Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The plastic bag ban is here!

plastic bags on a beach
Photo by Eric Smalley
Have you made the switch yet to reusable shopping bags? Boston’s ordinance banning plastic shopping bags is set to begin on Friday.

The ban will happen in three phases. Plastic checkout bags should disappear from stores that are 20,000 square feet or large on December 14th, from stores 10,000 square feet or larger on April 1st, and from smaller stores on July 1st. Instead, stores can sell reusable, compostable and/or fully recyclable shopping bags. Here’s the city’s webpage with the details.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Meeting Highlights Key Climate Responses: Green Infrastructure and Community Action

GreeningRozzie meeting 12/1/2018
Photo by Karen Weber, Foundation for a Green Future
By Eric Smalley

With all the scary news lately about climate change, it’s important to see concrete steps people are taking to make our community more resilient in the face of flooding, heat and other perils. In a presentation on Saturday, GreeningRozzie got a good look at how the city is beginning to use green infrastructure – trees, shrubs, grasses and soil – to absorb storm runoff.

Kate England, who manages the Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development Program at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, described four green infrastructure projects in the city, two of which are in Roslindale: a rain garden at the intersection of Bussey and South Streets in the Arboretum, and plantings that replaced pavement in the schoolyard and parking lot at the Washington Irving Middle School on Cummins Highway.

Street flooding from extreme precipitation and the heat island effect – the extra heat from concrete and pavement in urban areas – are two of Roslindale’s principal climate change vulnerabilities. Green infrastructure, from backyard landscaping to large commercial developments to public works projects on city and state on land, addresses those vulnerabilities by improving drainage and replacing heat-storing materials with biomass, said England. Green infrastructure also has co-benefits, including improved air quality and lower crime levels, she said.

England concluded her presentation with four bullet points that are both a recipe for how to induce government responsiveness and a call to action for us:
  • Get involved!
  • Ask for what you want!
  • Get youth involved!
  • Think outside the box…

She noted that we can build on initial successes. “Every project is a precedent-setting project,” England said. “As soon as you get one project in the ground that is successful and people like and is being maintained, you can point to it and say ‘That went really well. Why do we try that again? Why don't we try that here?’,” she said.

England’s presentation was followed by a wider discussion with England and Boston City Councilor-at-Large and Roslindale resident Michelle Wu about our responsibility to create a world free of fossil fuels. “We have no other choice but to do it, so I'm actually confident that it will happen and excited to be part of the ride to see this incredible transformation of our society and economy,” said Wu. “But that falls on every single one of us to do whatever we can in any situation.”

Mirroring green infrastructure, our climate change response as a whole has some pretty significant co-benefits, Wu noted. “Every action we need to take to fix our climate crisis is the same set of steps we need to take to eliminate poverty and reduce income inequality,” she said.

GreeningRozzie has been a vehicle for the Roslindale community to take action on climate change. It’s time to step it up. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, it’s not too late to join your neighbors! Sign up here to help with events, consider serving on the board or let us know what you think.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Green Energy Consumers Alliance – CCE, EVs and Michelle Wu

By Eric Smalley

City councilor Michelle Wu delivered a bravura speech Monday night at the Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s fall meeting in Boston. She deftly connected the extreme urgency of ending fossil fuel use, the central role of state and local governments, and the need to restore trust in institutions and each other.

The nonprofit and Wu played central roles in the Community Choice Energy (CCE) campaign, which led Boston to adopt municipal aggregation for electricity purchasing. The city will soon purchase electricity for residents and small businesses rather than leaving Eversource to do the buying (though Eversource will continue to deliver it). This allows the city to choose a mix that includes more renewable sources without increasing costs. CCE is an important step in boosting the amount of renewable electricity generation in Massachusetts and New England.

Larry Chretien, Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s Executive Director, highlighted an important shift in the organization’s focus. With renewable energy generation successfully chipping away at the Massachusetts grid’s carbon emissions, transportation has emerged as the key sector needing our attention. Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s blog post Electrifying Cars, Buses, and Trains explains the need to focus on transportation.

The fall meeting also marked two years of the organization’s Drive Green program, which provides discounts beyond the federal and state incentives for people buying electric vehicles.

