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Yes, You Are An Environmentalist

Someone once told me that I wasn’t really an environmentalist because [fill in the blank]. It doesn’t really matter why. I realized that this person was sharing with me something important to them that formed the root of their own environmentalism. They’d found a big way to be more environmental that mattered deeply to them, something they thought was so effective that they couldn’t believe everyone who identified as an environmentalist hadn’t adopted it. Somehow, I couldn’t take offense. I understand what it’s like to care deeply and to adopt an environmental practice and wish every environmentalist would automatically do the same. What a difference we could make if we could all simultaneously adopt all the good green ideas out there! But we don’t live in a world that makes that easy, or even possible. It’s important to remember that we all have different strengths as environmentalists. Maybe you’re into zero waste, or going without a car, or, like me, eating plant-based. We also all have weak points that are challenging or would make us unhappy to change, like plastic food packaging, a long commute or enjoying travel. I will probably go to my grave clutching a bottle of imported champagne with my Nest thermostat set to my preferred temperature. No matter what your strengths are or what areas you’re still tackling, if you’re reading this post you’re an environmentalist. Sharing solutions with each other to live greener lives is great. But we also have to welcome each other and meet everyone where they’re at on their journey. If we bombard green-curious people with a to-do list of changes they need to make if they’re going to be environmentalists, they may decide they’re not up to the challenge and turn the other way.  We also need to be kind to ourselves. Make the changes that are easiest first. Find your strengths as an environmentalist. Look for challenges that bring you satisfaction.

Headed to the Beach?

The end of August and Labor Day Weekend have many people squeezing in a few last trips to the beach. If you’re one of those people, we invite you to take the 3 Pieces of Plastic Challenge and leave the beach cleaner than you left it! Every time the tide comes in, the ocean brings us a gift; the chance to take back some of our plastic before it harms marine life. Even beaches that seem pristine at first glance will yield bits of plastic, large and small, caught in the seaweed or half-buried in the sand. My mother is an avid beach-trash picker. She brings a bucket or a mesh bag every time she goes to the beach, and she picks up a full load of plastic and hauls it away when she leaves. Sometimes people will stop her and ask what she’s collecting; sometimes they’ll tell her that they’re going to start picking up plastic, too. Those conversations are the best. Because what would happen if everyone picked up a few pieces of plastic every time we went to the beach? The non-profit company “Take 3 For the Sea” is encouraging beach-goers to do just that. And you don’t need to haul a bucket to take three pieces of trash; you can them those into a side pocket of your beach bag without much hassle. (But by all means, bring a bucket and challenge your family or friends to fill it with you.) Want to help reduce ocean plastic, but not headed to the beach? Here are a few ways you can help. Reduce your seafood consumption. Fishing equipment is one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution in our oceans. Plan ahead and bring reusables so you can decline single-use plastics Choose backyard-compostable items over plastic for parties Decline straws Bring your own reusable shopping bags – store them in the car so you always have them Buy unpackaged foods when possible Use a Guppy-Friend for washing fleeces and synthetic fibers Support an ocean clean-up non-profit (like 4Ocean etc.) as a gift for an ocean-loving friend You can read more about how plastic gets in our oceans here. Taking the 3-Piece or Full Bucket Challenge? Send us your beach-trash photos and we’ll include them in a future post! You can email them to kelly.caiazzo@gmail.com.

Replenish Your Summer Books

Read all those summer books? Ready for something new? The Friends of the Wellesley Free Library’s 2018 Fall Book Sale, is coming up from September 13th-16th.  The sale is open to members on Thursday evening, followed by three days of a public sale, of which the last day, Sunday, is a $7 per bag sale.  Not a member?  Join Thursday evening! www.wellesleyfreelibrary.org

What To Do With That Extra Watermelon

Summer is watermelon season! But unless you’re slicing for a crowd, an entire watermelon can be hard to use. It’s no fun looking in your fridge five days later and finding half of a large, over-ripe watermelon taking up valuable real estate. That might be one reason supermarkets sell all those pre-sliced chunks in plastic containers. But why not skip the plastic and slice into a fresh watermelon instead? Serve whatever you’ll eat that day, and cut and freeze the rest in a mason jar. Having watermelon chunks in the freezer is a summer staple in our house. Frozen watermelon makes delicious blended drinks or a hydrating antioxidant-filled treat as is. It may even help reduce muscle soreness after a workout! Here are some great uses for frozen watermelon: -Freeze chunks on reusable chopsticks for an alternative to popsicles -Add frozen chunks to margaritas -Blend with a little lime juice and water for a refreshing summer spritzer -Toss into smoothies to sweeten them -Make watermelon sorbet by processing frozen watermelon in a food processor -Freezing Food You Suspect You Won’t Finish Is A Great Way To Reduce Food Waste When it’s clear that we’re going to have more food than we’ll eat I’ll often freeze half immediately after preparing it. Once food has been on the table freezing it is less appealing, and it often gets stuck in our fridge. Sometimes that works great, sometimes we get tired of eating leftovers and food goes to waste. But having a batch of three bean chili in the freezer that I can pull out on a rainy day, or a dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? That’s when leftovers are awesome. That and watermelon margaritas, of course.

