Newton Students Strike for the Climate

On Friday, December 6th, students from Newton North High School walked with a handful of adults to City Hall in support of the Climate Strike and to meet with Mayor Fuller.  The group was welcomed by the Mayor on the steps outside City Hall and they were invited into her office, where she asked the students to take turns sharing their concerns. Her response was reassuring, especially about steps for sustainability that the City intends to take with the implementation of the City’s recently passed Climate Action Plan. Green Newton President, Marcia Cooper, was also given the opportunity to commend the students for stepping up as leaders, and they were encouraged to advocate for solutions, while helping to educate others at school and in our community about how each of us can make a difference. Following this meeting, the students proceeded to walk to the Newton Centre before traveling by T into Boston to participate in the Climate Strike with hundreds of young people rallying for a Massachusetts Green New Deal (PDF here).

Photo by: Green Newton/2019

Photo by: Green Newton/2019

Newton North Sustainability Day 2019

The first Newton North Sustainability Day was a huge success on Nov 26th. The event was an initiative of the NNHS Sustainability Program, lead by Anndy Dannenberg and  Kathryn Teissier du Cros, and co-sponsored by NNHS Center for Civic Engagement and Service, Climate Advocacy Club and NNHS Next Gen Voices Club.

The day was truly a success in engaging hundreds of our students in learning more about local efforts to promote sustainable solutions. In addition to hearing from speakers in the public and private sectors, students appreciated the opportunity to speak to you directly and understand how organizations like Green Newton are effectively advocating and advancing our goals to create a more sustainable Newton.

– Alison Montague, Program Coordinator – NNHS Center for Civic Engagement and Service (CCES)

The day included speakers from the City of Newton Departments of Transportation and Waste Management, Bike Newton , Newton Safe Routes to School, State Sreet Bank. Greener U, Bentley University, University of Vermont, WSP USA Planning, Thread ED, Newton City Councilors and more…

Local environmental organizations had tables on Main Street, including Green Newton School Connections,  Cradles to Crayons MassachusettsNewton Community FarmThe Food Project, and Newton Recycling.

And the NNHS Jubilee Singers gave a special concert focused on Social Justice. Video by Terry Yoffie

More images at the NNHS Center for Civic Engagement and Service Facebook page


Student Voice: Signing up for 100% Green Energy

By Arshia Verma (Newton South, Class of 2023), Nov 2019 – 

As we discuss climate change, the solutions to tackle this life-changing situation should be in the forefront. One significant problem is residential energy: how much energy is being used by households, how much they are paying for it and what the origin of the energy is. Environmentally, this is a significant issue because of greenhouse gas emissions – we should avoid dirty fossil fuels.   

The saying “for every problem, there is a solution” is most applicable here. Newton Power Choice is a city-vetted alternative to various electricity offers in the market. Newton Power Choice uses renewable energy providing price stability, consumer protections, and potential for savings. Newton Power Choice is a form of group electricity purchasing known as electricity aggregation. Already, more than 140 communities in the state of Massachusetts are engaged in electricity aggregation. When you join and participate, Newton Power Choice’s price is calculated to supply the charge portion of your Eversource electricity bill. 

Newton Power Choice has three options to choose from that give greater control over environmental characteristics. With Newton Power Choice, all of Newton receives renewable energy. Many homes get only 60% of their energy from renewable sources, including the 14% that is mandatory by state law. However, if households opt up to 100%, all the energy brought to their home will come from green sources. One thing to keep in mind is that all energy sources for these programs are New England-based renewable energy projects. 

According to Green Newton: “opting up is a low cost but high impact way to lower your carbon footprint.” 

With this information, the question is: how will you benefit from opting up to 100% at Newton Power Choice? In many ways! Newton will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to protect our health from dirty fossil fuels, it creates regional jobs, and keeps billions of dollars in state. This is a win-win situation that supports the raging topic of climate change and how to fix it and it benefits the city of Newton, your home and people’s well being. 

Opting up to 100% green energy will create a healthier atmosphere that will benefit your children and upcoming generations, and will ultimately benefit you now by giving you affordable renewable energy.

School Food Donation Programs

Original post from The Green Team News – 
December 2019.

Are you interested in making sure that wasted food from your school cafeteria does not end up in the trash? THE GREEN TEAM has resources to help your school implement a program to donate uneaten prepared or packaged food. The following information can help you start or expand a food donation program:

  • Most categories of food can be donated. Massachusetts law provides protection from liability for the donation of food that is ‘apparently wholesome’ without visible quality issues, as well as for food that is past date, so long as that food was handled in accordance with state food safety regulations. For more information about Liability Protection, see the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic fact sheet.
  • Involving students in your food donation program is a great way to educate them about food security issues and the importance of reducing wasted food. Form food recovery teams made up of students that help educate their peers on which food items can be donated and which can be composted. These student teams can also help with donation collection and drop-off.
  • Share tables are a great way to reduce the amount of wasted food and encourage the consumption of food served in the cafeteria. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education describes how to implement a share table program to safely share uneaten packaged food and whole fruits in the cafeteria. The State of Vermont also has a tip sheet on this topic.
  • For more information on establishing a food donation program, visit the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts Food Donation Guidance page. Additionally, THE GREEN TEAM Food Waste Reduction page offers detailed guidance on starting a program to divert wasted food from disposal.

