Essay Competition: “Students Take Climate Action”

March 20 UPDATE: Instead of a competition, we are inviting students to write and be published on our websites. More on the update HERE

Green Newton invites all Newton high school students to enter our 30th Anniversary Celebration Essay Competition “Students Take Climate Action”. 

What is the competition? We are asking high school students to write an essay of up to 300 words related to student climate action in Newton or in the world. Suggested topics below. Students may also submit videos of up to 2 minutes that pertain to any of the topics. 

Who can enter? The competition is open to any Newton (MA) high school student in grades 9-12. Students can write individually or in teams of two. 

When is the competition? Entries should be submitted from February 24 through April 27, 2020. The chosen essays will be announced by May 18, 2020

What is the award? Two essays will be chosen to be read by students at our 30th Anniversary Celebration event at Lasell University on June 9. The essays will be published in the Green Newton and Green Newton School Connections websites and distributed to our members. 

Is there a prize? YES! Winners will  receive a $50 gift certificate each to use at a local shop or restaurant of their choice.  Update: There will be a raffle drawing, in which all students who submit essays will be eligible to receive one of two $50 gift certificate prizes to use at a local shop or restaurant of their choice. 

How to submit the essay? Send it by email by April 27 to [email protected] . Please include a title, your full name, school and grade. 

For more information, please email us at [email protected] 


Suggested essay topics

  • How can an education in climate science impact your future career possibilities?
  • Write about the benefits of one of the goals in Newton’s Climate Action Plan.
  • Create testimony is support of a climate-related bill that is being considered in the Massachusetts Legislature. (Resources for legislative priority lists: Mass Power Forward, Mothers Out Front, 350, Our Climate, Sunrise, Conservation Law Foundation, Clean Water Action, MassPIRG, MCAN)
  • Describe how the Sunrise Movement or Greta Thunberg has inspired you to get involved in Climate Action.
  • Write a review of a movie/book by Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Al Gore or Rachel Carson and describe how it inspires you.
  • What are the most important steps for Newton residents to become more sustainable in their commutes to school, work and other locations?
  • What are the benefits of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and is Massachusetts making progress in this transition?
  • How does climate change impact lower economic communities?
  • What are green building principles and how can they benefit proposed building projects in Newton?
  • What is pump technology and how is it being used in Newton’s homes?

SGW Participated in the Bowen Elementary Science Fair

The group of Students for a Greener World (SGW) participated in Bowen’s 5th annual science day onSunday, February 9. The Wild Boards, as they like to be called, had a booth with games and a map showing how to say “Go Green” in many languages. As usual, Al Gore, the polar bear, was with them. 

Students for a Greener World (SGW) is a Green Newton group of students from Newton middle and high schools who are concerned about the environment. The kids meet monthly at the Newton Library (calendar here) and work together to make a positive impact on the Earth. Kids teaching kids about the environment, and having fun doing it! 

Contact Margaret Ford for more information: [email protected]

Green Newton Endorses Plant-Forward Schools Initiative

Green Newton has endorsed the Plant-Forward Schools Initiative, a statewide climate awareness and mitigation effort initiated by a committee of Needham climate activists.

The initiative is advocating for the following changes to the Massachusetts nutritional standards for school food programs:

  1. Implementation of statewide Meatless Mondays
  2. Removal of processed meats from school menus
  3. Reduction in the amount of red meat served per week

More here

Our Neighbors: Weymouth Textiles’ School Box Program

Original post from the GREEN TEAM Spotlight – 

Since 2006, Weymouth Public Schools have partnered with Bay State Textiles’ School Box Program. Bay State Textiles installed textile bins at all of Weymouth’s schools, and pays $100/ton for collected materials. As of last month, the resulting partnership had diverted 481 tons of useful material, and earned Weymouth Public Schools nearly $50,000. Additionally, it has kept these materials out of the trash, saving the Town another $50,000 in disposal costs.

