Clean Air-Cool Planet funds SCA Energy Internship

Posted May 25, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Diana Lischer-Goodband, Public Grants Officer, The Student Conservation Association – SCA

From May to October, 2011 the Dummerston Energy Committee (DEC), was able to increase its committee work through the volunteer time of an Energy Intern.  A national conservation organization, The Student Conservation Association (SCA) administered this internship, which was funded through a Community Catalyst Fund grant from Clean Air Cool Planet.   The funding covered the administrative costs involved in fielding this intern and providing Nicole a living allowance to help support her while volunteering for the town of Dummerston’s energy committee.  A graduate of the School for International Training, Nicole had previously worked on energy issues with the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and Efficiency Vermont; and thus Nicole was a perfect match for the Town of Dummerston’s volunteer committee and their energy projects.

Nicole Davis, Dummerston Energy Committee Intern

Some of the projects Nicole worked with DEC on included: 

  • Assisting with town energy data collection to establish an energy base-line as part of Dummerston’s Town Plan;
  • In collaboration with Transition Putney, creating a “Solar Coach” educational brochure to connect residents to both the towns of Dummerston and Putney to its town energy committees for solar coaching, to encourage the use of solar energy as an alternative, including a list of resources and facts;
  • Speaking at a DEC sponsored public forum on Smart Grid;
  • Attending a solar energy conference in Putney and providing outreach to the community on solar coaching;
  • Based on her knowledge and background with Vermont energy issues, providing insight and advice on energy issues to committee members such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).

The work Nicole did under this SCA Internship to support the Dummerston Energy Committee and its projects resulted, in part, in the Dummerston Energy Committee  winning the First Annual Vermont Energy Climate Action Network (VECAN) for town energy committees.  Nicole’s internship enhanced the DEC’s capacity to serve the town of Dummerston, Vermont.

Campbell Recycling Advocacy Project Expands Program with Community Catalyst Fund

Posted May 25, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Dennis Perreault, Faculty Advisor, Campbell Recycling Advocacy Project

CRAP requested a Community Catalyst Fund grant in order to expand its recycling program to the two other schools in the Litchfield, NH,  School District.  Prior to the awarding of the grant, hundreds of pounds of recyclable cardboard and steel cans were being deposited into the trash dumpsters at the three public schools in the Litchfield School District.

With the funds from the grant, CRAP was able to negotiate the purchase of eight cube trucks making the collection of cardboard and steel cans at all three of the local public schools tenable.  The cube trucks have also made transportation of the recyclables to the central processing area at Campbell High School simpler and more efficient.  As a result, the volume of cardboard and steel cans being recycled by CRAP has expanded tremendously.  The resulting reduction in the waste stream at all three local public schools has been remarkable.  The accompanying photo shows the bales of cardboard and steel cans awaiting delivery to Republic Services in Hooksett, NH.  Also shown is a trailer load of steel cans awaiting processing into bales.

Any person interested in visiting or contacting Campbell Recycling Advocacy Project should contact Dennis Perreault via email at dperreault@litchfieldsd.org.

“CRAP has made a big difference in our school community.  It has resulted in a little more work for our maintenance staff, but the results are well worth the extra effort.  I wish we had had a program like CRAP when I was in high school.  I would have joined in a heartbeat.”  Dave Christoffels, Campbell High School Maintenance Staff.

Making it Safer to Leave the Car at Home

Posted May 23, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Jim Willis, Red Bank Safe Routes

Red Bank Safe Routes is a small neighborhood organization that advocates for walking and biking in downtown Red Bank, NJ. One of the benefits of living in a town like Red Bank (with its walkable downtown shops and restaurants) is that residents have the option of leaving their cars in the driveway and walking or riding to downtown destinations. However, despite the convenience, savings and environmental benefits of walking and biking, we believe that many residents are still driving downtown due to safety issues.

With that in mind, Red Bank Safe Routes was started to provide a voice for residents to appeal to our local government to make it easier to leave their cars in their driveway. With the help of a Community Catalyst Fund grant we were able to get a huge, beautifully designed banner so that we can set up a table and attract the support and interests of residents at our local farmers market and other town events. We also created bumper stickers to give out to residents for their cars (and bikes)! We were able to negotiate great pricing on these two things and as a result are using the remaining funds to purchase blinking lights that we will give away to local residents who ride their bikes at night.

