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Douglas Kessel / Staff Photographer

Paul Reale, an environmental with the Climate Reality Project, talks about the importance of decreasing carbon footprints at a Monday night event hosted by Carbon Squeeze.

A new environmental organization is trying to channel Upper West Siders' competitive spirit into reducing the neighborhood's carbon footprint, and it's starting out with the backing of several prominent local leaders. At an event at the Jewish Community Center on Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street Monday night, the organization Carbon Squeeze unveiled a neighborhood-wide competition that encourages residents to calculate and then reduce their carbon footprints. The organization was founded by former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, a City Council candidate, and Transportation Alternatives organizer Lisa Sladkus, among others. Sladkus said that Carbon Squeeze would love to get more students involved. "These are the issues college students are going to have to care about," Sladkus said. "The younger generation usually has better answers." "This is the beginning of a movement," she added. Wymore said that the competition has three components: awareness, tools, and community support. Locals start by determining their carbon footprints—a measurement of how much carbon they use—with an online calculator. The calculation is based on data including home energy usage and transportation methods. Then they calculate their "squeeze scores" based on their footprints, with a larger footprint meaning a lower score. They can improve their scores with "squeeze points," which they can earn by attending a Carbon Squeeze event, writing to elected officials about climate change, or planting a tree, among other methods. Participants can then submit their squeeze scores online, and a leaderboard tracks the highest scores. Sladkus said that specific neighborhoods could compete against each other for smaller footprints. "The Upper West Side is uniquely positioned to take the lead," Wymore said. "If we act as a community there is so much power. That's the way to start a revolution." "New York City has the lowest per capita carbon footprint. That's something we can be proud of," said Paul Reale, an environmentalist with the Climate Reality Project. "But we have a long way to go." Reale spoke Monday night about what he called the realities of climate change. He showed slides depicting devastating weather disasters that have occurred in the last year. "One of the biggest threats to national security is climate change," Reale said. "It is real, it is happening, it's a fact." Reale emphasized that in recent years, world leaders have started to recognize global warming as a pressing issue. "Living green can be overwhelming," Reale said. "We have to figure out a way to do it in the context of the million other things you have to do in your life." And Reale believes that progress is being made. He noted that starting in 2013, all New York City buildings 50,000 square feet or larger will need to have energy audits. The meeting was attended by Upper West Side residents as well as city officials and politicians, including State Senator Tom Duane. Duane, who is working on several sustainability initiatives—including putting green roofs on schools and implementing penalties for toxic runoff—said he supported the project. "I hope this happens all over New York City," he said. Meeting attendees seemed excited about the project and about going green. Dan Reiber, who works to reduce energy costs and increase sustainable energy accessibility to low-income households, plans to participate in the competition with his wife Dee. "Clean energy is a selling point, and something you should be really concerned about," Dee Reiber said. Carbon Squeeze's next event will take place on April 2 at 7:00 p.m., at the Goddard Riverside Community Center on Columbus Avenue and 88th Street. The event will feature "no impact man" Colin Beavan, whose family lived a zero-waste lifestyle in New York for a year. shayna.orens@columbiaspectator.com

Transportation Alternatives Mel Wymore Go Green Carbon footprint
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