For most of us, seeing children getting on a little yellow school bus is about as adorable as it gets. Until recently, few parents paid much attention tothe climate-warming emissions and massive health impact from cancer-causing particles that these buses generate from their tailpipes.
In 2018, a group called Mothers Out Front began a campaign to advocate the use of electric buses. Hearing how much carbon each bus produced, and the cancerous smog they released, Croton-on-Hudson residents formed Mothers Out Front Northern Westchester to join parents from around the country who are helping their schools to begin the transition.
Electric school buses cost more to purchase than diesel buses, but their reduced cost of maintenance – including no need to continually buy fuel or oil — means the cleaner buses yield a much more favorable return on investment than gas-powered vehicles.
In December 2021, the Village of Croton-on-Hudson received a grant of $120,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to help finance the acquisition of three electric school buses.
That major step forward occurred following a sustained campaign by area parents and students, culminating in taxpayers voting to take out loans for the electric buses.
As a result of the community’s support and the state grant, Croton-on-Hudson is one of the first school systems in the United States to begin the transition to electric buses.
“It always feels very stressful that kids’ futures are in the hands of people that won’t be as affected by climate change,” said 15-year-old Andora Dyer Ramberg. “But it feels great seeing adults actively trying to work on climate change, especially when parents involve their kids, because it’s our future that’s at stake. Even if it is a small victory like an electric school bus, it matters.”
Andora was in middle school when she first spoke to the Croton-Harmon Board of Education in support of electric school buses. In December, she participated in a rally in Croton-on-Hudson, which also included supporters from Ossining, Cortlandt and Peekskill, to ask lawmakers and New York Governor Kathy Hochul to allocate more funding for public schools to afford the transition to electric school buses.
“I support Mothers Out Front because I am the mother of two beautiful kids and a citizen of the world,” said Millie Verastegui.
“Projects like this give me the opportunity to involve my 8-year-old daughter Sophia, and explain the benefits of reducing diesel and gas emissions to help improve the air quality in our community. It is so important to normalize these conversations with our kids and show them that small steps add up to giant leaps. It is our responsibility as citizens of the world to take care of the planet.”
Megan Dyer is a founding member of Mothers Out Front Northern Westchester.
Westchester County Schools: Let’s Go Electric!
An Electric School Bus Conference for school districts and community members is scheduled for
Jan. 27, 2022 from 12 noon-2 p.m. It is hosted by Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Mothers Out Front. For more info > mothersoutfront.org/team/new-york-state/northern-westchester.
Attendees will hear from experts about the environmental, health, technical, and financial benefits of electric vehicles (EVs), and from school leaders who are taking steps to electrify their fleets. State representatives will share grant opportunities and participants will discuss ways to collaborate to reduce costs and make funding more accessible.