When was the last time you stopped to admire the natural beauty of your local town or city? The rolling green hills, the towering trees, or just the pink reflection of the sunset on the river. The way the world is going now, you might be running out of time. Pollution and consumption are continuing to threaten our communities, environment, and our planet. We have all heard the cries for change and the promises of improvement, but have we noticed the difference?
Political and scientific advancements have bloomed to curb and control the changes we will all face due to the changing climate. Countries band together in pacts, states join one another with initiatives, and local towns and cities take their own courses of action. Here in the great state of Massachusetts, our form of action comes from the Massachusetts Green Communities Act of 2008 . This collection of policies sets new guidelines for energy usage and the promotion of sustainability technology. To become a MA Green Community, towns and cities must meet the standards for lessening the dependency on fossil fuels, increase utilization of sustainable energy sources by residents and businesses, and regulate carbon emissions from newly purchased municipal vehicles.
Today, there are 185 MA Green Communities and 64% of residents live in a designated Green Community . After achieving this status, towns and cities are eligible for state grants that will help complete and further clean energy and efficiency projects. Since implementation, communities have received over $65 million in grant funding.
One community working to receive the designation is Dighton; a small, but growing town located between Taunton and Fall River. The town of roughly 8,000 residents hopes to join other South Coast Massachusetts Green Communities like Acushnet, Lakeville, Dartmouth, and New Bedford . Dighton’s Board of Selectmen, led by Brett Zografos, established the Green Communities Grant Committee earlier this year and appointed local environmental-entrepreneur, Jonathan Gray, as Chairman. Aside from reaching Green Community status, the committee has set the goal to reduce Dighton’s energy consumption by 20% over the next five years .
Chairman Gray is no stranger to the benefits of sustainable technology and the impact they have on the environment. Mr. Gray has a Master’s degree in Sustainability Science and has worked with several local programs, including the Taunton Pathways Committee, a group working to create a walking and biking trail that follows the Taunton River through Taunton, Dighton, and Somerset . He also founded his own organization, Gray’s Greens Urban Farm, a series of farm plots based in Taunton that sells locally grown vegetables and promotes green living .
The Green Communities Grant Committee chose the perfect candidate in Jon Gray. His ties to and admiration for the community, especially its natural beauty, have been apparent for many years. Jon, like his older brothers Tom and Pat, worked assiduously to become an Eagle Scout and used his project to give back to the town they grew up in. Following in Tom and Pat’s footsteps, whom restored the Dighton Historical Society and Segregansett School House, respectively, Jon sought out to spread his love for nature to his fellow Dightonians. He, along with volunteers and $6000 in donations, logged over 450 hours of community service to clear, plan, and create Dighton’s Broad Cove Nature Trail . The walking and biking paths have become some of the town’s most active and beautiful nature trails since opening in 2009.
Jon Gray and the Green Communities Grant Committee are set to meet five requirements to be designated a Massachusetts Green Community. Those requirements included the need for an energy audit of municipal buildings, a commitment to reduce municipal energy consumption by 20% over five years after the audit, the adoption of a revised building code to require more energy efficient new construction, streamlined permitting for renewable energy facilities in town (like solar fields), and a requirement for new municipal vehicles to be fuel-efficient.
With the changing and growing population of Dighton, Gray and his team see the need for improved requirements for both newly built homes and buildings. The committee will face several challenges when introducing and implementing their policies, but none more difficult that educating the community and its residents. To alter building codes and move forward with other plans, residents will need to approve changes to the town bylaws. Mr. Gray fears voters will “dismiss it as basically an extra tax when constructing a new building… without understanding” the benefits and cost-savings.
The building requirement in question, called the Stretch Code, will cost the average home an estimated $2000 to bring it up to code. However, “the energy savings in year 1, plus any rebates they get, will completely offset that cost,” explains Chairman Gray. Back up, free money from power companies? Yes, all Massachusetts power companies give rebates for purchasing energy efficient appliances, as well as offer free services like incandescent light bulb replacement and in-home energy assessments. Reducing our carbon footprint is so important that these companies are doing these things at no cost to homeowners.
The road to becoming a Massachusetts Green Community is just beginning for Jon Gray and the Town of Dighton. Educating residents, gathering information, and designing new procedures will be in full force over the next year, leading up to the Special Town Meeting this fall. When the proper steps are taken and goals are met, Dighton will be designated Massachusetts’ newest Green Community.
Following achieving their main objective, Mr. Gray hopes to explore initiatives “like increase recycling or composting rates, preserve more land, encourage sustainable development and infrastructure, help our schools integrate sustainability into the classroom (which they are already doing a fantastic job with) and also educate our residents about how they can reduce their household impact on a daily basis.”
Without dedicated community members like Jon Gray, our states, our countries, and our planet can never change. At a time when global environmental issues are at the forefront, but often ignored, we need to be educated and inspired to take the actions that will help ourselves and provide a better future for the coming generations. Whether it be taking part in programs that improve our communities or voting for legislators that acknowledge the environmental problems we all face and vow to change them, each of us need to do our part. No deed is too small and no action fruitless. As Mr. Gray and other environmentalists say: “Think globally, act locally.”
Special thank you to Jon Gray for being part of this article and sharing is wisdom on everything green. More information on how you can help in your own community are provided by the organizational links below, or by contacting Mr. Gray at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sustainable.gray
Written By: CJ Wilcox (@CJWilcox7)
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by this writer are solely his own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Couch Guy Sports, affiliates, or other contributors. Yeah, I’m surprised I can get away with it too.