Author Archives: Lori Fassman

Green Acton Retreat

Green Acton held its first retreat on Sunday, March 26, 2017, at the Assabet Valley Nature Preserve in Sudbury, MA.  The retreat ran from 10am to 4pm and was facilitated by Sarah Bursky, a community planner who works for the National Park Service.  Sarah has close to 20 years experience in capacity building for nonprofit organizations and networks, in particular in the areas of program management, conservation planning, and community engagement.

Attendees were Jim Snyder-Grant, Sue Cudmore, Lori Fassman, Debra Simes, Steve Long, Franny Osman, Sarah Bursky (facilitator), Debby Andell, Karen Herther, Sue Jick, Danny Factor, and Kim Kastens.

We spent the day identifying our top priorities and brainstorming about how to tackle our long wish list, how to engage new members and raise awareness about Green Acton in the community.

 

Mass Energy Green Drive Promotion

In effect through end of February 2017, there are deep discounts on electric and plug-in hybrid (EV and gas) vehicles. In addition to dealership discounts, there are potential $7500 federal tax credits and $2500 MA state rebates. Although the MOR-EV State Rebate website shows the funds being almost exhausted, the state just announced they’re putting in another $12 million.  http://ngtnews.com/mor-ev-massachusetts-gov-doubles-ev-rebate-funding.  If you’re inclined to buy an EV or hybrid, now is the time. (Bolt has a waiting list.)

https://www.massenergy.org/drivegreen

First Lego League Presentation

First Lego League 6th grade girls’ team presentation: Microfiber pollution of oceans. All from different schools. There are three parts to this team’s competition project: (1) the project they’re presenting today, for which they had to research a problem within the theme of interaction between humans and animals (“animal allies”). They chose how microfibers (tiny plastic shards from fleece clothing) can end up in the ocean, be eaten by organisms, and then move up the food chain. They did a presentation in the form of a skit; (2) a robot game, on the same theme (animal allies), in which robots have to complete missions; (3) sharing their project with their communities.

Microfibers are teeny bits of fabric, from fleece clothing, that shed in the washing machine, and often end up eventually in the oceans. Fish are eating them either directly or indirectly, and 700 marine species are in danger. The fish on our plate may contain microfibers. Microfibers have been found in beer in Germany.

Before water from washing machines goes to oceans, it typically goes through treatment plants. Yet, there are so many of these fibers in the water that even if they filter out 15% of them, the volume entering oceans is huge. Upgrading treatment plants is challenging and expensive. Scientists are working on making washing machines more efficient at trapping these fibers. The team reached out to 200 adults and a few kids and only a few knew about microfibers and their effect on the planet.

How to prevent? Wash clothes only when necessary, in full loads, in cold water, and at lower speeds/gentle cycles. Using liquid soap and fabric softeners helps. The fabric industry is researching fabrics to figure out how to manufacture clothes that don’t have this problem; Patagonia is the premier example. There is a product in prototype (available 2017) that would go into the wash and capture microfibers. Polyester (including fleece), rayon, acrylic, and all synthetic fabrics are the culprits; natural fibers (cotton, wool, linen) do not present this problem. The older the item, the more fibers it sheds. President Obama signed a law last year (which will take effect next year) that will ban the use of microplastic beads in personal care items, but that doesn’t include microfibers for fabric.

The team became interested in this problem — discovered by ecologist Dr. Mark Browne and published in 2011 —through an article they read in school. The team, which meets 3–4 times each week, was featured in an article in the Acton Beacon, and has shared its findings with the local community and the New England Aquarium. They have completed one regional tournament, and will now go on to statewide competition. The group will continue to work to raise awareness of this problem; they may do a presentation for the local schools and perhaps for the 2017 AB PIP-STEM fest.

For more info: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/challenge

Hosted Sen. Jamie Eldridge – “Green” Initiatives

At the October 2016 Green Acton meeting, State Senator Jamie Eldridge spoke on “green” initiatives and bills pending at State House.

  • Positive steps, if underwhelming, from last session

  • In Aug., Gov. Baker signed the omnibus energy bill, which included 1,600 MW of offshore wind and 1,200MW of hydropower.

    • Eldridge’s gas leaks language was included in this law., which requires that Grade 3 (low level) gas leaks be evaluated not only for safety risk, but also, for significant environmental impact, and must be addressed.

    • Not in the bill: an increase in the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard)

    • Not in the bill: a ban on ratepayers funding new natural gas pipelines

  • Solar net metering bill (a compromise) passed and was signed

    • Increased the cap on commercial solar, but not for community solar; helps the well off with big roofs, but not the less–well off.

    • Reimbursement rate was reduced

  • Water

    • Stopped the government from moving wastewater monitoring from EPA to DEP. DEP staff has been decimated, so moving to DEP would have been, de facto, a move to less monitoring.

  • Working on now

    • Zero emission vehicle bill. Will encourage by allowing to drive in HOV lanes and other advantages

    • Plastic bag ban. Didn’t pass, but will be back. Cities and towns are passing such bans, and the Massachusetts Grocers Association may soon prefer a statewide ban to piecemeal bans.

    • Gas leaks. Whenever the roads are ripped up for any reason, the utilities would have to go in and repair/replace old gas lines.

