Environmental Action Day
January 29, 2011
Environmental Action Day was the second Bedford 2020 Environmental Summit. This year planners from the Bedford 2020 Coalition focused on “engaging all members of the community in a full day of education, discussion and networking with the goal of building awareness, facilitating actions and securing commitments by residents, businesses, religious entities and civic associations to change behavior in such areas as energy usage in home and business, food/agriculture, waste/recycling and water/land use.”
A day of action-oriented workshops was a natural next step for the Coalition whose mission it is “to lead, organize and promote a community wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 and to create a sustainable community that conserves its natural resources.”
Since its inception in 2009, the Coalition has engaged the whole town of Bedford – approving a Climate Action Plan, identifying over 70 local actions that would contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and creating nine task-forces to lead the effort. There are five task-forces to address issues or areas of action: Energy, Food/Agriculture, Transportation, Waste/Recycling and Water/Land Use. Four additional task-forces are focused on user groups: business, schools, religious and civic organizations. The task-forces officially were launched with the Action Day, assisting with the planning of workshops and organizing of expo participants.
It is believed that residential homes contribute 53% of the greenhouse gas emissions in a community, so CLIMATE ACTION STARTS AT HOME. Workshops and expo booths full of licensed contractors were dedicated to discussion and resources that can help the homeowner 1) conduct a free comprehensive home energy assessment; 2) make comprehensive home energy upgrades; 3) save up to 30% in energy bills. The technologies available to evaluate the efficiency of your home, evaluate and deliver improvements, and add new sources of energy such as solar power are quite amazing!
Food and Agriculture
This task-force is focused on the promotion of a sustainable “foodshed” supporting all elements of a local food system. The Food Energy Forum at the Action Day highlighted farmers, local food suppliers, restaurants using locally grown food, organizations promoting community and vegetable gardening and schools starting gardens.
I attended a school gardens workshop – “Tending Our Future”. Three individuals of very different backgrounds – a farmer, a school nurse and a principal – spoke about their school garden initiatives. Common to all was a passion to share the joy of gardening and weave the wonder of horticulture and the natural world into the classroom curriculum. The farmer’s program focused on soil science as well as themed gardens – Pizza beds, World of Our Garden beds, Gratitude beds, Spring Crops, etc. The nurse was inspired by the need for healthier food in the schools; she discovered that children love to garden and parents love to tend and harvest the garden and help with cooking classes as part of the “Seed to Table” program. The elementary school principal has integrated her garden program through the library; the Bedford Garden Club gave her “seed money” and now parents and Master Gardeners tend the beds with the children.
Water and Land Use
This task-force plans to focus its activities for the next few years on the issues of water quality and supply; land management practices to enhance and conserve forests and meadows; preservation of agricultural land and projects to protect, preserve and grow trees.
This task-force is still in formation.
I attended a very informative workshop on the subjects of waste and recycling. By way of introduction, the leader, Neil Cutler of Synergis, led with some interesting issues: 1) 5% of the world population (guess who that is??) consumes 30% of the resources and 2) waste is a product of poor design.
A solution for trash far greater than recycling would be a zero waste system – in other words, don’t make the trash to begin with! He believes that the greatest impact will come when we, as a nation, make the manufacturers responsible for the products at the end of their useful life – we should redirect subsidies now in place for extracting raw materials to recycling. This reorientation would create jobs – estimates are that for every 1 job at the land fill, there are 20 in the recycling process. His theory is that if producers had to think about disposal of packaging and product they would redesign their products for far less waste.
In the meanwhile, as citizens we should change our own behavior to minimize trash:
1) Be informed about recycling in your community.
2) Give up the bottle – buy water dispensers with filters. Every plastic bottle uses two pints of water for every pint bottled as well as using fuel to make the bottle.
3) Leave your leaves in your yard. Composting is good for the soil and not moving leaves saves money.
4) Use whole foods. Shop on the perimeter of the store – better for your health and less packaging waste.
5) Shop frequently and eat what you buy. It is estimated that 20% of the food we buy never is consumed.
6) Compost food scrapes. Lobby for a local community composting effort.
7) Buy containers and packaging that can be recycled. Buy products made of recycled materials.
8) Borrow or rent items rather than purchasing – snow blowers, cars, bikes, etc.
9) Buy durable, repairable, recyclable products.
10) Recycle electronic waste.
The Climate Action Plan calculated that businesses in Bedford contribute 15% of our greenhouse gas emissions. The Business task force will focus on educating the business community about how to save money through reduce energy usage, improved waste management and water usage and support of local food initiatives.
The Religious Task Force will work with both clergy and lay leaders to present cost effective ways to address environmental issues directed to internal operations as well as outreach to congregants, families and the broader community.
The GreenFaith Director spoke of its programs – teaching and preaching about the religious basis for protecting the earth. In addition, GreenFaith helps religious institutions adopt consumption habits that protect and/or restore the environment. Finally, they mobilize people of faith to create healthy environments for all.
This task force will try to facilitate ways in which all schools might work together to address environmental goals. As microcosms of the community, schools are in an unique position to both educate and model sustainable behavior. Areas of focus could be: green curriculum, reduced energy usage, improved waste/recycling, improved transportation strategies, support of local food initiatives and support of water and land use goals.
It was a very informative day and the work that has been done to coordinate the community is truly impressive.
Hats off to the Bedford Garden Club as the catalyst!