Color Penfield Green: Leading the Way with Climate Conscious Initiatives

Genesee Valley Publications

As 2022 begins, the environment and climate change continue to concern many. At least 15 of New York State’s Finger Lakes Region communities have partnered with an organization called the Climate Solutions Accelerator to begin taking action. Penfield is one such community, thanks in part to resident organization, Color Penfield Green.

Color Penfield Green (CPG) is part of the greater Color your Community Green movement and the Climate Solutions Accelerator (CSA). CPG is a grassroots effort dedicated to educating individuals and working to move town officials to make environmentally friendly changes. “Color Brighton Green inspired us with the whole idea of a community group,” said CPG leader, Katie Rygg. “We are all volunteers and include a junior effort called Color your School Green.” Rygg acts as the liaison between the adult CPG and the student CSG.

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Al Hibner tabling at the Gathering on the GreenGenesee Valley Publications

A prime example of one of CPG’s successes are Penfield’s Community Choice Aggregation. “This is my passion project, started by my fellow CPG volunteer, Al Hibner, before CPG started,” shared Rygg. “About three years ago, he formed a residents committee to see if we could implement a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). Now, we are implementing Penfield’s new program with more eco-friendly options, including 50% and 100% renewable electricity.” Rygg also credits Penfield residents for lobbying the Town Board to make these “green” options a reality and praised the Town Board for offering these options.

Color Penfield Green has seen other successes, as well. It’s clean energy classes have been gaining momentum. “45 people took our NYS Clean Energy Communities: Community Campaign for Electric Vehicles course with us through the Penfield Recreation Department,” stated Rygg. CPG plans to offer this course again and will be partnering with Heat Smart Monroe to offer a second class under the Climate Solutions Accelerator umbrella in the spring.

“It is Penfield residents teaching Penfield residents,” explained Hibner. “If 10 people purchase or lease electric vehicles, our town would receive $5,000 for sustainability projects. We are also starting a process for clean heating and cooling. We can earn up to $10,000 for these two campaigns. Why not use renewable energy?”

Another CPG campaign that has been wildly successful is its Healthy Yards initiative through Healthy Yards Monroe County. “We met with the Penfield Parks Department,” said Rygg. “We want to make sure our parks have more native pollinator plants, use best practices for healthy soil, and reduce pesticide use.” Rygg credited fellow volunteer Megan Meyer for her hard work on this campaign.

Yet, even with these “green” victories, there is much work to do. “I have two small children, and I would love to see them riding electric school buses,” said Rygg. “I know this is the direction we are going.” She explained that current diesel buses only get about 4-10 miles to the gallon of fuel. “Electric school buses are coming,” Rygg continued. “The community support is there, and we can make things happen. We have already presented on this to parent organizations and our town, and there has been a lot of positive response there. We are hoping Penfield’s new busing facility can be ready to roll with electric school busses.” CPG’s outlook is hopeful as the town considers the feasibility of such an undertaking.

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Al Hibner tabling at the Gathering on the GreenGenesee Valley Publications

“We realize there is more to do; that we have to stand up with Color Penfield Green and do more,” said Hibner. “These local groups are a sweet spot for creating change. State and national changes are good, but they can be challenging. When working with local municipalities, you can organize quickly in your home community and meet with your officials quickly. It just flows naturally. These are your friends and neighbors with whom you are working and whom you are helping. We can help others find like-minded people in their communities, or, if there is not a group already, we can help them start one.”

Hibner and Rygg both added that they appreciate Penfield’s historic support. “Penfield built a 5-acre solar farm to supply up to 80% of the energy needed to power their government buildings,” they said. “We want to compliment them and to support them in doing even more.”

Interested in learning more? Check out Color Penfield Green’s blog. You’ll find information on everything from electric cars to renewable energy. Visit the Finger Lakes Region’s Color your Community Green website at climatefl.org/color-your-community-green.

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