A sustainability proposal

About two weeks ago, I submitted a proposal to the Montclair YMCA. The project mission is simple: Make the YMCA a more sustainable place. If you consider The Y's mission, it makes sense that a sustainability initiative could work well. 

From the proposal:

The mission statement of the YMCA of Montclair promotes well-being for all people, emphasizing personal growth, fostering positive self worth and encouraging social responsibility. The core pillars of the sustainability movement are responsible economy, holistic ecology and social equity. The mutually reinforcing connections between the YMCA’s mission and sustainability principles are easy to make.

Promoting well-being and encouraging social responsibility can be broadly interpreted. Choosing to view it this way led me to propose seven possible avenues to sustainably develop The Y. They were: 

  • Basic awareness of resources: Water consumption/use

  • Research converting pools from chlorine to salt water

  • Research greywater recycling

  • Promote community resiliency; resource sharing

  • Explore well-being more broadly

  • Solar (for subsidizing current energy use)

  • Waste Reduction

This proposal is intended to start a conversation about what is possible to do, or change, at the institutional level. Spreading awareness to patrons can go a long way to effecting change not just within the building, but for the entire community, particularly when it comes to water. Its what I call "low hanging fruit."

People often immediately think "solar" or "recycling" when you ask them to free associate about "going green," but because of the abundance and access to fresh water that we have in the Northeast, we don't consider water conservation a pressing issue. With less than 1% of fresh water accessible for human use globally, it is tremendously important to think about our water use differently. This is particularly true for institutions like The Y.

Water is the biggest sector of potential change that I am pitching for. Reducing consumption can be easy if you are able to simply be aware of behaviors. Limiting shower times and changing shower heads to low-flow fixtures can greatly decrease water use with very little expense to the institution.

More controversially, banning bottled water would be greatly effective. While we've become habituated to abundant, branded bottles of water, it takes 1.39 liters to make one liter of water, which adds up quickly. The low hanging fruit here is to get the patrons to bring their own, reusable bottles. This saves water, waste and recycling energy and changes the trend of consumption towards conservation.

I learned to swim at a YMCA and so did my son. Odds are you or someone you know did as well. There are over 2,600 of them nation-wide. Of course, most of us have heard its fun to stay there. But fun aside, with that kind of network and footprint, just one or a few small changes could make a tremendous difference.  

The board of directors for the Montclair YMCA reconvenes in two weeks and my proposal will be discussed in detail at that time. In the meantime, I am seeking out supporters within the organisation and reaching out to the board members independently to see if I can answer questions or prepare further efficacy research on the starting points listed.

More to come...