State Legislature Wrap-Up: What Happened to Environmental Bills?

With great disappointment, we offer an update on the fate of some environmental provisions during the 2017-18 state legislative session, which ended on July 31. We expected our State Legislature to act with vision and courage in the face of disastrous effects of climate change unfolding daily, world-wide — catastrophic wildfires, dangerous storms, record-breaking temperatures, animal die-offs, rising sea levels. They did not. Sadly, the House shot down the appropriately ambitious legislation that passed in the Senate. We saw no leadership or sense of urgency from the governor, who might have influenced the House to act boldly. In the end, only a modest clean energy bill was enacted (H.4857) — a bill that is not commensurate with the climate crisis we face and that includes a shocking provision that allows trash incineration to be defined as a source of clean, renewable energy. To quote State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), “There is a serious problem with democracy in Massachusetts, when the voices of tens of thousands of concerned residents and climate change activists, and dozens of clean energy advocacy groups, are ignored. The battle is not just in DC, it’s here, too.” So — before we review the results — we want to urge you to VOTE this fall in the primary elections on September 4 and the general election on November 6. We have an important race for governor coming up, as well as other state and federal elections. Find candidates who will stand up and fight for our planet and our future — instead of those who step back and stay silent. Go to candidate forums, ask tough questions, and then ask your friends and family to vote with you. We can’t count on national leadership right now, so let’s make sure officials at every level of state and local government are ready to take action on environmental issues.  Click here to let us know you plan to vote on September 4 and November 6 and we will send you a reminder! Here is a quick round-up of a few key environmental measures we were tracking during this session, followed by links for more details: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): The is the state requirement that specifies the percentage of electricity that utility companies must obtain from qualified renewable energy sources. Under current law, the RPS is 13% and it increases at the rate of only 1% each year. The new law raises the rate of increase to 2% a year starting in 2020, but reduces it back to 1% by 2030. At this level of increase, Massachusetts will fall behind the 2030 RPS mandates of California, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and many others. It also means that Massachusetts will reach an RPS of only 36% by 2030, and a 56% by 2050. We note with gratitude that Wellesley’s State Representative Alice Peisch supported a House amendment that would have raised the RPS increase to 3%, but House leadership ultimately forced the withdrawal of that amendment. Gas Leaks: The clean energy bill that passed included provisions that would require utility companies to provide more information about gas leaks to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). The new law defines how utility companies should measure “lost and unaccounted” for gas — which is the difference between the amount of gas purchased by the gas company and the amount that is actually delivered to customers or used by the gas company in its operations. Utility companies must also identify and measure the sources and locations of the lost and unaccounted for gas. The new law also allows the DPU to grant waivers for the development of innovative projects that reduce lost and unaccounted for gas in order to reduce the cost to ratepayers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Methane from gas leaks is at least 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.) State Senator Cynthia Creem (who represents Wellesley Precincts A, C, D, E, and H) was a strong advocate for action on gas leaks.  Plastic Bags: The House blocked a state-wide bill passed by the Senate that would have banned single-use plastic bags. More than 80 cities and towns in Massachusetts — including Wellesley — have bylaws banning the bags. The state bill would have created a uniform regulation that was intended to reduce plastic litter and the hazard that plastic bags pose to animals and our environment. Both State Rep. Alice Peisch and State Senator Cynthia Creem have supported plastic bag bans in the past. For more information: Click here for a summary from Massachusetts Sierra Club. Click here for a summary from the Climate Action Business Association. Click here for a summary from the Conservation Law Foundation. And click here to let us know you plan to vote on September 4 and November 6 so we can send you a reminder!

Response to the New York Times Article: Losing Earth

Some of you may have read the recent article in New York Times Magazine titled Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. For anyone who hasn’t, it paints a pretty bleak picture of where global warming stands now, and candidly explains some devastating predictions about our future on this planet. It was hard to read. You should read it. I was flooded with a mix of emotions after I finished, including despair, nihilism, and a waning interest in ever having grandchildren when I pictured what their Earth will look like. Underneath it was a surge of hopelessness that made me wonder why I’m writing blog posts about Meatless Mondays and reducing our plastic consumption when the Earth is doomed anyway. But then I remembered the joy I feel when my husband and I have an afternoon together. Or the surge of emotion when our children have a perfect day at the beach, riding waves into the shore, grandparents staying for dinner. The delight of a dinner out with friends where camaraderie and laughter make it one of those nights you just remember. And it reminds me that even an extra day is worth fighting for. Reading the article, it seems likely a 2 degree, 3 degree, 4 degree change is inevitable. That doesn’t give us the license to speed it up.  It makes it even more imperative that we do what we can to slow it down. To hold off the spread of the flooding and the heat waves as long as we can. To hope that we can rewrite this narrative, yes, but to acknowledge that even when the outcome doesn’t seem promising, we can and must do whatever we can to hold the line. I speak of joyful memories and the belief that they’re worth fighting for, but the other side of the coin is acknowledging that climate change causes real human and animal suffering. When we look for ways to live and vote more responsibly, we reduce the harm we’re causing and accelerate global warming a little less. So I choose to keep doing what I can, and when it feels futile, I think about the beauty of a single sea turtle getting to bask a little while longer in the sunshine because I pulled a plastic bag out of the ocean. And it helps me keep going.