Because of the awareness we have raised of our organization, Red Bank has been noted by state and regional planners as having the most vocal grass roots pedestrian and cycling residents group in the area. As a result of this perception the state, county and local planners have been very engaged in helping to address Red Bank’s pedestrian and cycling safety issues which should ultimately get more residents to leave their cars in their driveways and walk downtown! Most recently, our group’s feedback is being incorporated into the town’s Master Plan and one of our members has been named to be a bike/pedestrian citizen liaison to the town’s Planning Board to make sure that bicyclists and pedestrians can safely take advantage of our downtown area.

Building Environmental Awareness in Grand Isle County, VT

Posted May 23, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Bob Buermann, Islanders Caring for the Environment

ICE (Islanders Caring for the Environment) has used a Community Catalyst Fund Grant to expand from the Town of South Hero to cover the five towns of Grand Isle County in the Champlain Islands of Vermont. ICE is a grassroots community organization that identifies opportunities and implements ways to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

Since receiving the Community Sustainability Grant, ICE has hosted an Environmental Day of Awareness at the Champlain Islands Farmers Market.  We had demonstrations about Geothermal heating and cooling, Wind Power, Solar Power, Recycling, Weatherization, and Invasive Species.

ICE hosted a ‘Button Up’ Weatherization information workshop where participants learned how simple actions reduce heating and electrical costs.  Techniques included using weather stripping around doors, insulation in attic hatchways, spray caulking holes leading to the attic, caulking and insulating basement sill chases, insulating basement doors, installing and using set back thermostats, increasing attic insulation, and replacing appliances with efficient energy star rated appliances.

Ten ICE participants have distributed 250 free CFLs, for an estimated savings of 18,250 KWhrs per year, enough to power two houses.  We will continue to distribute additional bulbs at community events and door to door until the grant funds run out.

ICE is working with the Select Boards in each town to expand their participation and to use public buildings as examples of savings with energy up grades.

World Cafe Nourishes Sustainability in Strafford, VT

Posted May 22, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Dori Wolfe, Strafford Energy Committee

The Strafford Energy Committee was thrilled to have the support of a grant from the Community Catalyst Fund of Clean Air-Cool Planet. These funds allowed our community building, Barrett Hall, to receive a long-range energy plan and for the formation of a Sustainable Strafford initiating group that took on the task of holding the Sustainable Strafford World Café at Barrett Hall in So. Strafford on Saturday May 5th. Modeled after the Transition Town movement, the world café served up delicious locally grown food to a diverse group of fifty-five Straffordites. While they ate, they answered three questions in small groups of 4, changing tables after each question to mix and share ideas more broadly:

1)            What, in Strafford, already exists that decreases our reliance on fossil fuels and helps us be resilient in the face of climate change;

2)            What would be the impacts in increasing energy prices and unpredictable weather due to climate change; and

3)            What can Strafford, as community, do to be resilient in the face of both threats.

The good news is that Straffordites have many creative and actionable ideas that will not only address negative impacts from climate change and high-energy prices but also build an even stronger community.  Here are some of them:

Providing services without the need for frequent individual fossil-fuel based transportation:

-          Expand the school clinic to adults

-          Organize carpools to town, using bulletin board and the internet to identified rides

-          Organize a once or twice a week pharmacy and other goods pick up from other towns

-          Organize more local entertainment from theater, music, lectures, movie screenings, to hiking for all ages

Planning for a warmer climate and more extreme weather events:

-          Decreasing our use of floodplains for buildings and farming

Strengthening our local economy:

-          Shopping at local businesses

-          Connecting with adjacent towns to source goods and services

-          Finding new economic opportunities resulting from a warmer climate (longer growing seasons, for example)

Sharing resources and reskilling:

-          Expanding the Cabin Fever program to share knowledge

Taking care of our elders:

-          Supporting and expanding the Neighbor to Neighbor program

-          Creating senior housing

Maximizing ecological resilience:

-          Planting native species

-          Planting diverse species

-          Increasing beekeeping

-          Composting

At the May 16th Energy Committee meeting, the Sustainable Strafford group committed to using the remaining funds as follows: $100 towards a No Idling campaign in the fall with help from the local elementary school, $300 toward the publication of a Sustainable Strafford handbook which will be worked on throughout the summer and fall as the group holds smaller coffees to reach out to the longtime residents and the elders. The balance of $103.81 has been earmarked for the Town Garage lighting renovation project which the Energy Committee has been working on.

