Green Team

Our very active Green Team works to promote good environmental stewardship in the church’s facilities, in our homes, and the wider community. They work with our congregation to continually strive to create a green atmosphere in our building, promote the Three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and use energy savings measures such as our solar panels on our roof. The committee also works to raise awareness and foster action on Climate Change and occasionally hosts retreats for the environment. Co-chairs Mark Bohrer and Candy Dann.

Check out our solar panel monitoring center!
Click here for things you can do to help the planet!

RECYCLE: Be sure to follow your town’s guidelines

REUSE: before recycling, see what you can reuse or repurpose:

  • hang on to your smart phone or consider buying a used one
  • see about repairing rather than replacing articles
  • plastic containers that you already have ( “Tupperware”),  but don’t buy any new ones
  • plastic containers that contained food from store
  • plastic bags for doggie bags
  • old tee shirts towels, dishcloths to wipe up spills and be rewashed

REFUSE :

  • unnecessary bags and boxes when shopping
  • to buy anymore “Tupperware” type containers, only glass
  • to buy “stuff” you don’t need or won’t use long term. Think about what will happen to it once you no longer need or use it
  • single use plates, plastic utensils etc. whenever possible
  • to buy cheap clothes that won’t last.  Buy cotton, nylon and polyester aren’t biodegradable

FOOD:

  • eat less meat (especially beef) and dairy
  • try to go meatless at least one or two days a week
  • try going toward a vegetarian diet
  • buy organic and/or local when possible
  • try to buy only what you know that you will eat (the average American creates 4.5 lbs. of garbage each day,) much of which is food waste. (www.greenfaith.org)
  • compost if possible
  • participate in community supported agriculture
  • grow some of your own food, if possibleUse a
  • ease up on dairy but be sure to enjoy those summer ice cream cones

SHOPPING:

  • always remember your reusable bags, keep them in your car, not just for groceries, bring some suitable for retail shopping
  • choose sodas and juices in glass instead of plastic
  • buy less bottled water
  • buy in bulk, or combine orders online to reduce multiple deliveries
  • buy bar soap in paper rather than liquid in plastic single use bottles
  • buy products in glass or paper when possible
  • buy “naked” fruits and vegetables rather than packaged
  • buy organic and/or local whenever possible
  • go shopping with a full list, avoid trips for 1or 2 items

WATER USE:

  • try 3 minute showers
  • ask yourself if you need to shower every day
  • when brushing teeth, turn water off and on
  • avoid disposable containers for water, carry your own
  • run a full dishwasher in a short cycle, or “quick wash”, some can do a full load in half the time
  • install low flow shower heads and aerators on faucets
  • water indoor and outdoor plants with water from washing vegetables or dish water
  • plant native and drought tolerant plants
  • buy a rain barrel

POWER USE AT HOME:

  • turn out lights when leaving a room
  • change to energy efficient light bulbs
  • turn down water heater temperature
  • set refrigerator temps to 35-38 degrees and 0-5 degrees for freezer
  • unplug phantom energy users that run whether turned on or off
  • use “smart power strips” remove phantom loads (computer, TV, chargers, coffee makers, etc.)
  • use a 7 day programmable thermostat
  • wash clothes in cold water
  • get rid of second refrigerator

TRANSPORTATION:

  • car share, carpool
  • walk, ride bike
  • try using commuter train into Boston next time you go in for the day
  • combine errands
  • turn engine off if sitting for more than 10 seconds. (10 second of idling uses more fuel that turning the engine on and off (NJDEP)

LONG TERM FAMILY ACTIONS:

  • have an energy audit
  • buy a fuel efficient car, aim for one rated at 35 miles per gallon or higher. Electric and hybrid vehicles are
  • purchase energy efficient  (Energy Star) appliances
  • advocate for Green Municipal Aggregation to increase your town’s renewable electricity percentage (www. greenenergyconsumers.org/aggregation)
  • divest from fossil fuels

Recent News

9/19/19: How to use your influence for climate action

You have more influence over our planet’s fate than you may be aware. Here are four practical ways that you can use your influence: (from Vice.com)

1. Join a climate group, or start one.  We have one right here at South Church (the Green Team) and North Parish Unitarian Church has an active Climate Justice group.

