Commentary

Earth Month Reflections 2022

Mayor Sean Reardon shares his duties to limit the affects of climate change in Newburyport and shares what we can do to help 

Photo by Flash Dantz on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinion columns about fostering environmental stewardship for our surroundings and the well-being of our planet and future generations. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Newburyport is a beautiful green and blue city here on the coast of New England, and having been your mayor now for almost 100 days, it’s clear to see how relevant environmental issues are, and how crucial sustainability and resiliency are for this community.

Just in my first month, we had a major snowstorm that threatened many of our neighborhoods, including those on Plum Island. Some of you may have seen the news last month that the U.S. government released new models showing that the sea levels on the East Coast are expected to rise by about a foot by 2050. This means moderate coastal flooding is expected to happen 10 times as often, meaning we could see flooding multiple times a year, rather than every few years.

"My job is to help us plan for the future"

Much of my job is to help us plan for the future, so that means it’s extremely important for me to look for ways to help make this city more climate resilient, but also to find ways for us to reduce our waste and energy consumption so we can limit the effects of climate change.

The city is committed to the state’s goals of net zero waste and energy consumption. This means that by 2030, we’ll reduce our energy use by 45% and our waste by 30%. and by 2050, we’ll reduce our current energy use by 85% and waste by 90%. To get there, we have to change a lot about how we live, and find new ways to manage our energy usage and supply.

Working together to make those plans a reality

We can’t do it all at once but we need to plan for the future and all work together to make those plans a reality. We have put together plans that prioritize preserving natural resources, limiting trash and waste, increasing residential and commercial recycling and composting, and planning for sea level rise, as well as promoting environmental conservation by reducing what we use and preserving what we have.

Luckily we have a head start. The city of Newburyport was named a Massachusetts Green Community a decade ago, meaning we adopted policies and practices that would help us reduce our energy use. Overall, we’re committed to reducing municipal energy use by 20% to keep us on track. I must praise the city’s departments and workers who have been excellent in adapting climate friendly practices wherever they can, and particularly recognize the work of Molly Ettenborough, our Recycling and Energy manager, for leading on these efforts.

We’ve been working on replacing old, energy wasting infrastructure, and finding ways to use more renewable energy. We’ve been early adopters in promoting electric vehicles including planning charging stations such as in the garage and library parking lot. We’re part of an exciting pilot project in which our Police Department is trying out a new electric vehicle to learn how to incorporate more of them into our fleet.

Businesses and residents have been working to meet this challenge as well. This month the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce has launched Forever Green, an annual collaborative program to encourage education, awareness and eco-tourism between the chamber, the city of Newburyport, organizations focused on the environment, and the community. Additionally, many residents and businesses have utilized the Solarize Newburyport programs that promoted solar roofs on homes and businesses. Many of our businesses, such as Mark Richey Woodworking, and Circle Finishing, have added renewable power from wind and solar. Hillside Sustainable Village and MINCO’s smart growth area at Boston Way have been built with net zero energy as a focus.

Our students are also taking an active role in many ways. The high school Environmental Club and National Honor Society will be launching an organics/composting campaign this month to attract more households to composting their food waste. Others have planned beach and park clean ups, bike swaps, climate justice rallies, all to be found on the local sustainability calendar here.

Open space is a key component of what it means to live in an earth-friendly way. Our parks and playgrounds, especially including our rail trails extension in the South End and along the waterfront, have garnered praise New England wide for their design and beauty and are considered civic gems.

"We can’t do any of this alone"

Lastly, as mayor, I want to harness the community’s energy and passion and get everyone involved in our efforts to make the city greener. We can’t do any of this alone. We need help on three city committees that are looking for volunteers to help the city to realize our waste and energy reduction goals. The Waste Reduction, Energy Advisory, and Resiliency committees all have a lot of exciting new initiatives that need your help.

If you have time to contribute in one of these areas and would like to learn more, please reach out to my office and we’ll provide you with more information. On Earth Day 2022 (my birthday by the way), let’s resolve to help each other make Newburyport an even better, greener, place to live, work, and visit.

This column was coordinated by ACES Youth Corps member Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, send an email to acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES, visit www.aces-alliance.org.

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about the author
Sean Reardon

The 69th mayor of Newburyport, Sean is a native of the city with great appreciation for the history and beauty of the city and what it has become with an exceptionally beautiful waterfront, Plum Island marshes and beaches, state and local parks, historic homes and downtown. He is committed to ensuring that the environmental challenges facing the city and area are addressed in the interest of having a Green/Resilient/Sustainable city for the future.

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