The small city of Ithaca, New York, has big plans for reducing climate change by making changes one house at a time.

“The way we produce energy to heat up our buildings or to heat water, or to cook, or dry our clothes, normally, in most places, comes from fossil fuels – either natural gas, propane, or fuel oil,” says Luis Aguirre-Torres, Ithaca’s director of sustainability.

The city wants these fossil-fuel burning furnaces, boilers, and appliances replaced by systems that run on electricity. That way, they can eventually be powered by clean, renewable energy instead.

So Ithaca has launched a plan aimed at retrofitting all 6,000 existing houses and buildings across the city by 2030.

Property owners will qualify for low- or zero-interest loans to complete energy efficiency upgrades and convert to electrical systems, such as air-source heat pumps.

The program is voluntary. But Aguirre-Torres hopes that many property owners will choose to participate so the city can meet its ambitious goal. He says half-measures will not be sufficient for tackling the climate crisis.

“The sense of urgency needs to be shared with everybody,” he says. “And I believe that’s the only way we’re going to achieve this.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media