Weymouth Public Schools launched their textile recycling program as a contest between the schools. The district engaged various community businesses and institutions to sponsor a $500 bonus award to the top performing school based on student ratio. The school administration has continuously publicized the program through the Weymouth Public Schools website, Weymouth Pride Newsletter, banners, flyers at schools and community partners locations, public cable “information scrolls”, press releases, and phone calls.

Read more about the implementation of this program in the Weymouth Public Schools Textile Recycling Case Study published by the MassDEP.

Climate Action: What You Do Matters

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Small habit changes make a big difference.

WHAT CAN BE DONE AT HOME

Home heating and electricity account for a large portion of fossil fuel use. Talk to others at home about:

1. Signing up for 100% Renewable Electricity at Newton Power Choice, a really easy way to make a huge difference! Find your homers Eversource account# & call 866-968-8065 or visit masspowerchoice.com/newton

2. Signing up for no-cost home energy assessment and insulate/air seal your home. Call 781-305-3319 (select #2 & mention Green Newton) or go to hwe.click/green-newton

Download and print flyer: Take Daily Action Against the Climate Crisis

Do you want to improve sustainability in Newton schools? Join us on Feb 13

Join parents, educators and students who are working together to promote sustainability in Newton schools. Green Newton’s Schools Connections will meet on Thursday, February 13, from 3:45-5pm in the third floor arc area of the Newton Free Library. All are welcome to participate as we share experiences and ideas.

If your school does not yet have a Green Team, we can help to establish one. Representatives of the group participate in discussions to improve food quality and sustainability in school cafeterias. We are also advocating for more in-depth climate science to be taught in our schools, as well as setting up textile recycling collection containers outside of each school building. 

For more information contact: [email protected] or visit www.schools.greennewton.org

Newton Open Space and Recreation Plan

Newton is updating its current Open Space and Recreation Plan, a plan required by the state that will be valid for 7 years once approved. There are opportunities for the community to weigh in on what is such an important part of our garden city: a brief survey due by Feb 13th and community meetings. The first meeting was held on Feb 6 (sorry we missed it). The next one is on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 from 7:00-9:00pm.

We encourage you to complete the survey and attend the meeting. You’ll note there is little in the survey related to schools, but you can write in priorities as “Other”. Here are some of the Newton Safe Routes to Schools suggestions:

1) Safe Routes to Schools. We are so fortunate that parks and open spaces are already safe walking routes to school for many Newton students, and Newton can do an even better job of maintaining, protecting, and enhancing these routes, and allow biking on green routes to schools, which is often the safest way for students to bike to school out of the way of vehicles. 

2) Safe Routes to Parks. Kids should be able to safely bike or walk to parks, including navigating conflict points with vehicles at entrances and in parking lots. There should be bike parking at parks in a logical, safe location from the entrance. The National Safe Routes Partnership has a new focus on safe routes to parks.

3) Safe Routes from Schools to Parks. The increasing cost of schools buses for field trips has made them a financial stretch for some families and when PTOs help pay for field trips, including financial aid for those unable to pay, then the expense comes from their limited allowed equity spending. Shifting some field trips to walking to local parks and other sites would dramatically decrease the cost of field trips. The barriers to this currently are safe walking routes to get to these sites and universal access for all students once on site. 

As well put by Newton Conservators, “all of the items listed in the survey are important for Newton’s open spaces, but there are a few that are particularly important to maintain biodiversity and healthy wildlife habitat”. Here are some examples:

  • Need for legal protection for all of our parks and conservation areas (against development).
  • Need to emphasize the importance of biodiversity in the city’s open spaces; develop a plan for defining and assessing the existing it biodiversity and then  monitoring it and finding ways to increase it.
  • Need for coordinated work to increase native plants (for pollinators and all wildlife) and to control invasive plants.
  • Importance of developing wildlife corridors
  • Need to preserve tree canopy—in open space as well as on streets
  • Need to create more trails and to maintain those that exist
  • Possibility of creating a city Trails Committee or Open Space Commission to help oversee goals of the plan
  • Need to include hiking, XC skiing, canoeing (including portaging paths on the Charles)
  • Clean open waterways (rivers, lakes, etc.) for swimming, fishing, and boating
  • Opportunity to add signage/maps of nearby open space in village centers
  • Consideration of ways to coordinate the work of the Parks and Rec Department and the Conservation Department to make maintenance of all open space more efficient and to help the public to learn about all of the areas.
  • Universally accessible open space areas and resources

