Residents Forward, an environmental group located in Port Washington, kicked off a campaign to encourage people to turn their lights off to show solidarity for people and the planet.
The idea for the campaign came after the annual Youth Climate Summit for middle school and high school aged children was cancelled due to the pandemic. The students were devastated that the summit had been cancelled and decided to come up with another idea to help spread the word about saving the planet. Since this campaign began on Earth Day, residents of Port Washington have been shutting off their lights every Wednesday from 8:30 to 8:45 p.m. to show their support for the planet.
Residents Forward has been working hard to spread the word about their campaign. The students have become block captains and have been promoting the campaign on social media, putting flyer’s in people’s mailboxes and placing banners around town to help spread the word about Lights Out.
“The really cool thing about it, aside from reducing the amount of energy that we’re using—its been a really great opportunity for people to go outside, look at the stars, have a quiet moment,” Mindy Germain executive director of Residents Forward said. “Even inside, we’ve had people send us pictures of their families playing games by candlelight, playing music. Neighbors are socially distancing, but gathering in the street to look up. It’s really kind of nice.”
The Port Washington community has really adopted this campaign, and Residents Forward has plans to continue Lights Out until they can reschedule the Youth Climate Summit, which they are hoping to reschedule for 2021.
“I’m getting a lot of really positive feedback from the parents in the community whose kids have really latched onto this and gotten excited about it and are sharing it with their neighbors,” Germain said. “They feel like they’re doing something. So I think it’s going to continue to grow.”
Germain’s goal is to expand the Lights Out campaign to other areas on Long Island to help people understand how important it is to help the environment by conserving energy.
“[By] shutting down it allows people to acknowledge what they really need and what they don’t need,” Germain said. “Sometimes when you go to shut everything off, you realize how much is on, and do you really need all of that? Our goal is for this to be an Island wide effort, and we’re happy to share it with other communities. It’s really about the Island coming together to reduce energy because that’s what we’re going to have to do as we move into the future.”
Like many other organizations, Residents Forward had to cancel many of their upcoming events. Since the pandemic began, they have been able to bring many of their environmental education programs online. Residents Forward is also working on beautification efforts such as placing planters on Main Street in Port Washington. Members of Residents Forward have also conducted a spring cleanup at the community gardens, the Port Washington Post Office, at the train station and at Town Dock in Port Washington.
As a way to give back during this time, Residents Forward will also be initiating an adopt a tree program for their members. In a few weeks, the nonprofit will be offering residents of Port Washington who become members of Residents Forward, the opportunity to plant a native tree anywhere on their property.
“Our goal is to have people plant trees to signify coming back, renewal and growth, but also to commemorate the time, whether it was a graduation or honoring people who served,” Germain said. “We think the planting of a tree is really a symbolic thing.”
Residents Forward worked with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to identify five types of trees that will thrive in the Port Washington area. Members of Residents Forward will receive a five-foot tall tree of approximately $300 in value to plant anywhere on their property. The program will be running from early June through September. Residents Forward hopes this will become the largest tree planting that the peninsula has ever seen and are excited to help the environment and beautify Port Washington.
For more information about Residents Forward and their initiatives or to become a member, visit www.residentsforward.org.