How Green Works For Me: NYSERDA, Green Jobs – Green New York and PUSH Green

Over the last few years, there has been a huge push for everyone to go green. With promises of reducing your carbon footprint, lowering your heating and cooling bills and creating local jobs, the possibilities of “going green” and creating a more sustainable economy are endless.

Earlier this summer, however, someone brought to my attention that most Buffalonians probably don’t know about the current green programs that New York State has to offer…or how they even work for that matter.

Since PUSH Buffalo is so heavily involved in advocacy and organizing work – work that pertains directly to low-income weatherization and the building up of more sustainable communities - what often gets lost in all of the commotion is “the what” behind our advocating and organizing efforts. What values do are efforts bring to our neighborhoods and how do we turn public policy work into actual boots on the ground?

"How Green Works For Me" is a series of articles that discuss exactly which green programs are available for homeowners here in New York State. One of those “green” programs is NYSERDA’s Green Jobs – Green New York Program, or as we like to call it here at PUSH, PUSH Green.

By now, I am guessing that you are wondering what Green Jobs – Green New York and PUSH Green are and who NYSERDA is?

Well, let me feel you in.

First of all, when I say "green," I am referring to energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. Therefore, something being “green,” means that the methods (or practices) used work to save homeowners money on their utility bills and that the materials used will not destroy the environment.

Make sense? Okay – great. Let’s move on.

Who is NYSERDA?

NYSERDA or The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, is a public benefit corporation that was created in the 1975 to help New York reduce energy consumption, promote the use of renewable energy sources and protect the environment.

As a public corporation of the state, NYSERDA is basically charged with researching and implementing new utility cost savings, and environmentally friendly practices. These practices include new ways of building, or retrofitting residential and commercial buildings in New York State to become more energy efficient.

The Green Jobs – Green New York program is a statewide initiative, administered by NYSERDA, that is designed to promote energy efficiency and the installation of clean technologies to reduce homeowners’ energy costs and the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The program, which supports sustainable community development and green jobs creation, is based on the Green Jobs – Green New York Act that was signed into law in 2009.

So, what does this mean for New York State and Buffalo?

In 2009, after working with the Center for Working Families, NYSERDA, several community-based organizations, including PUSH Buffalo, and state green job training providers, Governor David Paterson signed the Green Jobs – Green New York Act into law.

In January 2012, PUSH Buffalo launched their new energy-efficiency program, PUSH Green, to improve our communities through energy efficiency and to help Erie County homeowners reduce their energy usage and lower their heating and cooling bills.

To help the State reach their energy efficiency goals, PUSH Green is directly working with NYSERDA as an independent outreach contractor to create living-wage jobs and to help homeowners reduce their high energy bills.

PUSH Green provides Erie County homeowners with access to free (yes, I said free) comprehensive home energy assessments, whole house installation services, affordable, On-Bill financing, and, most importantly, green jobs opportunities.

“PUSH Green is more than just a new energy efficiency program,” states Eric Walker, PUSH Green director. “Our program tackles the urgent question: How do we create a green economy that is not only responsive to the needs of local communities but can also empower them to work together to solve economic and environmental crises?”

“At PUSH Green, we encourage homeowners to invest in the safety, comfort and durability of their homes while creating living wage jobs for everyone,” continued Walker. “Through these actions, we can achieve triple bottom line results - equitable growth, environmental conservation, and sustainable communities.”

So, how will PUSH Green achieve these “triple bottom line” results?

The PUSH Green Friends and Neighbors Program is designed to make a bigger impact on homes and communities by scaling up work in the energy efficiency sector.

The Friends and Neighbors Program works when five (or more) homeowners agree to use the same contractor (or contractor team) to perform their free comprehensive home energy assessments and energy efficiency upgrades.

To date, PUSH Green has negotiated discounted pricing with eight contractors for their Friends and Neighbors participants. The discounts are guaranteed when three customers in their bundle sign contracts to have energy efficiency measures installed in their homes. Homeowners who bundle with more than five of their friends or neighbors will receive even more discounts.

Contractors who participate in PUSH Green’s Friends and Neighbors Program are required to sign upfront commitments with NYSERDA to hire local residents, pay family sustaining wages and health benefits to workers, ensure new and existing workers are trained and qualified, and partner with women and minority-owned businesses.

So, in sum: more work for local businesses, more energy reduction, more savings for homeowners, and more green jobs. Sounds like an all-around win-win-win!

Over the next few months, homeowners can expect to see PUSH Green’s Community Energy Advocates, certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), out in neighborhoods throughout Erie County, talking to homeowners about the program and how they can get involved.

As a first step, PUSH Green will work with homeowners to see if they qualify for one of those free home energy assessments I mentioned earlier and to enroll them in the Friends and Neighbors Program.

“We are advocates for the homeowners,” says Kate Howard, PUSH Green program manager. “If homeowners have questions, then we are here to help answer them and point them in the right direction.”

So, friends, if you are ready to improve your community through energy efficiency, you might want to give this green team a call…like now. The number is 716-886-1780…or you can check them out online, here.


This article was also published on TheGoodNeighborhood.com.