GROTON -- Encouraged following a successful Climate Action Day event in May, the lack of a quorum at its July 2 meeting did not prevent members of the town's Sustainability Commission from learning about how other communities are faring in the battle to raise awareness on environmental issues.
Only three members of the commission were on hand at the meeting, not enough to make the gathering official or to conduct business, but still able to listen as guest James Hubert reported on a Metro West Regional Sustainability meeting that took place recently.
Hubert briefed commissioners on what a total of 17 towns attending the meeting have been doing to promote green issues from conservation and recycling to energy savings and community gardens.
One thing that struck Hubert was that about half of the towns attending the meeting had become green communities, a state-sponsored initiative aimed at encouraging local governments to find ways to save energy.
Not coincidentally, Groton has expressed interest in the program with the Board of Selectmen having appointed a Green Communities Act Research Committee to study the issue and prepare an application with the state.
So far, 110 towns and cities across Massachusetts have signed on to the program and have since received combined grants of $20 million, a prize that has not gone unnoticed by town officials.
Should Groton become a green community, it would be in line to receive as much as $135,000 in funding to help in implementing its own energy savings plan.
Such a plan would need to include designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research and development or manufacturing facilities; adoption of an expedited application and permit process for energy facilities; establishment of an energy use baseline and development of a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years; and purchase of only fuel-efficient vehicles for public use.
Also required would be setting requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction by adopting a new Board of Building Regulations and Standards Stretch Code, which provides energy efficient alternatives to standard energy requirements in the state's building code.
The key to getting programs like green communities passed in towns, said Hubert, is increased energy awareness among the public.
For that, said Hubert, sometimes "tricks" needed to be used to help raise awareness such as a program recycling coffee grounds being done in one local community. There, residents were asked to save their coffee grounds and turn them in at the recycling center where they would in turn be used to create compost for the community garden.
Hubert also pointed out that like-minded groups such as the Sustainability Commission, Groton Local and a Green Community Committee, should one be created, need to work together toward goals they have in common so as not to waste time duplicating each others' efforts.
Commissioners entered their aborted July 2 meeting in high spirits following the successful conclusion of Groton Climate Action Day held at Lawrence Academy on May 11 .
According to commission chairman Michael Roberts, the event was well attended with a senior editor for the PBS television program Nova as featured speaker talking about how the media covers climate change issues.
When asked, Roberts expressed satisfaction with how those who attended the event accepted the notion of climate change, auguring well for the commission's continued efforts to get the word out.