Climate Action: Newton Students are Going on a Strike Again

NNHS Climate Advocacy Club invites all Newton students –  from Elementary, Middle and High schools – to join the Newton/Boston Climate Strike this Friday, December 6th.

Theme: Sustainable Transportation

“Because the Boston Climate Strike is so densely packed, it’s hard to stay together as a Newton group once we get there. So we recommend any elementary schoolers go with parents and middle schoolers go with other middle schoolers.”

Also, the Climate Advocacy Club is having a poster-making club meeting on Thursday, at 2:35, in room 148 at Newton North. We would love for everyone to come and make a poster!

Timeline for Friday, 12/06:

8 AM – Meet at Newton North High School with a bike if you have one and rally as we set up a people-protected bike lane on Walnut St.
8:30 AM – Bikers start moving to City Hall, walkers follow after
9 AM – Rally at Newton City Hall, w/ City Councilors and members of the community
9:45 AM – Start walking or biking to Newton Centre, catch Green Line to Copley Square (Boston Climate Strike). Bikers will leave bikes in Newton Centre.

Walking and Biking to School in the Winter

Yes! We encourage sustainable transportation (which is the theme of Newton students Climate Strike event on Friday, 12/06, by the way ).

Newton Safe Routes to School published a page on their website about “All Things Snow“, including:

  • Newton Residential and Business Snow Ordinances – new for 2019!
  • City routes to schools
And a tip on how to ask for sidewalk service:
If uncleared sidewalks are keeping you or your children from getting where you need to go, report them on 311. Download the 311 app, snap a pic, note your location, and hit submit. Be specific with your concern and category. You may report anonymously or login.

Energy: Phase 3 Solar Panel Project – November Update

Summary  of the estimated dates of construction of Phase 3 Solar Panel Project at Newton schools. Please note that dates are still subject to change depending upon a number of factors.

Source:  Facilities Updated to the School Committee on Nov 18, 2019   

1. Zervas and Education Center roof projects have started and will be completed by the end of the year.

2. North High School parking canopies. There are two canopies being constructed, one at Lowell Avenue and one at Walnut Street. This will be done in two phases with foundation work done mostly during the April 2020 School Break and the installation of the canopies during the summer. This proposed schedule should greatly minimize alternative parking as was originally foreseen.
– The foundations will be built over the spring break week. The Lowell Ave work will spill over into the two weeks after spring break. The Walnut Street work will be done before students
return from spring break. There’s a plan for alternative parking for these two spillover weeks.
– The canopies and solar panels will be erected during the summer 2020 and alternative parking is not anticipated at this point.

3. Cabot, Carr, and Angier roof projects are currently schedule for the spring. A specific schedule will be provided when available. These roof projects will be done with minimal disruption to school activities. Material will be craned to the roofs on a Saturday and will be out of the way once they are on the roof. Materials will be on site for a few days before craning but we will coordinate with the Facilities Department to place these materials in an acceptable location while they wait for craning.

4. Education Center parking canopies are planned for the spring.

According to Mayor Fuller, “Solar panels are currently being installed on the roof of
the Zervas Elementary School. When the solar array comes online in December, it will provide 42 percent of the school’s electricity.”

Zervas Solar Panels 2019

Free Webinar: Electric School Buses 101

Invitation from the Green Energy Consumers Alliance – 

Electric school buses sound awesome, but you have questions. Join Green Energy Consumers Alliance for a 1-hour webinar to learn the basics and get your questions answered.

We will discuss what electric buses are, how they work, and case studies of where they’re already in use; the environmental, public health, and financial benefits of school bus electrification; and the barriers to adoption. We’ll then explore and consider opportunities to overcome those barriers in Massachusetts. All aboard!

This free webinar will be offered at two different days and times. Select the time that works best for you.


“Mayor Fuller Inaugurates New Covered Bike Racks”

Original post from The Newtonite – 

by Amy Xue,  November 29, 2019

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller cut the ribbon to reveal the newly installed covered bike racks by the loading dock Friday, Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. Other city officials, principal Henry Turner, and students, including members of the Bike Club, were also in attendance.

Founder and officer of the Bike Club, senior Dina Gorelik, said, “The covered bike racks are helpful because they keep students’ bikes dry on rainy days, making sure that the bike doesn’t rust.”

According to Gorelik, Greengineering students began to design the covered bike racks several years ago. However, students were not permitted to build or install the bike racks, so Bike Newton stepped in to raise money for the project. Newton Public Schools donated to the installation as well.

Junior Grigory Orlov, who bikes to school everyday, said, “I think those bike rack covers are very helpful. It often rains during the school day, and getting onto a wet bike seat is not the most pleasant of things.”


School Connections Editor’s Note

Covered bike parkings were installed at Newton North High School and Newton South High School this fall thanks to a People for Bikes grant Bike Newton received, assistance from Newton Public Schools and DPW +  donations from Newton residents. 

