Environmental Forum Aims to Educate Condo Residents

An environmental-awareness forum to educate condominium residents on how to reduce their carbon footprints was held at First Church of Boston on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

The panel discussion, followed by a question-and-answer period, was sponsored by the Green Committee of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) and co-hosted by City of Boston Greenovate (BERDO in Department of Energy, Environment and Open Space) and NABB’s Condo Management Group.

Ben Silkman, climate and buildings program manager for the city’s Environmental Department, said Boston is well on its way of reducing its pollution levels from 2005 to 2020 by 25-precent, with the ultimate goal of “common neutrality” by 2050.

“We know we have a long way to go to achieve common neutrality,” said Silkman, adding that because Boston is a “cold, coastal city,” heating buildings now accounts for 50 percent of carbon emissions.

Silkman said the city would instate a ban on plastic bags in December as a further step towards reaching this goal.

Carol Oldham, executive director of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – a non-profit that operates the Boston Climate Action Network, among 50 chapters representing 75 cities and towns statewide – said, “We know that climate change is happening, we know it’s happening here in Massachusetts and we know that the action to change it won’t happen at the federal level.”

Massachusetts faces a unique challenge, Oldham said, because the state has more-exiting older real estate inventory than many other states, which unlike newer, “green” buildings, typically tend to put more of a strain on the environment.

Anna Hagadorn, project administrator for the Renewable Energy Generation of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – astate economic development agency that promotes the clean energy sector statewide to create jobs, deliver environmental benefits and secure long-term economic growth – outlined its program that offers rebates for homeowners who install “highly efficient” air-source heat-pump systems.

“Most people only replace their heating systems every 15 to 20 years when they die,” Hagadorn said, encouraging those in attendance to take proactive steps before this happens.

Audrey Shulman, co-founder and president of the Cambridge-based, independent non-profit HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team), pointed to the gas stove as the biggest obstacle for homeowners seeking to reduce their carbon footprints, particularly with the popular misconception that it works better than the more-environmentally friendly electric stove.

“Induction stoves offer a safer, faster, more concise way of cooking that doesn’t pollute the air,” she added.

Other speakers included representatives from Mass Save, a collaborative of the state’s natural gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers that encourages residents, businesses, and communities to make energy-efficient upgrades, as well as Lawrence Masland director of Home Energy Market Value Performance for the state’s Department of Energy Resources, and Mary Cerulli of Mothers Out Front – a Cambridge-based non-profit made up of mothers, grandmothers and caregivers advocating for renewable energy that has grown to 20,000 members nationwide since its inception five years ago.

David Ward, P.E., chair of NABB’s Green Committee, served as the meeting moderator.

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