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Westford Sustainability Newsletter – June 2023


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WESTFORD — The following newsletter was shared for publication with WestfordCAT on behalf of Westford’s Sustainability Coordinator, Sue Thomas.

On June 13, 2023 the Select Board endorsed the Westford Climate Roadmap, Version 2.0, and the top 3 priority municipal goals:

  1. Complete a portfolio-wide facilities energy efficiency assessment
  2. Create a solar siting plan
  3. Develop a transportation electrification and charging plan.

In addition, the Select Board endorsed the Westford Municipal Sustainable Building Guidelines. Finally, the Select Board also agreed to assign a Select Board Liaison to the Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee and allow a representative from the Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee to formally serve on the Permanent Town Building Committee. These great steps lay a solid foundation for the work ahead.

State Funds for Municipal Electric Vehicles (Roadmap goal T1)

The Select Board also approved two $7,500 grants from the MassEVIP Workplace and Fleet Charging Program, a rolling grant program with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that will help defray the costs of the two electric vehicles recently approved at Annual Town Meeting.  A method for accessing the Federal “tax credits” for municipalities has yet to be established by the IRS.  The town will pursue those funds when a process is available, and/or a commensurate discount from the dealer/vendor, who can claim the credits.

Municipal Clean Energy and Energy Conservation Rebates and Programs

I attended National Grid’s 2023 MA Municipal Energy Summit, a gathering of municipal leaders, utility experts, state energy program managers, equipment vendors and expeditors.  Attendance garnered the town an additional 10% off National Grid rebates/programs in addition to the knowledge and networking benefits

Residential Clean Energy and Energy Conservation Rebates and Programs

Inspired to start making changes yourself?  See MassSave to establish your next energy reduction goal and visit the Mass Clean Energy Center to learn more about Electric Vehicles and your Clean Energy home.  Join the town in reaching our roadmap goals!

Partnerships and Panels

This past month I had the honor of being asked to serve on three panels: the kick-off to the Groton Sustainability Speaker Series, the finale event of the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments Regional Clean Energy Series, and the Westford Academy Civic Summit, which I sadly had to withdraw from in the final moments due to a personal conflict, but I was able to rapidly brief members of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee and debrief with those members and members of the Westford Recycling Commission who participated. Information sharing is critical to help us establish best practices and leverage successes. It is energizing to have so many people of all ages focused and engaged in collaborative efforts to address the climate challenge!  

Westford Academy is making news and compost! (Roadmap goal SW1)

Check out this cool video clip from Channel 5 about Westford Academy’s food waste composting program.  Westford Community Compost and the students run an exemplary school waste diversion program that saves both tax dollars and carbon, produces a terrific product for our municipal departments and town residents, enriches local soil, reduces the need for water and soil amendments in our community, and educates our youth!  Reach out to Westford Community Compost on Facebook to learn more and to volunteer.  

Fires and Forests (Roadmap Goals NR1 and NR2)

No doubt you noticed that New England got a taste of the health impacts of fire season that many of our western, and now northern neighbors, have had to flee or learn to live with.  In Westford and in the press, the event generated anxiety, apocalyptic scenes, health risks and lots of chatter.  This Washington Post article reports on how we are entering the fire equivalent of an ice age as a result of forest management practices and climate change. The feedback loop references in the book review link at the bottom of this edition may be helpful in thinking about this article.

While the Commonwealth did not anticipate the Canadian forest fires, it has been preparing to make changes in forest management for some time. This Forests as Climate Solutions presentation discusses what the Commonwealth plans to do to protect our forests, our climate and our health. Management of our forests here in Westford is an important part of reaching our climate goals.

What can you do?

  • Protect yourself and your family from air pollution (stop idling, stay indoors on polluted days and/or mask, and keep your indoor air clean)
  • Learn about forests and become a forest advocate
  • Adopt a new climate habit – perhaps one that eliminates a paper product from your life?  Our great Northern Forests are harvested primarily for paper towels and toilet paper.  Try a bidet today!  Or replace your paper items with reusable and washable ones. 
  • At the very least, don’t respond by using more energy if you can help it!