Our Neighbors: “Students on Martha’s Vineyard took action against single-use plastic bottles – and won”

Original post from Conservation Law Foundation – 

By Olivia Synoracki, Nov 6, 2019

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs recently named a group of students from Martha’s Vineyard, who took action against the island’s plastic waste, as the winners of their Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition. Here, we take a look at what the students accomplished and see how advocacy work is essential to creating lasting solutions for New England’s – and the world’s – trash.

Growing concerns over the health and environmental impacts of single-use plastics have many of us questioning the very nature of everyday products like straws, grocery bags, and water and soda bottles. While these items may be convenient, they all have a lifespan of mere minutes before being tossed aside, making their way into a landfill, incinerator, or, more often than not, our environment.

About eight million metric tons of that plastic litter end up in our oceans each year. Although horrors such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have garnered much attention, the truth is, plastic can be found in every single ocean – including our ­­beloved Atlantic.

For residents of Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, ocean plastic has become a massive concern. Plastic debris constantly washes up on its shores, posing long-term threats to the island’s fishing and tourism industries, as well as the health and environment of its residents and marine life.

Dismayed by this ever-present danger in their community, a group of the island’s middle schoolers decided to take action. Together, they introduced a bylaw to cut the Vineyard’s single-use plastics and drive long-term change. Their success offers lessons to us all that, with passion and persistence, we can each fight for a future that we believe in.

Team Plastic Free MV is Born

Twenty-seven years ago, Martha’s Vineyard hosted its first-ever beach cleanup. Volunteers from across the island came out to rid the Vineyard of the trash lining its shores – and they have continued the event annually ever since.

For the past several years, West Tisbury middle school teacher and environmental activist, Annemarie Ralph, has involved her students in the cleanup. Together, they’ve picked up what has become an all-too-familiar array of plastic bottles, straws, bags, and other litter polluting the Vineyard’s shores. Seeing the impact of plastic pollution first-hand, Ralph’s fifth and sixth graders began to question whether their cleanup attempts would make a difference long-term.

To the students’ surprise, no Vineyard town had taken action to combat the plastic crisis and protect their future. Frustrated with the lack of effort by the adults in their community, the group of 10- to 12-year-olds, with Ralph’s help, took action themselves. They formed Plastic Free MV and started with one goal: to ban plastic water and soda bottles island-wide.

Plastic Bottles – An Unnecessary Evil

The production, recycling, and improper disposal of plastic waste create toxic emissions, threatening our health and the environment. What’s more, chemicals found in plastic bottles leach into the beverages they contain and can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, cancer, birth defects, and impaired immunity, among other issues.

Compelled by these frightening facts, Plastic Free MV drafted a bylaw regulating plastic bottles. The bylaw banned all non-carbonated, unflavored water, as well as all soft drinks – defined as any beverage containing carbonated water and a sweetener – under 34 ounces. No other town in the country has enacted a plastic bottle ban that includes soda bottles, so their addition in the students’ ordinance was an ambitious step for a group of young, first-time advocates.

Advocacy in Motion

With the bylaw drafted, now the real work began: getting it passed by the Vineyard’s six towns. The young members of Plastic Free MV organized meetings with state representatives, island residents, and local business owners to educate them about the proposed ban. Unsurprisingly, not everyone was on board. Companies and store owners especially worried that the bylaw might negatively impact their businesses.

But the students were ready for such objections. They came to the meetings with a solution – for businesses to sell and distribute alternatives, such as glass bottles and aluminum cans. By talking with and working alongside community members to address their concerns, the students were able to rally business owners and residents alike to their side.

With the adults in their communities now on board, the students’ fervor to ban plastic quickly took hold of the Vineyard. Three of the island’s six towns, including West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah, united behind the students and introduced Plastic Free MV’s bylaw on their town meeting dockets.

On April 9, the first vote took place in West Tisbury. With over 300 people in attendance, Plastic Free MV’s ordinance passed with overwhelming support. Chilmark and Aquinnah followed suit shortly after, leaving the students – and the island – to witness history in the making. On May 1 of next year, the sale and distribution of all plastic water and soda bottles under 34 ounces will be officially banned in all three towns.

Nowhere to Go but Up

As exciting as these wins were, Plastic Free MV knew there was more work to be done. With the Vineyard’s summer months approaching, when the island’s population would swell six-fold, seasonal residents and tourists would need to learn about the forthcoming bottle bans. So, the students held a number of events educating the summer crowds on the harms of plastic waste, while also giving away reusable water bottles for visitors to use at one of the island’s various refill stations.

But their environmental legacy doesn’t end there. The students are already looking ahead to next year, with the goal of passing their bylaw in Tisbury, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs – the island’s other three towns.

Plastic Free MV’s efforts to ban plastic waste from the island shows us that it’s not enough to sit aside and wait for change to happen – we need to be the change we want to see. Their advocacy work has been and will continue to be crucial to implementing long-term sustainable solutions to our waste. Yours is, too. We all have the power to create change.

Looking to reduce waste in your hometown? Take a page out of Plastic Free MV’s book on how to take action and advocate for what you believe in.