2. Directly confront the people in power. Contact your representatives. Gather like minded friends and personally show up at a representative’s local office with your concerns. Find out from your bankers if your financial investments are sourced by fossil fuel companies.

3. Seek out and volunteer for politicians who are not beholden to contributions from fossil fuel companies. Volunteer for those who support climate action.

4. Call your representatives, even if they are already doing what you think they should be doing (numbers matter.) Keep track of important climate legislation that is coming up in congress and support it.

9/11/19: Not my jeans, please!

It turns out that denim, being a cotton fabric, is a very thirsty crop to grow and requires a lot of chemicals too.  The bottom line is, enjoy those jeans and hold on to them as long as you can! Read more here.

8/29/19: What if we all ate a little less meat?

“So, according to a study this month in the journal Scientific Reports, if everyone in the country reduced their consumption of beef, pork, and poultry by a quarter and substituted plant proteins, we’d save about 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.” Read more here.

8/22/19: Getting ready for school

Have you wondered if any toxic chemicals are being used in the environment of your child’s school or daycare?  For instance: what about the use of hand sanitizer, what landscaping products are used on school grounds maintenance, does snack food supplied contain additives that are unhealthy? You may want to read this article from Eco Watch: “Toxic Chemicals at School: 8 Important Questions to Ask”

8/15/19: Young people are making a difference!

Greta Thunberg, from Sweden, now 16, has been inspiring young people around the globe for several years, most notably by starting the “Fridays for Future” protest movement. She recently received an award from Amnesty International for her “unique leadership.”

Do you have school age children who spend more time than you would like on their phones/computers? Consider suggesting they follow Greta on Twitter, or better yet, read her new paperback book No One is Too Small.

8/1/19: Planting trees is the best climate change solution today.

People around the world are realizing the importance of trees to combat climate change. Recently, dangerously high temperatures in Europe were taking lives. As part of the UK’s “Year of Green Action,” there are plans to plant hundreds of trees. Planting trees is the”Best Climate Change Solution Available Today,” according to this study. Read more here.

7/28/19: Can I choose renewable energy sources from National Grid?

You CAN choose to have all or a portion of the power that you use through National Grid be derived from renewable sources at no additional cost!  Many towns in Massachusetts are offering this “community choice aggregation” as an automatic option to their citizens. The Town of Andover will have the opportunity to vote on this in the future. Use this link to learn more about community choice aggregation.

7/18/19: Would you like to SHAVE THE PEAK?

On the hottest days, we crank up our air conditioning and fans….this puts a huge strain on the electrical grid. Peak hours for energy use are 3-8 pm. To meet demand, the grid operator may signal old, dirty expensive power plants (including coal and oil) that are kept around just for these peak days. You can reduce this need by timing your use of washers, dryers, dishwashers, etc. until later in the day. This can reduce CO2 emissions from dirty coal and oil, plus reduce the need for more pipelines to supply more natural gas.

Green Energy Consumers Alliance will send you an email or an alert to let you know which days are going to fall into this huge demand peak area. You can click on this link to learn more and/or to “sign up,” It’s free and is one more thing you can do to help. Cumulative action makes a difference!

7/11/19: Green Bee is buzzed about our zero waste picnic!

South Church met the challenge of a “zero waste” picnic and picnickers were feeling good about the process! After all the sorting of plates, cups, cans and silverware, less than five pounds of “trash” was left to go to a land fill! Offbeet Compost service picked up their bin to be taken to a site where it will be broken down into nutrient rich compost that is redistributed to participants and/or sold to local farmers, gardeners and landscapers. Interested in this compostable pick-up service? Visit Offbeetcompost.com.

6/27/19: A fourth energy audit? Really?