Science Saturdays at Long Beach Island (NJ) Foundation of the Arts and Sciences

Posted May 17, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Marianne Gellman, Development Director, Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences

For the sixth consecutive winter, the LBIF Science Committee hosted a series of lectures and discussion programs that tackled scientific, environmental, and sustainability issues that relate to our community. The programs are open and free to the public. The 2012 sessions continued to demonstrate increasing interest as evidenced by the wonderful growth in the size of our audiences – almost double that of last year! Also, in an effort to enhance our outreach, three of our presentations were repeated at alternative sites on Long Beach Island. The average attendance at our programs was 50-60, and we had one session that was presented at two locations to a total audience of 160.

The 2012 schedule:

Jan 21 – The Energy Independence Project: 20/20 by 2020

How alternative energy sources can produce enough power to make LBI a net producer

Jan 28 – Perspectives on the Christie 10-Point Plan for Barnegat Bay

A review and critique of New Jersey Governor Christie’s plan for our watershed

Feb 4 – The Natural History and Ecology of Barnegat Bay

Relating to the communities and industries that surround the bay

Feb 11 – Composting

The importance of composting and how to build your own compost site

Feb 18 – United States Coast Guard and Barnegat Bay

A description of their mission around LBI and what the USCG is doing to protect the bay and ocean environments

Feb 25 – Rutgers University Marine Field Station

Focusing on an understanding of estuarine ecosystems

Mar 3 – Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Discussion of the projects at the refuge and how these aid both the local and migratory birds of the area

Mar 10 – Birding 101

Part of “Wings Over LBI Day”, an annual bird-watching celebration. Discussion of the best sites and how to identify the birds

Mar 17 – Ospreys

Historical and current issues facing the osprey population – surveying, banding, installing nest platforms

Mar 24 – Magnificent Monarchs

Detailing the life and migration of the Monarch butterflies

Mar 31 – Beneath the Garden State

A look at the sea life and artificial reefs along the New Jersey shore as seen using underwater photography

Apr 7 – Terrapins: No Place to Nest

The indigenous turtle species on LBI and the initiative to increase nesting success

Our audiences used an evaluation sheet given to each person and graded these twelve presentations. All the talks were considered “very good” or “excellent”.

Our plans for next winter season are to continue to seek excellent speakers with topics of interest to our population. We also intend to expand the two-presentation format, and our thanks go to the Community Catalyst Fund of Clean Air–Cool Planet for helping to make this discussion series so successful.

The Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative Gets Off the Ground

Posted May 15, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Bev Edwards, Coordinator, Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative

MERI’s grant from the Community Catalyst Fund has been pivotal to our progress.  It put the financial ground under our feet that enabled us to take the careful and wisest next steps toward creating a strong, effective program.

It lifted us from being an idea worth manifesting, with an initial structure –mission statement, Steering Committee, list of volunteers, PO Box and bank account–to where we could move into actualizing our intentions.

Most crucially, it is funding a series of trainings for our core group of solar volunteers in the safe execution of barn-raiser style solar hot water (SHW) installations with volunteers–professional and non-professional. We hired the experienced PAREI (Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative) solar installers to train us on site in our area as well as up in theirs.

It funded the purchase of a solar pathfinder and its software; PAREI’s CD Rom, loaded with information and training guides that we need; plus a considerable amount of equipment and supplies necessary for safely and responsibly conducting low-cost SHW installations and weatherization projects.

On April 12, we launched our Solar Program.  A PAREI trainer came from 9-4 PM to the two homes that will receive MERI’s first SHW installations, in Temple and Dublin. We learned how to best utilize the solar pathfinder and successfully conduct “solar site evaluations”.  We are next scheduling the first on site “set up night” training and MERI’s first actual SHW installation, guided by experienced PAREI trainers.

May 3, we trained hand-in-hand with PAREI installers at a SHW installation up in New Hampton.  Additionally, our volunteers will continue to participate in installations in the Plymouth area to gain more experience and expertise.

With Support from Verizon, a New and Improved Campus Carbon Calculator is On the Way

Posted May 9, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Amanda Sayut, Development Officer, Clean Air-Cool Planet

In 2004, a group of student activists at Duke University lobbied their administration to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by installing solar panels on campus. But in spite of strong arguments about leadership, innovation and student demand, they were unsuccessful.

When, however, the same group of students, collaborating with faculty and staff, set about completing a campus greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory—with the help of Clean Air-Cool Planet’s Campus Carbon Calculator™—and analyzed the costs and impacts of more than 20 possible emissions reductions strategies, their results revolutionized Duke’s approach to energy and carbon management.