Hey 18+ Year Olds

  Is every eligible voter in your household registered to vote?     Voting with the environment in mind is one of the easiest and most effective ways to to be green. Let’s get out the vote and make a change in the world! August 15 is the deadline to register to vote in the next election (which is the September 4th primary).   We are encouraging everyone to vote, including all students (18 years old and up) in your household. If you have a current Massachusetts Driver’s License or State ID, you can register to vote here.  Otherwise, you can print out and mail in the registration form here, or register to vote in person at Wellesley Town Hall.   If you have students who will be away during the elections, they can apply for an Absentee Ballot.  August 31st is the deadline for applying for an Absentee Ballot for next election (September 4).  Your students can apply for an Absentee Ballot at the same time they register to vote. Absentee Ballots also work for those who know they will be out of town on election day, are physically disabled or have religious objections to the date. An Absentee Ballot can even be applied for by a member of the voter’s family!   So, if your registered college student is already out of town, you can have an Absentee Ballot sent to him or her by completing and submitting the form here. An Absentee Ballot will be mailed to the voter the same day the Town Clerk receives the signed request. Absentee requests may be filed at any time prior to the election, up until noon the day prior. Ballots will be mailed beginning 21 days prior to the election. If you require the Absentee Ballot to be mailed out of Wellesley please allow sufficient time for mailing in both directions (generally allow 10 mailing days for a ballot to go out of Wellesley and be returned, domestically). Voters may apply for an absentee ballot in person and vote at the same time, if ballots are available.  Absentee Ballots cannot be hand carried out of the office. Absentee ballots must be received in the Clerk’s office on or before the close of the polls on election day (September 4), so be sure to remind your college student to complete and return them on time!

Its Hot Out There!

Extremely hot days (and extremely cold days) put a strain on the energy grid, causing utility companies to turn to dirty fossil fuels, like coal and oil, to meet this “peak demand.” And, in order to be reliable, utilities must build enough infrastructure to meet this peak, even if peak demand is not reached most days. All this means higher rates for you (up to 10 times higher on peak days!) and more carbon pollution for the planet. With just a simple text or email alert, Shave the Peak empowers residential electricity consumers to unite for affordable electricity and a low-carbon future. Each member of this growing community is committed to reducing electricity usage at home on days when skyrocketing overall demand is met by the dirtiest and most expensive fossil fuels, or “peak days.” These actions advocate forward-thinking policies that can transform our electric grid. To sign up for these peak demand “alerts” simply go to massenergy.org and sign up. It will take less than a minute to do your part. Or learn more at a free webinar on August 7, at either 1:00 or 7:00 pm, sponsored by the non-profit Mass. Energy Consumers Alliance.

Stop one of the Worst Plastic Polluters is “Styrofoam” (Polystyrene)

In response to community demands, many companies from Starbucks to Alaska Airlines, as well as local shops in our community have pledged to reduce plastic waste. Let your favorite spots know that their customers care about protecting our ocean — especially from one of the worst plastic polluters, “Styrofoam”  — and ask them to pledge to stop using harmful single-use plastics. Help your local eatery be the next one by simply downloading this letter, printing, signing and dropping it off at local businesses where you shop! Click here to take action. Write one yourself as well.

Make Your Own Rain Barrel Workshop TOMORROW

Help your garden beat the heat this summer! Make-your-own rain barrel adapter kits from the Rain Barrel Depot are available for $25 through tomorrow — July 31st. Reserve your kit now on CRWA’s page here! A recycled syrup drum courtesy of Coca Cola’s Needham facility and weather-proof paint are included with each kit. CRWA will be hosting a workshop at their office from 6-7 pm on Tuesday, July 31st for anyone who would like to receive instruction for assembling a rain barrel. Anyone who is unable to attend the workshop will be welcome to pick up materials from CRWA’s office in Weston during our regular business hours.  

3 Things You Can Do

Go pesticide free!

Take the pledge not to poison your yard, and put your pin on the map of pesticide-free homes HERE
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Get clean electricity!

Wellesley residents can get clean, renewable electricity through our Municipal Light Plant with the same great service. Find out how HERE

Find and fix gas leaks!

There are over 200 ‘natural gas’ leaks all over Wellesley. Find where the nearest leaks to you are and what you can do about them HERE