Just when I thought a 4th energy audit was a waste of time, I had to admit I was wrong. Yes, I’d installed LEDs, had a blower door test, done air sealing, added insulation in key areas and weather stripping, but this year was a surprise. I agreed to a 4th energy audit because it had been two years and there was the added incentive that Columbia Gas would cover my share of the normal MassSave costs.  The result was a solution to insulating our attic without giving up all of our storage space, newer better weather stripping, plus insulation in the ceiling of our unheated garage which is just below the kitchen.  (We also got an amazing opportunity to clean out the attic!)  The installers did about $4000 worth of work at no cost to us. We look forward to a warmer kitchen floor and tighter, warmer, cheaper- to-heat home.  The MassSave Program will do an audit every two years and they offer many attractive incentive programs (link to MassSave.com). In addition, for a limited time, Columbia Gas will cover the balance normally paid by the homeowner! Click here for details: https://www.columbiagas.com/massachusetts/resources/energy-efficiency

6/20/10: Go organic if you must use pesticides!

It is best not to use pesticides at all, but if you must, be sure to read the labels to know which ones are the safest. Anything labeled USDA ORGANIC or OMRI-certified is okay. Check to see if the term “natural” is used—that does not mean that it is organic.  

Espoma and Coast of Maine products are known to be 100% organic. Whole Foods carries a line of products called Organic Mechanics that are also 100% organic. Look for these at local nurseries, most will carry some of these products.

Read labels! Avoid products with glyphosate, which is used as an herbicide (i.e. Roundup). Avoid neonicotinoids (neonics), used as insecticides (imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxan, acetamiprid). Avoid ingredients that end in -thrin, such as permethrin and cyhalothrin

National Pesticide Information Center: “Pesticides, What’s My Risk?”

5/30/19: Native plants and shrubs are best

Our suburban gardens are taking on a new and vital role in maintaining the health and diversity of our native bees, butterflies and birds. When you buy plants that are native to the northeast, know that they will thrive and support our native wildlife. Try to choose these plant species over alien plants many of which have become aggressive and problematic over the years. Check out these wild flowers of Massachusetts walking paths! Details here.

5/23/19: Energy savings at MassSave

Save money at www.masssave.com! It is an easy site to explore and a good place to learn about the many options available to save energy and to take advantage of rebates that are offered. Do a no-cost “Online Home Energy Assessment” and receive information about energy saving solutions. They will recommend and schedule a home assessment if indicated. They recommend that you repeat your audit every two years.

5/16/19: How to help bees & other pollinators

Scientists have warned us that there is a rapid decline in insects around the world. One says that “insects are the glue of nature.”  We can all help by planting native plants and using only organic pesticides (or better yet, none at all)! Green Bee sayzz “pleazze read“…

5/9/19: Tips for Meat Eaters

“Americans appetite for meat and dairy takes a toll on our health, the environment, the climate and animal welfare. Meat and dairy production requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water, and generates greenhouse gases that contaminate our air and water” (ewg.org). Check out Helpful Tips for Meat Eaters and the Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health.

5/2/19: Reduce Your Stuff

In Massachusetts, 23% of the our carbon emissions come from the “stuff that we buy.” Consider in addition to recycling that we also reduce our buying or refuse purchasing articles that we don’t really need. Here is a list (Your “Four R’s” Checklist) to help you reduce the stuff that you buy, reuse more, and recycle what is left!

4/22/19: Recycling Update

The world of recycling has been turned upside down (drop in oil prices, China’s ‘National Sword’ policy, loss of a glass recycler in Massachusetts).  Here’s what is important to know in Massachusetts:

