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A Small Town with Big Green Goals: Warwick, New York

Sustainability isn’t just for large urban centers. All it takes to make a difference for the planet and our immediate, local community is for just a few people to come together and take action.

Warwick, New York, population 32,027 (as of the 2020 census), is about an hour and a half drive and 60 miles northwest of New York City, population 8.8 million. The township rests in the bountiful embrace of the Appalachian Mountains and serves as a stop for those who hike the Appalachian Trail. Back in the early 1990s, hundreds of Warwick citizens came together to organize a “grassroots visioning process” to imagine together what the future of their community might look like. 

Community members recognized the value of open space, land conservation, local environment, agriculture, community outreach, education, and the arts. Among the various initiatives that came from that event, the residents of Warwick voted twice to voluntarily raise their taxes and preserve almost 4,000 acres of open space in their town, and Sustainable Warwick was formed.

Sustainable Warwick

Over the last thirty years, the small-town organizers of Sustainable Warwick have documented significant progress toward making and keeping Warwick the community of their collective dreams.

Sustainable Warwick’s mission is “to increase public understanding of sustainability by providing information and encouraging individuals, community organizations, businesses, schools, and government to cooperate in protecting environmental quality and reducing carbon emissions.”

To accomplish their goals, the organization consists of 14 different committees, each dedicated to a different need or initiative in Warwick, from creating pollinator habitats to refrigerant appliance collection and more. Their website serves as a significant informational hub for anyone in their region and their state to find resources about sustainability and climate change. 

Together, they tackle a wide range of sustainability needs so that everyone can enjoy the wonders and resources their community has to offer for years and years to come.

Sustainable Warwick Land and Food Initiatives

In addition to securing thousands of acres of open space in Warwick, the SW team has coordinated campaigns to address environmental concerns within their community. These include a 10% challenge to encourage energy reductions in municipal buildings throughout the town, a campaign to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags at local supermarkets and Farmers Markets, and the Triple Win Community Solar campaign, which raised $3,800 in donations for local charities and inspired residents to join community solar farms (saving up to 10% on their electric bill).

Sustainable Warwick started a community orchard of more than 40 trees as well as an organic vegetable community garden, which produces vegetables for its members as well as the Warwick Ecumenical Food Pantry. Their efforts inspired others in the community to start their own community gardens. Today there are three additional community gardens in Warwick.

They also launched a Community Composting Program (in partnership with the Village of Warwick DPW), which makes free, high quality compost and mulch available to Warwick residents.

The organization goes beyond just growing good food, they also plan potluck gatherings for socializing and exchanging ideas, coordinate a Vegetarians and Friends Club that sponsors dinners for those interested in exploring vegetarian options, and host farmer-to-table potluck dinners to thank area farmers.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

Image: Repair Cafe – Hudson Valley

Awareness is the beginning of action, and Sustainable Warwick is a huge promoter of sustainable advocacy and community education. They supported the Too Good To Toss recycling event as well as the Sustainable World Book Discussion, held at Wisner Library. 

To encourage residents to reuse and recycle materials instead of sending things to the landfill, Sustainable Warwick created a Repair Cafe, which invites residents to bring their broken items to volunteer repair coaches to help people fix them. Volunteer repair coaches try to help people fix their lamps, vacuums, clocks, chairs, jewelry, toys, small appliances and electric items, gaming devices, dolls, clothes, tools, and more. The cafe brings together those who need items repaired who don’t want to contribute to the waste cycle with those who have the much-needed and valued skills of fixing broken things to celebrate their art and skills. Together, the whole community creates a more sustainable future, one broken (and mended) piece at a time.

Energy Conservation in Warwick

The organization has invested time and energy into energy conservation initiatives for Warwick residents as well. Their Energize Warwick program helps homeowners with the NYSERDA home weatherization program, and Solarize Warwick encourages residents to purchase solar electric panels.

Goals for a Sustainable Community

Warwick’s Sustainable Warwick organization is a beautiful model for how people in small towns can gather together to make a real difference, to create and keep the world we want for our children and grandchildren. 

Their goals for a sustainable community could be applied to any small town that is looking to define their own future:

  1. Increase understanding of the earth’s resources, ecosystems and climate and our dependence on a healthy environment.
  2. Minimize dependence on fossil fuels and wasteful use of scarce metals and other resources.
  3. Support use and development of renewable energy, efficiency, and conservation.
  4. Support use and development of safer alternatives to persistent chemicals which may be harmful.
  5. Support a vibrant local economy. Develop ways of meeting human needs fairly and efficiently while respecting the limits of nature.
  6. Celebrate the creativity and community spirit involved in developing this vision.
  7. Emphasize dialogue and collaboration.

Sustainable Warwick holds monthly meetings in addition to many other special events and invites area citizens to become members. Learn more about Sustainable Warwick!

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