November 2007 Minutes

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Green Needham Collaborative

Meeting Notes from November 28, 2007

In Attendance:

Dan Black, John Bulian, David Cournoyer, Stephen Cromp, Andy DeMelia, Chuck Dowe, David Duehren, Stephen Durfee, Tess Edmonds, Jim Glickman, Lisha Goldberg, Michael Greis, George Kinel, Lynn Klatt, Kim Legelis, Bob Lockhart, Chip Laffey, Carys Lustig, Sharon Pickering, Anthony Poinkin, Ed Quinlan, Eleanor Rosellini, David Rudolph, Debbie Schmill, Donna Sherman, Lois Sockol, Wendy Surr

Meeting Highlights from November 28, 2007

The Green Needham Collaborative hosted its 2nd meeting of the 2007-2008 year on November 28, 2007 at Olin College. Twenty-seven individuals, including three Pollard Middle School students, attended. Participants included both continuing and new Green Needham members.

Needham High School Environmental Club

David Cournoyer of the Needham Environmental Club updated the group on recent Club activities. The club has been working to promote recycling within the building. Chip Laffey from the Needham Transfer station explained that he has developed a plan for recycling at all school facilities. The planned recycling will be single source recycling, which means that there will be only two receptacles needed in each room – one for all recycled items and one for trash. The project requires a special dumpster for each school and a plan for pickup and removal by the RTS. Michael Greis noted that this will require the passage of a capital article at the May Town Meeting. David Cournoyer reported that his student group has also been working on installing water purifiers to reduce use of bottled water. To further promote this change, the group has been selling sport water bottles at events. His group is also planning to open an alternative energy store at the high school where the group would sell bottles, canvas shopping bags, CFL light bulbs and other energy efficiency products. David closed by telling the group about the solar boat he has been designing and invited Olin students to help if interested.

Pollard Environmental Action Team

Three middle school students and two teachers, Sharon Pickering and Chuck Dowe, representing the Pollard Environmental Action Team attended the meeting. The students reported to the group that last year they had promoted recycling throughout the building, placed reminders on light switches about turning off lights and made energy announcements over the intercom system to students. The group is just starting up this year since the two teachers that had run the group last year are no longer at Pollard.

Green Needham Membership Update

Michael Greis told the group that an on-line Green Needham membership survey had been distributed. He reminded the group of its importance for identifying formal members for our group, a goal which was voted on last summer and is necessary for becoming a Chapter of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network. Michael also showed the group some of the features of the Green Needham wiki and encouraged members to add material.

Update from Town of Needham-NeedEnergy Committee

Carys Lustig, student intern to the Town of Needham, gave an update on the activities of the NeedEnergy Committee. Following up on the Town’s decision to join the EPA Community Energy Challenge, Carys explained that she is finalizing the process of entering energy use data into the EPA’s benchmarking software. She was happy to report that a comparison of energy use from last year has already shown a 9% drop. According to the benchmarking software, energy rankings for some of Needham’s newest schools showed the greatest room for improvement, including Newman, Elliott and Broadmeadow.

Update from Wind Power Action Team

George Kinel reported that the Wind Action Team has been working on looking into ways to purchase a Met Tower for collecting wind data. The cost of these towers is between $5K-$20K, depending on the height of the tower. One option that is being explored is whether Needham might be able to sell or lease the tower once they were done using it, thereby recouping much of the initial investment. Another challenge the group has been working on is finding ways to put the generated power to use within a short distance of the turbine. It may be that the Town of Wellesley would be interested in purchasing power from the turbine since it runs a municipal power line near the transfer stations—a likely site for the Needham turbine.

League of Women Voters Climate Action Committee

Eleanor Rosellini, Chair of the League’s Climate Action Committee, reported to the group that the League had recently hosted a very successful Fall Forum “Global Warming: How you can make a difference,” which was attended by over 100 residents. The event was covered by both Needham newspapers and local cable. The League has been following up with participants of the event through sending “Green Tips” and Legislative Action Alerts. Rosellini also explained that the League has just begun efforts to support the Town in its EPA Community Energy Challenge by agreeing to reach out to residents. One of the key ways the League will do this is through promoting the “Low Carbon Diet” approach. This program encourages individuals to join teams and use the Low Carbon Book to help guide them through a process of reducing their personal energy use-- and carbon footprint. The League members are going through the program themselves right now so they can better inform the Needham community about what the experience is like. Rosellini explained that there is a children’s version of the Low Carbon Diet book as well. Finally, Rosellini explained that the League is supporting the Town in its Solar Challenge. If 150 Needham residents make a one-time donation of $100 or more, or at least a $5 monthly automatic donation to the New England Wind Fund, the Town will receive a 2 kw solar array to be installed on a Town or school building. The League is hoping that Green Needham members will participate in the challenge and encourage friends and colleagues to also contribute.