  • Recycling is still important:
    • It is still the “law” in Massachusetts (see guides here).
    • Throughout the New England area, we need to conserve our incinerator and disposal space for things that aren’t recyclable.  We do not have capacity in our landfills and incinerators in the Northeast to accommodate the trash levels if we stopped recycling.
  • Recycling is still being recycled; it just costs more now than before and good days will return.
    • Recycling markets always cycle up and down.  This is a particularly bad cycle but there is hope on the horizon for improvements.
    • Shipping to new markets costs more than it did to ship to China.  Ships formerly “backhauled” to China very inexpensively because of all the items being shipped from China for sale in the US (sneakers, TVs, etc).  Now, recyclers are shipping to India, Brazil and other places where backhauls are not an option.
    • Recycling costs more that it did, sometimes more than trash but not always.
    • Trash disposal costs are at an unusually low level at the moment but are on the verge of increasing.
    • Recycling is not being thrown out except in rare, short-term, isolated instances and only with the permission of the MassDEP.
    • There are signs of potential new markets (see article below by Brooke Nash).
  • You can help by recycling smart.
    • Want to go to one site to know what you need to know for any recycling program in Massachusetts? Go to www.recyclesmartma.org.
    • Keep out of recycling these top contaminants:
      • Food (no coffee or juice cups, paper plates, unwashed trays).  Think about what that item would look and smell like after 3 months on a container ship!
      • Plastic bags.  Don’t try to recycle them in the curbside program; take them to the grocery store.
      • Don’t bag your recyclables.  If you have too much for your recycling bin, get more bins from your DPW or buy a barrel and get 2-3 “RECYCLING” stickers from the DPW to put on the front, side and lid.
    • Continue to recycle your office paper, newspaper, magazines and junk mail but try to keep them dry.
    • Continue to recycle your containers (especially plastics 1, 2, and 5 and glass bottles, metal and aluminum cans).  Please wash them out as well as you would if they were to sit in your home for 3 weeks to 3 months or more.
    • Stop any “wishful” recycling (pizza in the pizza box, Styrofoam, hoses, VHS tapes, frying pans, bowling balls, etc). If it isn’t paper or a CONTAINER, it needs to be taken to someplace that can handle it because the Recycling Facilities that now are all “Single-Stream” use the item’s shape to help sort them out.  Flat things go to the paper side and round things go to the container side.
  • If you really want to reduce your waste significantly, the next big step is composting all food scraps.  Contact your DPW, ask about a compost collection company, or get yourself a home composting system (more on that later!).  

Are Your Recycling Efforts Going to Waste?
By Brooke Nash, Mass Department of Environmental Protection
Municipal Waste Branch Chief  

It seems like every other day a negative recycling story hits the national or local news. For example:  
U.S. Cities Have Nowhere to Put Recycling (CBS Evening News, 3/20/19)
As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling (NY Times, 3/16/19)
Recycling is a Dumpster Fire. Literally (On Point Radio, 3/14/19)
Is This the End of Recycling? (Atlantic Monthly, 3/4/19)
Help, We’re Drowning in Recycling (Wall Street Journal, 3/2/19)  

It’s no wonder our neighbors, friends and family are asking “Is my recycling just going to a landfill?” or “Should I even bother recycling?”  

There’s no question that what happened in the last year – since China closed its doors to the world’s mixed paper and unsorted plastics through a policy known as “National Sword” – was a wake-up call.  Over the last decade, U.S. recycling habits got sloppy (wishful recycling, anyone?) and it didn’t seem to matter.  China kept gobbling up everything we sent, sorted out the bad stuff, and made new packaging and products from the good stuff…until they said, “enough.”  

What the headlines and news haven’t told us is this:  there are still markets for our mixed paper (think newspaper, junk mail, magazines, and cereal boxes) and plastic food and beverage containers, just not in China anymore.  That’s not such a bad thing.  Here’s why:  

Other countries such as India, Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam are buying the mixed paper China no longer wants and that’s where most of the paper collected from Massachusetts residents and businesses goes to be recycled into new products.  The global oversupply of mixed paper has produced a buyer’s market.  That means the value of mixed paper has dropped from about $75 per ton to $5 per ton.  With less revenue from the sale of recyclables to offset the cost of sorting and baling (known as “processing” in industry terms), the cost of recycling is going up.  The Springfield Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), which processes most of the recyclables collected in Western Massachusetts, is feeling the effects of this buyer’s market.  But at the end of the day, what we put in our recycling bins IS getting recycled.  And that’s good news!   

What about cardboard?  It’s mostly sold to mills in the U.S. or Canada, and multiple U.S. mills are expanding or re-opening to start taking scrap paper and cardboard again.  Pratt Industries, a U.S. recycler, opened its fourth new 100% recycled paper mill in Valparaiso, Indiana last year.  They’ll open their fifth mill in Ohio this year.   Pratt makes boxes for the US Postal Service, Amazon, and Home Depot.   

