City
nonprofits can reach out to neighbors and networks of
close relationships, they can be very effective
marketing partners in sustainability projects. The key is to
craft projects in which everyone comes out ahead, so
that these groups can serve their constituents and earn
income, while making themselves and the city more
* We’ll provide on request all the information needed for a nonprofit to start earning referral fees from solar installers for promoting solar energy to its contacts.
** For identification only. This is a personal communication and does not reflect the official views or policy of Long Island City Partnership.
Because NYC’s many community based nonprofits have extensive networks and personal and neighborhood relationships, they can be effective marketing partners for citywide sustainability programs. This paper explores how community leaders can help create the entrepreneurial projects through which nonprofit groups can benefit both themselves and their constituents while becoming neighborhood catalysts for sustainability initiatives, with benefits for all stakeholders.Possible Programs
Sustainability programs targeting community groups should include:
(1) enough incentive for community groups to promote them
(2) enough benefit for constituents
(3) value in the form of income, savings, goods, services, or social capital
(4) low entry and set-up costs
(5) applicability to NYC
Referral fees would encourage
nonprofits to promote two existing initiatives
to their constituents:
energy efficiency upgrades and solar PV system
(1) Con Ed’s Green Team program offers free energy efficiency surveys and discounts of up to 70% on equipment upgrades for lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling.
(2) On average, 15% of businesses citywide that get the free survey follow up with purchasing the discounted upgrades.
(3) The percentage purchasing upgrades rose to over 40% when a Long Island City business group promoted the program to its constituents.
(4) Citywide participation in the program would similarly increase if Con Ed were to provide incentives for community group referrals that led to purchases of upgrades.
Solar PV system installation:
(1) Government incentives and tax breaks cover about 80% of installation costs.
(2) Community groups can promote installation with installer referral agreements.
Changing our food system has become an important City policy concern because it can alleviate a lot of problems at the same time. Access to and consumption of affordable, healthy food will help alleviate chronic health conditions and thus reduce health care costs. Growing and manufacturing more food within the City and State will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce transportation costs, and protect against volatile oil costs and fuel supply problems. Purchasing more of NYC’s $30 billion food budget from in-state sources would boost the regional economy.
Steps toward transforming the City’s food system are set out in PlaNYC, the sustainability plan of the Bloomberg Administration, as well as reports from Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and academic experts at Columbia University. Initial steps have so far have been uncontroversial. However, when continued efforts infringe on the profits of large entrenched industries in the NYC food market it will trigger their opposition, as happened with congestion pricing and is now taking place around the proposed large soda ban. It would be prudent to build public support for the next steps in our food system upgrade.
Inspiring distribution models:
(1) At its farmers market, East NY Farms reserves a table for selling vegetables grown in the neighborhood, aggregated from many small plots and producers and providing income for local gardeners and itself.
(2) BK Farmyards proposes linking residents with gardening space and skilled gardeners without land access, and then linking customers with the resulting produce.
(1) Winter farming in greenhouses and inexpensive hoop houses.
(2) Sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) which soak water upwards to the plant through capillary action and thus reduce water use: portable, lightweight SIPs made from plastic buckets and boxes can turn vacant lots into temporary farms.
(3) Small Plot
Intensive (SPIN) farming: intercropping
and scheduled crop rotations lead to high vegetable
yields in small spaces.
Each year, the City spends $300 million to export 3.3 million tons of City-collected waste, 18% of which is organic and mostly food waste.
(1) Green roofs and rooftop farming require special lightweight soil mixtures which can be produced from NYC’s own organic waste steam. Waste such as wood chips heated in the absence of oxygen turns into light weight, water absorbent charcoal (biochar). Amending soils with biochar is also a stable, inexpensive way to sequester carbon.
(2) An exemption from or a creative workaround to waste hauling regulations aimed at excluding criminal enterprises could support development of a local compost industry.
(3) Food waste could be picked up for composting locally by community groups, using industrial bicycle carts for waste collection.
Turning community groups into active participants in sustainability initiatives would be a huge benefit for NYC. Exploring ways to make that happen should be a top priority.