December 1, 2021

Homer adds ‘Green Team’ to task force

Students working to create a climate-smart community

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

Rachel Sahm talks about how the water-bottle filling station — the first at Homer High School — had to be reset after the station’s display counter reached its maximum number of saved plastic bottles.

They’ve planted a garden, built a solar-powered charging station and spoke at climate summits. Now, the Homer Green Team will work with the Homer Village Board and others to help the village become certified as a Climate Smart Community.

The opportunity to work with the village is inspiring, said Rachel Sahm, a member of the team, a student group at Homer High School.

“Just thinking that we can do this and that adults are actually welcoming us and accepting us and that we’re part of the driving force behind the change, it’s pretty amazing,” Sahm said.

The team has five other members — President Andrew Fagerheim, Shenequa Perry, Becky Jones, Andrew Patterson and Marcus Sypher.

In February, the village board announced the creation of Climate Smart Communities Task Force to look at ways the village can reach certification as a Climate Smart Community, a state program. The idea of a Climate Smart Community is to take steps “in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving climate resilience,” according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

How to help

• Homer Mayor Darren ‘Hal’ McCabe said anyone can join the village task force to become a certified Climate Smart Community.’

• To join, call McCabe at 607-749-3322.

Pursuing projects through the program can help reduce a community’s costs — such as installing energy-efficient LED lighting — while reducing its carbon footprint, the DEC reports. It also makes a community eligible for state grants to bring the projects to fruition.

More than 250 New York municipalities are registered for the program so far, including Cortland, Preble, Dryden and the village and town of Moravia. The partnership came after the Green Team approached the board and Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe after seeing a presentation on Climate Smart Communities during their annual trip to the Adirondack Climate Youth Summit.

“We came back and had a conversation with the mayor just to kind of gauge where they were in the process and he said there’s been a lot on interest on their end, but they just had to find the time and resource to put toward that,” Fagerheim said. “We said, ‘We have plenty of time that we can help you.’”

Having the students be a part of the task force means they also get to talk with people who are studying or working in environmental fields, McCabe said.

“It’s an amazing chance for our high school kids to link up with some kids who are making this sort of thing their career/ major in college,” McCabe said in a statement.

The team’s first project toward certification is working with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to study greenhouse gas emissions in the village and what can be done to reduce them.

Fagerheim said the team is also considering a solar project with the school district, although he did not specify what it was.

“We are in the process of getting that approved by our administration,” Fagerheim said.

If approved, the team would work with Dragon Solar LLC, which is owned by 2004 Homer High School graduate Chad Sopp. Sopp worked with the students to install a solar-powered charging station in the library in 2018.