A year after the 10% Challenge was launched in Red Hook and Warwick, we had the first measurements of campaign results in Red Hook. (Those pragmatists in Warwick chose to view the campaign as a rhetorical challenge and educational opportunity, and avoid the complexities of measurement.) Thanks to the cooperation of Central Hudson Gas and Electric, we were able to compare energy use at one-year intervals - corrected for population and for the annual temperature levels which determine heating and air conditioning use. While we knew that 10% was a stretch goal, we were gratified to see that the community had cut electricity use 3% in Year One - government operations, business and institutions, and households alike. Back at the beginning, as we conceptualized the campaign, skeptical friends had warned us that 3% would be an accomplishment to be proud of. And we are. More important, Red Hook has embodied the Challenge as a key tool in the Climate Action Plan it completed in 2011.
10% Challenge resolutions were also passed in Montgomery (town and 3 villages), Wappinger's Falls, Watervliet and Hudson. Warwick celebrated its 10% Challenge year with comprehensive public sector energy improvements, feasibility studies for a wind turbine, and the exciting win of crowdsourced funding for a town orchard. We especially endorsed Warwick's approach for its heavy involvement of local institutions like schools and libraries, and also for its beginning with simple energy efficiency and then moving into custom projects to reduce the footprint of the entire community.
Recognizing the parallel paths of footprint reduction and adapting to unpreventable climate change, we continued to work with the rich material of Placemaking in a Changing Climate as an integrative workshop focusing on keeping communities livable in spite of wierding weather. Anchored by the presentations of Phil Myrick (Project for Public Spaces) and SHV's Melissa Everett, the workshop has grown modules on transportation planning and landscape architecture, allowing for customized programs to meet communities/ needs. We took a short version on the road for feedback in Newburgh, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie, then piloted a full day in July at Omega Institute for professionals from three states.
2011 was the year that the economic downturn caught up with us - or at least, the year that we acknowledged it after a period of very spotty financing. At the beginning of the year, we formally discontinued staffed operations and hunkered down to keep the work going with an involved board and amazing partners. Operations Director Michael O'Hara became the Energy Consultant for the city of Hudson, and a member of our board. Executive Director Melissa Everett, with family in Connecticut, established a second base of operations and was hired as Hartford Area Outreach Coordinator for Community Energy, Inc. Melissa continues to represent the organization and advance our program as a very committed volunteer member of the board.
Taking to heart the notion that a retreat can be the best springboard for advancing, we turned inward and did the homework to secure our 501c3 nonprofit status to prepare for scaled-up operations with a stronger foundation. With a new, rigorously developed strategic plan and an activated board, we entered 2012 with energy and hope.