Tip of the Month, Legislative Updates, Green Kids and Transportation

Debbie Schmill reported that she has been creating and distributing monthly “Green Needham Tips,” which are energy saving ideas that can also save residents money. These tips have been distributed through elementary school PTC email newsletters and most recently through the new Green Needham Tips listserv which was set up by Olin student, Ben Salinas. Lois Sokol explained that she has been receiving and further distributing these tips to her congregation at her temple. Debbie will be working to get the tips printed in the Needham Times and is also hoping to get a student theater troupe to present the tips on Needham cable. Debbie also explained the Green Needham is in the process of creating a 3rd listserv to notify residents about important climate change legislation called the Action Alert listserv. This listserv will also be hosted by Olin College and will let members know about legislation such as the Global Warming Solutions Act which is now in the state senate. Debbie explained that there are now “Green Kids” PTC groups at each elementary school dedicated to environmental issues. Green Kids will be hosting a film series, are working to collect used cell phones so they are disposed of properly, selling canvas shopping bags, and will be working towards a town-wide “Earth Day” event. Green Kids is also sending out a flyer in December which will encourage parents to make a New Year’s Resolution to cut their energy use 10% this year in support of the EPA Community Energy Challenge. Finally, Debbie explained that she and one other Green Needham member will be starting a new Transportation Interest Group. They hope to conduct a community needs assessment and seek public funding next year.

Temple Beth Shalom Environmental Concerns Update

Lois Sokol of the Beth Shalom Environmental Concerns Committee announced that they will be showing An Inconvenient Truth and hosting a discussion at the Temple on January 7th.

Mass Climate Action Network Conference

Susan McGarvey, President of the Needham League of Women Voters, reported that a group of League and Green Needham members attended the recent MCAN conference in Boston. She explained that hundreds of people representing local initiatives, similar to Needham’s, attended the event. The event provided lots of great information on local initiatives, upcoming legislation and funding opportunities.

Other Updates and Discussion:

Lois Sokol suggested that Green Needham plan to be included in the annual Needham 4th of July parade. Ron Sokol also reminded the group that he would be happy to work with the Rotary Club to dedicate the Memorial Park sign to publicizing our group sometime this year. Wendy Surr asked whether members of the EPA Energy Challenge discussion group at the September Green Needham meeting were interested in taking action on any of the concepts and ideas discussed. Members of the group indicated that they are now involved in other Green Needham projects. Wendy agreed to list the “concepts” on the wiki along with other ideas generated last year so we can maintain an idea bank for members.

New England Wind Fund Solar Challenge

Janna Cohen-Rosenthal from the New England Wind Fund told the group that Needham has joined the Community Solar Challenge—and she explained how the Solar Challenge works. The New England Wind Fund supports wind power projects and promotes the use of renewable energy across the state. When communities contribute to the Fund, their donation is matched twice by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), an agency which manages the funds collected from the energy conservation surcharge paid by consumers on their electric bills. As a result, the value of the donation is actually tripled. The original donation supports wind power projects, a dollar-for-dollar match is put into a local fund for energy projects in Needham, and a second dollar-for-dollar match is put into an energy fund for low income communities. As an additional incentive to contribute to the New England Wind Fund, the MTC is giving communities the chance to earn an array of solar panels. To do this, Needham must get 150 local households or businesses to make a one-time donation of $100 or more to the Wind Fund or contribute at least $5 per month as an automatic deduction from a credit card. Any donations above the minimum amount would remain in the Needham “account” and could be used for a range of clean energy projects—including a wind study. Many other communities are participating, such as Lexington, Newton, and Acton. Some of these communities have raised the money in just a few months. Janna expressed her confidence that Needham will be able to successfully meet the challenge. Some Green Needham members asked whether individuals could collect smaller donations from a number of individuals rather than simply donating the full amount themselves. Janna responded that the approach would work as long as the individual donors didn’t mind not getting the tax deduction—which would go to the person sending in the single check. Also, only households or businesses in located Needham are counted toward the challenge. A contributor with a Wellesley address, for example, could not contribute to the Needham solar challenge.

Small Group Discussions

Following updates, participants were encouraged to join one of three small group discussions:

  1. Wind Power in Needham
  2. Citizen Education-Climate Action Committee --Low Carbon Diet Teams Session Notes
  3. Needham Solar Challenge.

Small groups met for 25 minutes, highlights of these discussions, below. The full group reconvened for 10 minutes so each small group could report on highlights of their discussion.

Mark your Calendar!

Upcoming Green Needham Meeting Dates:

  • Evening Meeting-Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 7-9pm
  • Tuesday, March 4th, 2008, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 2 2008, 3:30-5:00 p.m. Olin College “Big Conversations”
  • Evening Meeting Thursday, May 15, 2008 7-9 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 3:30-5:30