Updated: Oct 7, 2021
Two guest speakers break down the work that they are doing to save our planet.
By Sasha Segal and Chloe Ferris
On Tuesday July 27, our group heard about some of the steps that Arlington's Town government is taking to slow down climate change and to manage its impact. Our speakers were Ken Pruitt, Arlington's Energy Manager, and Emily Sullivan, Environmental Planner and Conservation Agent. Both work within the Department of Planning and Community Development.
Emily focuses on open space and storm/flood water management; wetlands protection is a big part of her job. She works with the Conservation Commission to review the environmental impact of new construction projects and the Open Space Committee to preserve, expand, and plan for recreational areas, parks and conservation land. Ken focuses on energy use and strategies for how the town can both reduce its energy use and switch to renewable energy sources; both will lower carbon emissions and help Arlington reach Net Zero by 2050 – a commitment made by the Town's Selectboard in 2018.
Ken and Emily told us about different energy options for Arlington residents provided by ACE (Arlington Community Energy). ACE provides Arlington residents with a few different options: Local Green, Local Greener, and Local Greenest. These plans provide an alternative to Eversource’s default supply of energy, and instead bring energy to people’s homes and town buildings through solar panels, windmills, and other renewable energy sources. Each plan provides a different amount of renewable energy, with Local Greenest providing the most – 100% renewable energy. The ACE program makes it possible for Arlington residents to choose to have their home electricity powered by wind, solar and other clean, renewable sources by signing up for a special service on their electricity bill. It is important to note that residents do not have to install their own solar panels or windmills; instead they select what plan they want and the utility companies make the switch. If you are looking for something to do to help our planet, take action by changing your electricity to renewables! (Take a look at the ACE website for more information: https://ace.arlingtonma.gov)
Emily stressed the importance of working cooperatively with neighboring communities located on the Mystic River to develop shared regional strategies. She talked to us about the Resilient Mystic Collaborative [spearheaded by the Mystic River Watershed Association], which helps prepare people for floods, and works to get more funding from the state. When approaching climate crises, like flooding, it is important to remember that flood waters won't stop at town borders, so we all need to work together.
Ken expressed interest in creating a website where people can learn more about what they can do to help the environment, for example, ways they can conserve energy and decrease their carbon footprint. An example would be a section of the website explaining electric efficient ways of living, like buying an electric car, and some facts/general information that residents could read and educate themselves on. The goal of this website would be to make information easy and accessible – all in one place and simple to understand – so that people are able to change their energy habits without becoming experts or doing too much work.
Ken Pruitt also discussed his work in the creation of the Net Zero Action Plan and its goal to guide Arlington to net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050. The Plan goes into great detail on strategies to achieve freedom from fossil fuels; however there are three main categories for greenhouse gas reduction measures: net zero buildings, zero emissions mobility, and clean energy supply. Powering buildings with carbon-free electricity and making them more energy efficient will reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The plan goes into detail on reducing reliance on automobiles, and making cars, trucks, and buses zero-emissions by transitioning to electric vehicles. As summarized in a short article [Town Of Arlington: Arlington's Net Zero Action Plan Completed], “The Plan outlines aggressive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and ensures that the benefits of greenhouse gas reduction measures are shared equally by everyone, while any costs do not further burden those least able to afford them.” Houses are another big part of the plan, and it’s important for a large percentage of the houses in Arlington to be net zero. However, this could prove to be a challenge since it is very hard for houses without good foundations to be net zero, and, unfortunately, there are a lot of old houses in Arlington that don’t have the right foundations. But, many new buildings are being constructed in a way where they are able to be net zero.
While talking about the various faults in our system and all the changes that still need to be made, Emily and Ken kept a positive and hopeful attitude. With the example of the 1990 Ozone crisis, (where all nations came together to save the thinning Ozone layer), Ken guaranteed that our current climate problems will be fixed. He acknowledged that our society still has things to figure out, but he is confident that we will develop the new technologies we need. In the meantime, many solutions are here and available, so it is up to us to start implementing them into our homes, transportation, and daily routines.