Becoming a new EV owner

By Eric Smalley

Kim and I were thinking about buying an electric car. But there was a crucial question: would my upright bass fit? We got an unequivocal answer on our second attempt. The bass fit in a Nissan Leaf with only the one-third split of the backseat folded down, leaving room for a driver and two passengers. On our first attempt we tried to fit the bass in a Chevy Bolt, with only middling results.

When we decided to go for a 2018 Leaf, we took advantage of Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s Drive Green program, which provides discounts in addition to the federal and state incentives for people buying electric vehicles. In the end our out-of-pocket came in under half the sticker price for the model, trim and packages we got.

Charging the car has been hassle-free. We tapped a local electrician to install a 240V outlet on the side of our house, and the in-dash navigation system makes it easy to find public charging stations. We’d been looking forward to the quieter ride EV’s provide, but I hadn’t anticipated how the low-noise and low-vibration environment makes for a much more relaxed driving experience. We’re also now paying less per mile and polluting a lot less than we were. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a nice chart that lets you explore those numbers in detail.

If you’re thinking about buying a car consider getting an EV, and make sure to check out the Drive Green program. While we’re talking about EVs, it’s also time to push for electric buses, both for the T and Boston Public Schools. Let’s put our transportation on a low- and ultimately no-carbon diet. Besides, we all deserve a cleaner, quieter commute.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Climate change news and what to do about it

Like climate change itself, climate change news of late has been coming fast and furious. The latest IPCC report, which essentially says we have 12 years to kick fossil fuels to the curb, is at the center of it all.

City councilor Michelle Wu read the report cover to cover. In an email to constituents, she summarized the report, spelled out what it means for those of us here in the Northeast US, and connected it to work of our city government.

Some of that work will be a little easier to accomplish in the wake of Boston being named a winner of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. From the city’s press release:
The City will receive a support package, valued at up to $2.5 million, to increase low-carbon mobility choices and improve energy performance of Boston's building sector.
No step in the right direction, however small, is useless, nor does it happen in isolation.

For more on the news that’s been coming fast and furious, take a look at my Hot Planet Project blog post Doom and hope, which points to commentary about the IPCC report, the need for avoiding despair, and why the political process is critical for tackling the crisis.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

CCE is not Rocket Science!

By Boston Climate Action Network

At a hearing on May 30, Boston City Councilors, energy experts, and community members all pressed Alison Brizius, Boston’s Director of Climate and Environmental Planning, for answers she often could not supply. Asked by Councilor Matt O’Malley to project a timeline for implementation of Community Choice Energy (CCE) – the climate mitigation measure passed unanimously by the City Council and signed by the Mayor seven months ago – Brizius indicated that her department, Environment, Energy, and Open Space (EEOS), was still studying its options.

Significance of CCE to Climate Mitigation

The five City Councilors in attendance: O’Malley, Michelle Wu, Ed Flynn, Josh Zakim, and Michael Flaherty, and the two that sent letters of support: Tim McCarthy and Lydia Edwards, all urged EEOS to move more quickly to implement what they see as a significant step to reducing the City’s collective carbon footprint. Invited panelist Ann Berwick, formerly the Undersecretary for Energy for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Chair of the Department of Public Utilities, described CCE as the most significant GHG reduction tool at a municipality’s disposal. Winston Vaughn, Senior Manager for Renewable Energy at Ceres invoked Boston’s commitment to the Paris Accord and asked administrators to make good on that pledge to urgently reduce emissions. Liz Stanton, Director and Principal Economist at Applied Economics Clinic, reported on the significant environmental benefits reported by other municipal aggregations.

Historical Pricing

Brizius repeatedly spoke of the department’s need for historical pricing data from other municipal aggregations as a way to project what rates Boston might attain through CCE. The panelists urged Brizius and EEOS to stop trying to gather this historical data. Stanton declared, "Historical energy prices are in no way indicative of future pricing." Vaughn noted that energy pricing is "extremely dynamic," and Berwick noted that "Trying to get pricing information now will not be fruitful. No one can tell you what prices will be a year from now."

Read the rest of the post on BCAN’s site.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Councilor Wu releases climate justice report

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu has released Climate Justice for the City of Boston: Visioning Policies and Processes. The climate justice report recommends that the City Council
  • Call for climate justice as a framework for action institutionalized across all city processes, plans and policies
  • Urge the creation and use of a climate justice or climate equity checklist for future development projects
  • Follow New York City’s example of pledging to divest city pension funds from fossil fuel companies
Take a look at the full report and let the city council know what you think.