The students’ analyses showed that the solar panels they had been calling for were a comparatively ineffective, costly solution when compared to other possibilities—and illustrated objectively that fuel switching at Duke’s two coal-fired campus plants made good sense. This data was critical to building consensus and momentum, and led the university to prioritize a move away from coal. Duke burned its last ton of coal on campus in May 2011, and is now lobbying their utility, Duke Energy, to move away from coal as well. Campus greenhouse gas emissions have dropped nearly 10% from 2007 levels, even as the university itself has grown—and CA-CP’s carbon calculator was a critical element in this victory.

Since the Campus Carbon Calculator™ was first made available for free download in 2004, it has provided rigorous data to drive the growing campus sustainability movement, racking up more than 2,500 institutional users.  More than 90% of colleges and universities that currently measure and publicly report their campus greenhouse gas emissions do so using the Campus Carbon Calculator,™ with a large and growing number also use the Calculator’s “Solutions Module” to analyze the life-cycle costs, cash flows, and impacts of projects aimed at reducing their institutional carbon footprints. The EPA has recommended the Calculator to colleges and universities since 2005, and it is considered the tool of record for the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Even for-profit consultants, from large energy service companies to facilities management firms, engineering companies and architects make regular use of the Calculator.

Protocols for “best practices” in the carbon accounting industry as well as user feedback have contributed to a continuously improved and updated tool—with one of our biggest and most exciting improvements on the horizon. Through a generous grant from the Verizon Foundation, we are poised to transform the Calculator from an Excel-based application to an online platform that will not only be more accessible, transparent and user-friendly, but will also allow us to standardize sustainability metrics, improve collaboration between campuses, and help drive unprecedented levels of campus investment. The new online format will allow our Calculator to integrate seamlessly with complementary tools from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE); the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO); the National Wildlife Federation; Second Nature and ACUPCC; the U.S. Green Building Council; the Sustainable Endowments Institute; and others.

With Verizon’s support, we will be able to complete and launch the new online Campus Carbon Calculator™ and provide support to more than 2,500 existing users of the present tool.  We expect to launch a basic version of the new Calculator this fall, so watch this space, as well as our website, for updates.

We believe that the new and improved Calculator has the potential to revolutionize campus carbon accounting—just as the original Calculator did back in 2004—and we are honored and delighted that the Verizon Foundation shares in our vision.

We Are All Downstream

Posted May 2, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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Photo Credit: Jorge Vismara

By Leese Walker, Artistic Director, Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble

New York State may soon lift its moratorium on fracking, putting our air, food and water at risk.  Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a controversial shale gas-drilling technique that the industry claims is safe and clean.  But you don’t have to drive very far into Pennsylvania to find it’s anything but.

My theater company, Strike Anywhere, spent the last two and a half years interviewing people about how fracking has affected their lives.  We developed SAME RIVER, to share these stories and ignite debate and action.  When the ensemble was invited to perform SAME RIVER at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, we decided to partner with the nearby Brooklyn High School of the Arts.  Having performed a pilot program a year earlier, I knew we could make a greater impact by engaging local students in the creative process. With Community Catalyst Fund support, we designed an intensive residency with students researching fracking, tracing the source of NYC’s drinking water and ultimately designing a large-scale art installation.

A Student from Brooklyn HS of the Arts sculpts with clay a mini river through dead trees. Photo Credit: Leese Walker

We began by taking the students to the Brooklyn Museum to experience conceptual art, and they watched the documentary “Gasland.”  Then we worked with each class in their area of study: science, theater and technical theater.

It was important to the teaching-artists not to dictate the content.  The students collaborated in designing each section.  We served as facilitators, helping them to animate their ideas from the research.

The Science Class researched the water cycle and how fracking impacts the hydrologic cycle. Students beaded strands of “rain”, built mountains, constructed a 30-foot river, designed clouds and crafted a window with condensation.  They wanted the audience to experience the water cycle to highlight what was at stake. The tech theater class imagined a future where clean water could no longer be spared for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  Mannequin heads were painted to represent “nagas” – water goddesses in various stages of decay. Dead trees dotted the periphery.  One student constructed a life-size water fountain with a small skull and crossbones on the tap.  Dead leaves were scattered under foot.

