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Lead by Example

Green Awards Winner: Bedford 2020, a model of sustainability



Greenlight Awards at Fox Lane High School, Bedford, NY. From left: 2020 co-founder Ellen Rouse Conrad, Executive director Midge Iorio, advisor Drew Patrick, board member Karen Sabath, co-founder Olivia Farr, co-founder Mary Beth Kass, task-force member Nick Gutfreund.

Living a greener, cleaner lifestyle isn’t just for tree-huggers and Birkenstockers. It has become an attainable dream for many residents of Bedford, New York, thanks to Bedford 2020, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the town’s carbon footprint and creating a sustainable, environmentally responsible community.

Bedford 2020 was born in response to an environmental summit held on January 31, 2009, where the coalition’s mission took shape: to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the Town of Bedford by 20 percent by the year 2020.

In the seven years since that summit, Bedford 2020 has become an unstoppable green machine, with five active task forces: Energy, Food and Agriculture, Transportation, Waste and Recycling, and Water and Land Use.

Energize Bedford, headed by the energy task force, provides residents with energy-efficiency home assessments and suggests modifications to increase sustainability and decrease environmental impact. The program has led to energy-efficient upgrades in over 150 homes in Bedford alone. In 2015, Bedford 2020 also led a campaign called Solarize Bedford–Mount Kisco, designed to increase usage of solar power among homeowners.

The food and agriculture task force formulated VEGOUT!, which details the ins and outs of growing, buying, and cooking your own sustainable, locally grown food. Bedford 2020 has also created a how-to guide for home composting, which reduces waste.

The push toward alternative sources of fuel led to an event created by the transportation task force: the Bedford 2020 Car Show, which brought in 1,100 attendees to see the latest fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel cars. There was even a demonstration of an electric garbage truck.

Not to be outdone, the land and water task force started the Great Healthy Yard initiative, urging residents to stop using chemicals and pesticides on their yard and has resulted in cleaner water runoff and 4,500 acres of cleaner land.

“We are focused on more than just energy and waste reduction,” says Midge Iorio, executive director of Bedford 2020. Its Greenlight Award Competition is a year-long event in which students from Fox Lane Middle School and High School propose a project that makes an environmental difference. The goal of the project is to “empower students to be future environmental leaders,” says Iorio. “We have been overwhelmed with interest from the student community.”

Bedford 2020’s success has laid the groundwork for other communities to jump in (the water’s fine!). Its 30-page guide, Summit in a Box, explains in detail the process of creating and executing an environmental summit. 


Founding Thoughts Bedford 2020

Olivia Farr, co-founder and sr. vice president
I got involved because I felt we could no longer depend on the federal government to create sustainable strategies. The action had to come from residents and local government working together. Bedford 2020 offers the kind of nimble, private-public partnership that brings positive change. The best ambassadors for our home-efficiency program are neighbors who have undertaken the upgrades on their homes.  

Mary Beth Kass, co-founder and co-president
I co-founded Bedford 2020 to act as the entity responsible for assisting the town with its Climate Action Plan. Without community-wide support, the plan would have sat on a shelf. This is such an exciting time for us. We are in great shape with our objectives, we are adhering to our mission, and we have a pool of more than 90 active volunteers. And we are strengthening partnerships throughout the county and state.

Ellen Conrad, co-founder and co-president
Six years after the Bedford Environmental Summit, our highest hope is the creation of Westchester Smart Power, an energy provider that will facilitate Westchester County’s reaching 100 percent renewable energy goals by 2020. Bedford 2020 is working with Sustainable Westchester to educate consumers on how they can “opt up to 100 percent renewable energy” and eliminate carbon pollution. With 100 percent renewable energy, we can expect clean air, clean water, better health, local jobs, and no more fossil fuel use. Reaching this goal is what gets me up in the morning! 


For tickets to the Green Awards celebration click here

For a compete list of Green Award winners

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