Wildlands and Biodiversity (Roadmap Goals NR1 and NR2)

At the same time, the first U.S. study to map and characterize all permanently conserved lands in one region that are managed to be forever wild, Wildlands in New England, was released this month.  The finding, despite the regrowth of the forest canopy in New England over the last century, may surprise you. Only 2.3% of Massachusetts is considered Wildlands today, a far cry from the 30X30 goal identified as necessary to protect biodiversity.  What can we do?  The Study recommends:

  • Center Wildlands in an integrated approach to land planning and conservation that includes actively managed forests and farms. 
  •  Strengthen existing Wildlands through permanent legally and legislatively binding protection and landscape buffering. 
  • Create more Wildlands, thoughtfully and strategically, with a diversity of partners, through private and public action.

Why should we do this?  Watch the webinar

Beyond advocacy, there is a lot you can do even if you are not a large land or forest owner.  Your land, however small, can be habitat.  Follow the example of our capstone students and clear your land of trash and invasive plants!  Garlic mustard has flowered and gone to seed, but it is still a great time to pull Oriental Bittersweet and Multiflora Rose before they produce seeds and even deeper root systems this summer.  Consider creating your own wildland in a patch of your yard (this reference is older, but still offers a lot of info).

Plastics (and toxin) Waste Reduction (Roadmap Goal SW1)

Despite the hype about bioplastics, most plastic continues to be manufactured from petroleum, is not biodegradable, and escapes into the environment where it is creating a distinct geological layer of microplastics around the globe, and new rock types, in addition to the host of problems you hear about on a regular basis, like piling up in our environment and killing sea life.  One you don’t hear about as much: that it is accumulating in you. You eat, drink and breathe in microscopic plastic every day.  It is in your bloodstream. Some of these chemicals imitate human hormones. For all of these reasons, 200 countries joined UN talks in Paris this month to forge a binding treaty to reduce Plastic pollution, the 2nd of five rounds of talks on track to produce a final version by the end of 2024. 

Here in the United States, Extended Producer Responsibility Bills are designed to create beneficial incentives and closed-loop recycling.  Beyond Plastics has a primer on the effort with plastics.  

In Massachusetts, several plastics reduction bills are before the legislature this term. Your favorite conservation organization is likely following them and can help you stay current and participate in advocacy.

See my book recommendations discussed below, for additional suggestions about what you can do as a consumer to limit your exposure to plastic, as well as limit your contribution to this waste problem.

Looking for other ways to reduce your solid waste?

Check out this great article on how buying used is easy, inexpensive and often yields items of equal or better quality than buying virgin products.

Want to put your dollars to work on your climate goals?

Whether you are looking to buy goods and services, or investment vehicles, these US companies are leading the way in carbon emissions.

Carbon Countdown Links

Did you, like me, get locked out of the Carbon Countdown on Zoom sponsored by Sustainable Middlesex?  Find the links to the Youtube videos here.  They cover topics ranging from heat pumps to policy.

Sustainable Summer Reading

Finally, it is summer, and I wish you all a great beach read (or 10) and a refreshing trip to the library or media room.  My summer “reading” suggestions may be found here. Whether you seek to escape through transporting fiction, meditation, or nonfiction immersion, or you are more task-oriented and in search of resources for your next climate step, seek to protect your household, or provide education for the entire family through text or video this summer, I have a suggestion for you to try!

Sue Thomas, Sustainability Coordinator, 978-399-2798

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WestfordCAT News shares newsletters and press releases at the discretion of the editor. Shared newsletters or press releases may be submitted by town departments, elected officials, student organizations, community organizations, local non-profit organizations or any other organization or entity that feels its content would be of public benefit. 

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