Making Every Day Earth Day at Citizens Campaign for the Environment

earth day Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Adrienne Esposito

Earth Day is April 22, but ask Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and you may get a different answer. “For us,” she says,  “every day is Earth Day.” Esposito talked with us about the Earth, the environment, Earth Day and Long Island.

Making Every Day Earth Day at Citizens Campaign for the Environment

How does Earth Day fit into your mission and what should the rest of us do? Our mission is to protect the Earth. So we don’t just focus on one day a year. We focus on it 365 days a year. The biggest thing we can do this Earth Day is support offshore wind.

What is the status of offshore wind here and how do we support it? Right now we need to make the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean, safe renewable energy. We are witnessing history. We are changing our energy sources form oil and gas to wind and solar. But the public has to come out and support it. There are a series of state and federal hearings going on. We need public voices.

Can you discuss offshore wind’s status today? We have five offshore wind projects moving through the regulatory process. They’re each at a different stage of the process. Three will supply energy to Long Island. Two will go into the New York City market. The five range in size from 130 to 900 megawatts. They will be in the Atlantic Ocean 15 to 50 miles offshore. The small one Out East should be up and running by early next year.

Is offshore wind catching on elsewhere or primarily on Long Island? This is happening up and down the East Coast. There are other proposals off of New Jersey and North Carolina and other states.

What’s happening with solar energy? Solar energy is also expanding. Right now there are projects going on for large-scale solar being put on business rooftops, parking lots, landfills and other areas. The state is looking at options for large-scale community solar to really supplement the renewable energy on the grid.

Is there any legislation in the works regarding the environment?  One of the things important for Earth Day is we’re working on a state bill that will reduce plastic and packaging waste. One of the biggest threats to our ocean environment is plastics, believe it or not. We work with marine biologists. This bill puts the responsibility of paying for waste disposal on the manufacturers and producers instead of on the municipalities and the public.

How does the bill do that? It puts a fee on packaging and plastic for places like Amazon, Walmart and whomever. The more packaging they use, the more they pay. But that money goes into a fund that is then distributed to the municipalities to help them pay for waste disposal. It’s only companies that generate $1 million or more in revenue in New York State per year. There’s a threshold.

How effective has legislation already in place been regarding plastic bags? The bans on plastic carry-out bags and Styrofoam for takeout food have been monumentally successful. You can look around our parks, beaches and roadways. You see less plastic than ever. 

What are the biggest threats to our environment and what can we do about them? Contamination in drinking water. We need to have stricter drinking water standards. Plastic pollution. We can use less plastic. Each individual can help. Use reusable water bottles. And climate change.  

What’s the state of climate change? We can transition from fossil fuels to renewables and support solar, wind, electric cars, and electric power tools instead of gas- and oil-burning equipment. We’re seeing that transition. More people have hybrid and electric cars. 

Are you doing anything specifically for Earth Day, even though every day is Earth Day for you? We speak at schools, colleges, high schools. It’s a very busy week for our staff. We’re participating in Earth Day events. I’m speaking at a big event on  Sunday, April 23, the day after Earth Day, in Patchogue. It’s the Patchogue Eco Fair Earth Day festival. That whole weekend, there are Earth Day events. And I’m talking to you. 

What are a few things you would want each of us to do for the environment? I would say conserve energy, reduce plastics, and become educated. Join CCE (the Citizens Campaign for the Environment), get our action alerts. Get involved. When it’s time for your next car, get a hybrid or an electric. Stop drinking bottled water, because it generates so much plastic in the waste stream.