Climate Change Teach-In at Newton South

Green Newton is one of the guests of the “Climate Change Teach-in”, on Feb. 12. The event is organized by the NSHS Global Program and invites students to learn from environmental leaders and activists including:

Mass Audubon, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, The Sunrise Movement, Newton South Students, The Environmental Voters Project, Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW), Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Citizens Climate Lobby, The City of Newton, A former Obama Administration official, Greenovate Boston, Green Newton and more.

More about the NSHS Global Program here

Declaration of Support for Juliana v. United States

Green Newton has signed a declaration of support for Juliana v. United States

Declaration of Support
(See PDF version)

CO₂ levels in the atmosphere are the highest in human history, having exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 1 million years. This human-made increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels has caused large-scale climate change, profoundly altering the planet on which we live. Climate change is causing ocean warming and acidification, and the warming of the Earth’s surface, leading to rising seas, more extreme weather events and flooding, heat waves and droughts, more intense and destructive wildfires, disrupted ecosystems and agriculture, more disease and other health threats, famine, conflict, and loss of human life.

The scientific prescription for avoiding the worst effects of climate change mandates returning atmospheric levels of CO₂ to below 350 ppm by the year 2100, requiring immediate and swift reductions in CO₂ emissions globally and an overall reduction to almost zero by 2050, in addition to protecting soils and forests to sequester more carbon. The most critical transformations must happen over the next decade. Any delay will make it more difficult or impossible to meet a safe target; thus, urgent and substantial reductions in CO₂ emissions are critical.

In the landmark constitutional climate case known as Juliana v. United States, 21 American youth filed a lawsuit against the United States government for taking actions that cause climate disruption in violation of the youths’ and future generations’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and equal protection under the law, and for violating its duty under the Public Trust Doctrine by failing to protect the atmosphere for all generations.

If the Juliana youth plaintiffs are successful in their case, the federal government will be ordered to create and implement a science-based national Climate Recovery Plan designed to phase out the United States’ fossil fuel energy system and emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO₂ in line with the 350 ppm by 2100 prescription.

Support from organizations, congregations, schools, municipalities and businesses from across the United States is critically needed as we envision a society free of fossil fuels and the national security and public health and safety impacts of climate change.

THEREFORE, Green Newton declares support for the 21 Juliana v. U.S. youth plaintiffs, the fundamental constitutional rights they seek to protect, and the creation and implementation of a science-based national Climate Recovery Plan that would allow a just transition away from a fossil fuel-based energy system.

More information at youthvgov.org

Our Neighbors: “Ashland High senior looks to curb emissions by prodding drivers about not running cars while parked”

Original post from The Metro West Daily News – 

By Cesareo Contreras / 
Daily News Staff, Jan 30, 2020

Ashland High School senior Molly Gun has made it her mission to encourage people to curb a common habit that many don’t realize takes a toll on the environment.

ASHLAND – For some people, combating the effects of climate change can seem like a daunting task. But the way Molly Gun sees it, even small actions can have a large impact. Since last May, the Ashland High School senior has made it her mission to encourage people to curb a common habit that many don’t realize takes a toll on the environment: allowing their cars and trucks to idle.

Using a $500 grant she received from the Merlyn Education and Climate Protection Project, a Rhode Island nonprofit, Gun has spread the word throughout her school of the environmental benefits of not idling. And for the past few weeks, she has been attending meetings with the town’s Sustainability Committee trying to integrate her mission with the town’s resolution of completely offsetting its emissions by 2040.