The theater class created a labyrinth, “The Fracking Funhouse”.  Audience members entered through a large colorful gate, then moved down stairs in single-file and encountered a series of masks. One set, plaster molds of students’ faces, had their minds chained together.  A giant contract at the base of the stairs signed away any rights for the landowner to speak publicly or sue should their water be contaminated.  A hallway of scary clown heads and cracked mirrors bathed in red light led the audience to their seats.

Facts about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing hung throughout the installation, which served as the “first act” of our professional production. Every audience member entered through the students’ work.

Students watching SAME RIVER – March 2, 2012 – Irondale Center, Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Dave Walczak

On March 2, student artists attended a matinee of SAME RIVER with 175 of their peers, and students from other city schools. In the post-show discussion, students expressed pride in their work, and discussed the issues raised by the show. They empathized with the woman whose water had been contaminated.  They felt for the couple driven apart by the decision to lease.  They understood how a poor farmer could be misled.

Pictured: Donna Bouthillier in “SAME RIVER” at the Irondale Center, 2012. Photo Credit: Lorenzo Ciniglio

All in all, it was a highly successful residency.  The science teacher was overjoyed by how deeply engaged his class became, and he plans to incorporate some of our techniques in his upcoming unit.  One student, who rarely came to class, become so passionate about the project that he worked on his lunch periods and on several days after-school. Art has the power to awaken minds, to energize youth, to startle jaded audiences, and in the best case to shift people’s perspectives and incite action.  We feel privileged to share our artistry with young people by connecting to current issues.  Sadly, there seems no end to the gas rush.  So we will keep rolling with SAME RIVER.

The Same River Project with Strike Anywhere at Brooklyn High School of the Arts offered our students the rare opportunity to integrate their art skills which they are very comfortable with into the research and understanding of a topic that they are studying in their science classes.  Our students are still discussing the dangers of fracking and really understand now how artists use their voices to fight for issues that are important to them.  I was able to see in my students new gifts and talents in the art of technical theater and in creating art installations. These are now skills that I can use in my future work with them.   I am so proud of the growth in my students and am grateful for the opportunity they had in creating Same River with the artists of Strike Anywhere. – Jill Coon, Theater Teacher, Brooklyn High School of the Arts

Borough of Hawthorne, New Jersey, Green Map

Posted May 2, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
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By Rayna Laiosa, Chairperson, Hawthorne Environmental Commission/Green Team

The Hawthorne, NJ,  Environmental Commission/Green Team created an interactive Green Map, which was funded through the Community Catalyst Fund of  Clean Air-Cool Planet.  The Green Team registered as a licensed mapmaker from the Green Map System, Inc.  By registering as a mapmaker, the Green Team was able to utilize Green Map icons to create Hawthorne’s green living, nature, social, and cultural resources.

A local high school student, studying computers and graphic art, worked with the Green Team to develop the template, and a professional graphic artist, Hawthorne resident, was hired to design an electronic download and desktop printing version of the map.

The launch of the Green Map took place on Saturday April 21, 2012, at the Hawthorne Environmental Commission’s 20th Annual Cel-Earth-Bration event.  The launch was very successful.  Hundreds of fair attendees stopped by the Environmental Commission booth to view the map in poster format, and hear the many ways it will benefit them.

For example, the map is designed to promote safe walking and biking routes that link residential areas to the train station, downtown areas, parks and recreational areas, historical sites, and schools.  The map helps to build community, encourage exercise and wellness, and decrease air pollution and vehicle congestion on local roadways.  In addition, increased foot traffic will stimulate the local economy, allowing local shop owners, restaurateurs, healthcare professionals, and other entrepreneurs to promote and grow their business.

Hawthorne’s Green Map will continue to be promoted at the local Farmer’s Market, and will be used as a publicity tool by the Chamber of Commerce for its “Buy Local” campaign and by the Hawthorne School System.  The map will also be featured at Hawthorne Day and other town events.

The public can view and make comments to the map.  In addition, users can download the Green Map application to their smartphone.  The desktop printing version of the Green Map is also located on the Hawthorne’s website.

Thank you to the Community Catalyst Fund of  Clean Air-Cool Planet for helping us to implement Hawthorne’s Sustainable Vision through creation of this Green Map.  Hawthorne residents, as well as other communities throughout New Jersey, the country and even the world, will benefit from this important resource.

Left to Right in Picture: Erick Pinos, Intern – Green Map creator, Mayor Richard Goldberg, Rayna Laiosa, Hawthorne Environmental Commission/Green Team Chairperson, and Councilman Frank E. Matthews.


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