The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 18, 2010

Carlisle groups work to reduce pollution and energy use

How much energy do Carlisle residents use? How much do the by-products of our lifestyle pollute the local environment? Several active Carlisle organizations work to educate townspeople and the Carlisle government on decisions that affect the environment. Over the last several years Carlisle Climate Action, The Carlisle Energy Task Force, Carlisle Household Recycling Committee, Carlisle Pesticide Awareness Group, Carlisle Sierra Club Committee and the Environmental Awareness Group have helped to make it easier for residents to be aware of the effects of their day-to-day decisions on the environment. Although each group has a distinct mission and goals, all work to reduce pollution and energy use.

Carlisle Household Recycling Committee

The purpose of the Household Recycling Committee is to promote environmentally friendly waste disposal and recycling. According to member Launa Zimmaro, the committee, appointed by the Selectmen, focuses on user-friendly recycling. “A lot of people don’t understand the connection between waste management and their pocketbooks,” she explained. “When it comes to recycling, we are concerned with how to get the biggest bang for our buck.” Zimmaro sees communication as a major function of of the group. “We want to give the most accurate information to people to aid in the recycling effort.”

Zimmaro says that Carlisle achieved a recycling rate of about 38% in 2009. This is down from a high of 42.5% in 2003, but compares well against the state average of 25%. The committee wants to encourage participation in recycling. Since there is no longer a minimum tonnage requirement in the town’s contract with its waste management company, all recycled materials can potentially provide a financial return for the town.

By sorting recyclables at the source, the town receives a better price when selling each category of recycled material. Zimmaro notes that it is hard to project the savings that will be realized through recycling, since the rates paid for recycled materials fluctuate with the market. “Last year the rates were down, but now they are turning around.”

Zimmaro stated that better signage at the Transfer Station may help residents properly separate recyclables and deposit them in the correct bins, helping to maximize the return on recycled materials. The Recycling Committee has applied for a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection to finance new recycling signs.

The committee also encourages residents to “reduce, recycle and re-use” by supporting and publicizing a variety of events including an annual hazardous waste collection day (run by the Carlisle Board of Health) and the yearly spring Pass-It-Forward Day when residents can donate used clothes, toys, furniture household goods and building materials that are then donated to area charities.

In addition to the annual events, the Recycling Committee also sponsors several programs to make it easy to recycle special items including: electronic media recycling at the Transfer Station swap shed (CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, etc.), computer ink jet cartridge recycling (free mailers available at Gleason Public Library, or drop off at the Main Office, Carlisle School) and recycling of mercury-containing compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The group has also promoted home composting by selling composting bins and, with the Friends of the Gleason Library, has provided Kill-O-Watt meters to the library. These meters can be checked out and used to measure home electricity use.

In the near future the committee plans to complete a town-wide survey to gather information about how residents view the recycling program and it plans to introduce a new and improved website. “We always have a lot going on,” Zimmaro added. “Look for an interesting surprise from us on Old Home Day.”

Carlisle Climate Action

The mission of Carlisle Climate Action is to educate the public about the global climate crisis and to promote actions on the part of citizens and town government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The all-volunteer organization worked closely with the Board of Selectmen, spearheading the effort to create the Carlisle Energy Task Force. It has also supported several climate awareness events including a town-wide information session about the Low Carbon Living program. This program, which addresses the challenge of reducing carbon emissions, provides web resources, training and outreach to help Low-Carbon “dieters.”

Carlisle Climate Action has also worked with the Carlisle eighth-grade EcoFair, and sponsored Step-it-Up, an event designed to gain community support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The group has also been involved with a global warming teach-in at Concord-Carlisle High School.

Carlisle Climate Action strongly supports the recently enacted state anti-idling law. Signs at the Transfer Station and at the Carlisle School encourage residents to turn off their cars rather than idling. The committee hopes that adherence to the new law will help to decrease the level of automobile emissions. The group also supports the “Stretch Code,” an initiative to improve energy efficiency in buildings.

According to member Bob Luoma, future plans for the group include working on the HEET (home energy efficiency training) program and developing a climate action plan for the town.

Carlisle Energy Task Force

In late 2007, the Carlisle Board of Selectmen created the Carlisle Energy Task Force and charged the group with reviewing the town’s energy-related expenses, identifying potential areas of cost reduction and establishing three- to five-year goals and recommendations. Since that time, the task force has completed energy-use audits for town buildings including Town Hall, the Carlisle Public School, Gleason Library, the Police and Fire Station and the DPW building.

