There are many reasons for a town or city to strive to be energy efficient, including saving taxpayer dollars, reducing the impact on climate change, and leading by example. However, municipal ordinances regarding laws and zoning are often slow to change, even though city residents use buildings and other resources for a very long time. Therefore, many cities rely on community green initiatives to make positive changes for the environment.
In Medford, MA, there has recently been a push for the city to be more resilient and ready to adapt to the changing environment. Medford's Office of Energy & Environment helps move Medford to a greener future through education, outreach, specific programs and partnerships with state and federal agencies.
"These days, following green initiatives is just synonymous with looking ahead to and planning for the future," says Alicia Hunt, City of Medford Director of Energy & Environment. "We work with agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure our programs are practical, with regards to reducing energy use, saving money and reducing greenhouse gases."
Since 2010, most city-owned buildings in Medford have had lighting and heating and cooling equipment upgrades to increase efficiency. In addition, there are various programs designed to help Medford residents live greener. These include "Solarize Medford," which made it easier for residents to get solar energy for their homes and businesses, and "Go Green Medford Residential," which encouraged residents to get home energy assessments and install insulation in their homes. Both programs have been hugely successful, with 230 kilowatts of solar installed citywide and the target number of home energy assessments increased by 100 percent.
In 2014, the City of Medford ran a program to help residents get rain barrels at a discount and partnered with the Mystic River Watershed Association to get residents out on the river to remove the invasive water chestnuts. Additionally, a new program launched to have community groups label storm drains with labels that say "Drains to River," ensuring residents know that the storm drains connect directly to the rivers with no filters. The Office of Energy & Environment also helps connect local groups and residents with Medford's Parks Department to organize community clean-ups.
Hunt says residents have responded positively to the initiatives.
"People in Medford care about our environment and our planet, and they like to see the city improving it and helping to guide them to the most effective ways that they, themselves, can improve the planet," Hunt says. "We hear from residents who want to know what other green things we can do for the city or they can do for themselves. As our Mayor Michael McGlynn likes to say 'being green is like an addiction; once you get started, you just want to do more and more.'"
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