There’s good news with plastics too.  The U.S. plastics recycling industry is healthy and they want our soda bottles, milk jugs, yogurt cups and margarine tubs.  Companies like EFS Plastics , KW Plastics, Buckeye Plastics and Trigon Plastics use recycled containers to make consumer products, automotive parts, construction materials, and even 100% recycled plastic Adirondack chairs.  At the Northeast Recycling Council meeting in Delaware last month, all of these companies made their message clear:  we need all the recycled containers you can send us, and more.   

The silver lining of the “recycling crisis” is that National Sword is stimulating jobs and investment in the U.S. recycling industry and enabling recycling companies to buy recycled materials that they previously had to compete with China for.    

What about the increased cost of recycling? While market experts expect the value of recyclables to increase as domestic markets expand, let’s first remember why we recycle.  Recycling has always been about saving resources, conserving energy, and reducing our dependence on landfills and incinerators.  As the impacts of climate change escalate, it’s more critical than ever to embrace the circular economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower our carbon footprint.  Recycling does all of that – and it creates jobs.    We also need to remember that recycling is a service.  Trucks, labor, and fuel – none of that is free.  But it’s a service worth paying for.  It’s also a public good – like schools, public transit, parks, clean air and clean water.  It’s hard to put a dollar value on the benefits for our community, because they’re invaluable.   

How can you help? Learn how to “recycle smart” by visiting helpful websites like RecycleSmartMA.org or springfieldmrf.org. Then, help educate your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.  Keeping the bad stuff out of our recycling bins means the good stuff gets recycled.  It also ensures we’re supporting a supply chain of recycled materials that go back into our economy while conserving resources and protecting our environment.      To be sure, this is hard work.  But the pay-offs are real.   We’ve come too far with recycling in the last 30 years to turn our backs on it now.  Together, we can keep our recycling programs strong and protect our planet for generations to come.   

Byline: Brooke Nash is the Branch Chief for Municipal Recycling at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in Boston.

4/18/19: Single Use Products

We use products that last forever for items that last minutes! Think plastic water bottles, juices and sodas….and how many more??? Try these shopping hints: Buy your fruits and vegetables “naked”, to be put into your own grocery bags at checkout. Choose “bottled” drinks in glass or aluminum. Most condiments come in glass as well as plastic containers, choose glass. Buy eggs in cardboard containers Read “Nine Ways to Cut Down on Plastics” in this NYTImes article. Read about the “islands” of plastics in our oceans here.

3/21/19: Textile Collection

Did you know that shoes, ripped shirts, flip flops, belts, curtains, pocketbooks, and stained clothes can go in all clothing drop boxes or bags? There is a market for it and at the bottom rung, they may get made into car insulation or rug mats. The only “no-no’s” are wet, oily, smelly or moldy items. More info here. Find drop locations here. In North Andover, request a pink bag for curbside textile collection here. In another town? Call Big Brother or Epilepsy Foundations or use drop bins behind Whole Foods or on Dascomb Road.

3/14/19: Good News from Verizon!

Verizon Communications recently reacted to the urgency of the Climate Crisis and to a Green Century shareholder proposal. It has committed to sourcing half of its annual electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. This is a significant commitment from one of the countries largest energy consumers! Learn more about Verizon’s new commitment and the state of renewables in the U.S.

2/28/19: Our biggest global warming contributors
Eating meat and driving are our two biggest contributors to global warming. Traditionally, many Christians replicated Christ’s sacrifice by abstaining from meat on all Fridays in Lent. Green Bee suggests we observe this tradition in the spirit of sacrifice and for the good of our planet and perhaps adopt “Meatless Monday,” as well!
2/21/19: How to cut back on plastics.
2/7/19: Good news from above (our solar panels!)
South Church has been generating electricity from solar panels for the past six years without emitting any carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. From 2015-2017, the panels generated more electricity that we used and the surplus was shared with our neighbors through the grid. This has saved South Church about (or upwards of) $32,000 in utility bills during those six years and more importantly reduced our carbon footprint by 144 tons.