“I chose idling because it’s really just mindless and with a little bit of mindfulness it’s an issue that could be dramatically reduced.” Gun, 18, said in a recent interview.

Running a car for more than 10 minutes is worse for the environment than actually driving it at 30 mph, Gun said. Drivers who leave their cars running for more than 15 seconds actually end up wasting more gas than if they were to restart their engines, she said.

Transportation remains the largest-growing source of greenhouse emissions in the state, making up more than 40% of them, according to Katie Gronendyke, press secretary for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Personal vehicles in the U.S. generate about 30 million tons of carbon dioxide every year from idling alone, according to the U.S. Department of Energy & Renewable Energy. Under state law, motorists who allow their vehicles to idle for more than 5 minutes can be fined $100 for a first offense. Second and subsequent offenses are subject to higher fines.

Ashland High School has two signs in front of the school, where students get on buses, describing the law and the associated penalties. But there are no signs in the back of the school, where many students are picked up.

Using the grant, Gun created stickers and air fresheners with the phrase: “Be mindful: Don’t idle. Turn off your engine.” She was able to post the signs outside her school, encouraging parents and students to turn off their engines while waiting inside their vehicle. She is also drafting a brief letter in hopes of having it included in weekly emails the school sends to parents.

“Well this is our future, basically,” said Gun. “It gets scarier and scarier every day, especially when you don’t see people making the changes that they need to. It just seems like we are at a standstill and a lot of times, it’s easy to feel like we are stuck and nothing is getting done.”

High School Principal Kelley St. Couer said she would gladly include Gun’s letter in her emails to parents. “I think it’s a great idea. I applaud her and the other kids that are always working on ways to help the environment,” she said.

As part of the Merlyn Education and Climate Protection Project, Gun was assigned a mentor. Grants Director Jim Stahl thought the best person for the job was Sharon Gold, of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, who worked to get an anti-idling resolution passed in her town.

“She is one exceptional human being,” Gold said of Gun in a recent telephone interview. “You give her a suggestion and she just flies with it. She’s just an exceptional young woman who really cares about the environment.”

Stahl said Gun’s grant application stood out because it was a realistic project of which Gun seemed enthusiastic and passionate.

“She seemed to have the drive to execute her own goals,” he said. “The other thing that we liked is that we knew that if her program was successful, it would call attention to itself. We have been delighted to see that is exactly what happened.”

Stahl is encouraged by the number of young people working to fight climate change, pointing to 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. It is a movement happening globally, nationally and locally.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Greta Thunbergs right in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and other New England states,” Stahl said. “Our goal is to find them and support them. Their moral voice is undeniable, and I think the adults are listening.”

In the past year, the Merlyn Climate program has awarded nine grants to young adults. Grants range from $500 to $3,000, Stahl said.

He said one student is starting a kelp farm in Maine. Another is studying climate change’s impact on the Bronx River in New York. Others are leaders in the Sunrise Movement, a nonprofit that advocates for more government policies addressing climate change.

Matthew Marshquist, chairman of the Ashland Sustainability Committee, said Gun’s initiative could blend nicely with the town’s net-ero resolution.

“There’s some big things we can do to reduce emissions from transportation – like infrastructure changes to make the community more walkable,” he said. “But those are regional changes that require significant funding. So this idea of reducing idling doesn’t cost anything. This practice would actually save money.

Gun is co-president of the National Youth Council at Project Green Schools, a nonprofit whose goal is to develop the next generation of environmental leaders. She hasn’t yet decided where she will go to college, but said she plans to study sustainability and public health. She said she has given a lot of thought to becoming a sustainability coordinator or working to address public health threats.

To keep the initiative alive after she graduates from Ashland High this spring, Gun has been collaborating with the school’s environmental club.

“We all just have think a little bit more about what we are doing and how that impacts the word,” she said.

Cesareo Contreras writes about environmental issues and technology for the Daily News. He can be reached at 508-626-3957 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @cesareo_r.