    • Pipeline issue. Prohibit companies from charging ratepayers for costs of new pipelines (Spectra pipeline still alive).

    • Droughts, and measures for response to future droughts.

“Transition” towns initiative

Acton Transition Study Group

Local Resilience & Relocalization

Perhaps you’ve arrived at this page wondering what “Transition” is. Or maybe you already know a lot about the Transition movement, and wonder what it could mean for Acton. Or perhaps you just want to find out how to start pitching in.

Acton in Fall The idea of the Transition movement is to help communities find successful ways to deal with the large and layered challenges of peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis. All three are already impacting us, but we are still in the early stages of those impacts. The rationale of the Transition movement is that responses to these by individuals will likely be too small, even in the aggregate, to change our current trajectory, and responses by governments will almost certainly be too timid. But responses by entire communities, if they happen broadly, will approach the necessary scale of response and offer the best chance of success in dealing with these three enormous challenges.

The methods of the Transition movement rely on home-grown, citizen-led education, action, and multi-stakeholder planning to create both a shared vision of a positive future at the end of the fossil fuel era, and a path to get there. A key goal is to increase local self reliance and community resilience. We’d like to starting thinking and planning for those here in our community. A discussion group is forming to take up these questions, create connections, and think about how to “relocalize” our lives and boost our resilience in an inevitably changing economic, environmental, and technological landscape.

How can we re-examine our uses of energy, land, water, and renewable resources at the local and regional levels? Can we mount a proactive—perhaps visionary—response to our changing world? Can we approach the future with a positive, creative, collaborative attitude? Shall we begin? Interested? Contact us: mailto:transition@greenacton.org

Hosted Charles Parker, Author of “Concord Energy Master Plan”

Hosted Charles Parker, lead author of “Concord Energy Master Plan.”  Charles talked about Concord’s energy plan, including the wider context that drives the plan (peak oil + climate change), and the specifics of how the plan envisions reducing Concord’s energy footprint via actions in all sectors: town, school, residents, businesses, and the Concord municipal light plant. Includes direct energy reduction strategies, clean energy production, and the secondary forces that drive energy use: land use, materials use, transportation planning, and more.

Link to PDF of plan: http://goo.gl/hNM19

Link to PPT of slides (19 MB): http://goo.gl/KeWC6

 

 

Co-sponsored “The Power of Preservation as a Green Strategy”

Green Acton co-sponsored a talk “The Power of Preservation as a Green Strategy,” with Boston architect Jean Caroon.

Buildings account for nearly 40% of all U.S. energy use and carbon emissions. With one of the country’s leading preservation architects as your guide, the lecture explored the power of adaptive reuse to reduce those numbers and move us toward sustainability. Sustainable Preservation make a compelling argument that preservation and sustainability don’t just protect the environment, but deliver a full range of societal benefits, from job creation to stronger social connection.

Jean leads Goody Clancy’s preservation practice, focusing on the opportunities inherent in the stewardship and creative reuse of existing buildings to create a healthy resilient world. She leads a team dedicated to helping clients and the public connect historic legacies to current realities and future possibilities. Her approach combines a mastery of history and building technology with a commitment to transforming places – redefining their relevance, utility, and flexibility while sustaining and enhancing essential beauty and value. Jean has been responsible for the restoration or adaptive reuse of a dozen National Historic Landmark buildings. Her book “Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings” was published by Wiley in 2010.  She is a frequent speaker, teacher and advocate for creative building reuse and preservation.

The talk was sponsored by the Acton Historic District Commission, Acton Historical Commission, The Town of Acton Department, Department of Municipal Properties and Green Acton. The lecture was free and open to the public.

Hosted Farmland Preservation Forum

Green Acton hosted a farmland preservation forum with Mark Racicot, The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Planner, “New trends in zoning for Open Space Protection.”

The MAPC reviews and comments on every open space plan submitted from the 101 cities and towns in the MAPC region. They have an in-depth knowledge of various approaches to preparing a plan, the need for considering open space in a regional context, and the application of the state’s open space and recreation plan guidelines. They also have experience in meeting environmental justice guidelines and preparing required ADA accessibility surveys. MAPC consults with the community before issuing a review letter to DCS, and a preliminary copy is given to the community to allow the opportunity to respond to comments prior to sending the formal submittal.

For more information, visit the MAPC website.

Hosted Teen “Black Gold Miners”

Hosted teens competing in Siemens Challenge (“Black-Gold Miners” presented on composting).

The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge is the premier national environmental sustainability competition for K–12 students. Through project-based learning, students learn about science and conservation while creating solutions that impact the planet.

Green Acton is honored to host meetings at which these students can present their projects, get feedback, and answer questions. RJ Grey Junior High 8th Graders competed for the Siemens Challenge put together the presentation “We Can Change the World (through Composting)”.  As part of competition, the students, who call themselves “the Black Gold Miners” (a term for compost is black gold) created a provocative power point showing that the average Actonian produces 4.6 pounds of trash/day and that more than a quarter of this is compostable. The group explained how some area towns make money (in Lexington more than $1 million/year) from collecting compost and that Acton could lower its carbon footprint as well as reduce trash collection costs if it acted similarly.  The Black Gold Miners are actively seeking support for this effort in the town.

http://cty.jhu.edu/imagine/docs/Black_Gold_Miners.pdf