Based on the results of the audits, the group has suggested energy improvements to several town buildings and was the driving force behind the recent “Stretch Code” Article at Town Meeting. The Stretch Code is one of five requirements that must be satisfied for a town to be designated a “green community.” According to member Glenn Reed, the group plans to focus on developing a good system to track energy expenses and wants to make sure that energy efficiency and potential renewables are incorporated into the design of both the new Carlisle School building and the Benfield Housing Project.

Carlisle Pesticide Awareness Group

In 2003, the Carlisle Board of Health sponsored the Carlisle Pesticide Awareness Group, an all-volunteer organization formed to address concerns over the increasing use of pesticides. The group, which was modeled after a successful committee in Wellesley, is dedicated to educating residents about the adverse effects of chemical pesticides on health and on the environment and encouraging the use of safer, environmentally-friendly alternatives.

In 2004, the Pesticide Awareness Group produced a “Spring Alert” mailer that focused on the need to reduce pesticide use. The group also provided two seminars on organic lawn care. The group’s website,, provides information about pesticides, organic lawn care and state laws related to pesticide use.

More recently, the Pesticide Awareness Group worked with members of the Carlisle Sierra Club to ensure that pesticides would not be re-introduced to local playing fields and helped the town examine alternatives to using herbicides on the footpaths. According to member Chris Chin, the group is not continuously active, but is there to provide information and advice when the need arises.

Carlisle Sierra Club Committee

Last year, a local chapter of the national Sierra Club was formed in Carlisle. Launa Zimmaro, who was instrumental in creating the local branch, noted that the Sierra Club is one of only a few comprehensive environmental organizations in the United States and that it has a wealth of informational resources on a wide range of issues that can be used to support effective local education and action. She said that the Carlisle group was formed, “to provide a grassroots-level of action for members interested in becoming more involved and active regarding town environmental and energy issues.”

Zimmaro explained that when Carlisle citizens were concerned that pesticides might be reintroduced on the playing fields as a cost-cutting measure, Carlisle Sierra Club was able to turn to the extensive work done by the national organization’s pesticide study and action group for information to support continued organic maintenance of the fields.

Carlisle Sierra Club has sponsored the Carlisle School Garden/Compost/Local Food to School project and with Carlisle Climate Action it has sponsored the town-wide anti-idling campaign. It has also supported passage of the state-wide E-waste and Updated Bottle bills, it continues to collaborate with the town Household Recycling Committee on effective waste reduction practices and it provides support for local initiatives to develop renewable energy sources in town. Future projects include a local effort to reduce the use of disposal shopping bags. For further information contact

Rwanda Biogas Project

St. Irene Parochial Vicar Father Romain Rurangirwa is from Rwanda and parishioners have recently raised funds for the construction of a biogas production plant there, at the Virgo Fidelis Seminary. According to their web site (, the parisioners contributed over $30,000 for the project, “which will provide an environmentally sustainable source of fuel for the seminary and the surrounding village.” Once construction is complete, “the seminary will be cooking with biogas instead of consuming what is left of the surrounding forests.”

Pastor James Weibley of the Carlisle Congregational Church said that environmental action is important, but not a principal focus of the congregation. His congregation does not have an organized environmental group, although individual members are active and he thought the church would consider sponsoring a project like the seminary’s biogas generator, that combines a religious mission with helping the environment. “God has given us resources and we’re to use them wisely.”

Environmental Action Committee

The Environmental Action Committee at the First Religious Society encourages environmentally sustainable living.The groups educates, advocates and takes action on issues such as recycling, sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency, reducing consumption, promoting a cleaner environment, preserving nature, public policy and reducing its carbon footprint to combat the climate crisis.

According to member Dan Scholten, the committee was formed in 2002 after an inspiring sermon by environmentalist Bill McKibben. The group is currently organizing a church energy assessment/audit which will be conducted by Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light. The audit will provide information for future energy planning, including a study of the practicality of installing solar photo-voltaic panels on the church roof. Although this group is associated with a church community, the environmental and energy studies and resulting practical decisions that are made by the group are freely shared and can be used as a model for other groups who wish to reduce energy usage and costs while protecting the local environment. ∆

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