Newburyport Four Years Later

by Jack Santos
Published on
June 28, 2024
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This is one in a continuing series of educational columns about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards. This column reflects the opinions of the writer.

In 2020, I shared my perspective in The Daily News of Newburyport about how Newburyport can take actions to mitigate climate change. I focused it on “micro”, “mini,” and “macro” actions. What’s happened since then?
At the micro level, I mentioned our commitment to recycling. This continues stronger than ever as reflected in the overflowing recycling bins on trash pickup days. In addition, programs that encourage voluntary curbside compost pickup have taken hold, with a great many of our residents taking part. Our community effort at “curb alerts” makes for a fun recycling program, and easy and free reuse. We should pat ourselves on the back.
Now let’s turn to examples at the “mini” level of environmental action. Good news there too. What other small cities have this many options for ride sharing or commuting? Although the bus options at the Park-and-Ride moved to Seabrook, they are still relatively close and immensely popular.

The local MeVa bus routes are now FREE, and ridership has shown a noticeable increase.

As the population ages, bus rides to the store and medical facilities become not just a luxury, but a necessity. In addition, our bike trails have expanded significantly.

The route around the Route 1 traffic circle has been reconfigured for safety and ease. The fact that we are at the “rail’s end” means we can take advantage of a train to Boston and beyond! 
At the macro level, I explained the boom in solar rooftops, which continues. It has been heartening to see how 200-year-old homes can be retrofitted to accommodate solar, on small plots of land, and with shared living in half houses, duplexes, and condo units and rentals.

Energy awareness programs have made many of our 200-year-old-plus homes as tight as 20-year-old homes.

The growth in Rail’s End net-zero rentals has a major impact on how we impact the environment to be better!

But in my opinion, it’s not all good news. We have much to learn. At a macro level impact to the environment, we need to be careful in the choices we make involving older homes.

Our older homes were often built using local materials. But we continue to see old homes bulldozed to make way for McMansions.

Or they are gutted inside and out, emptied into dumpsters filled with early growth woodwork and period features, adding to waste. Gutting a home, much less a room, should be a last resort. Removing every 200-year-old clapboard held by hand-hewn nails, as well as plaster and lath walls, especially when they are not damaged or rotted, isn’t always necessary. And, in the end, our landfills get full, and our usage of limited resources skyrockets.
When it comes to climate change, it’s the decisions we make as individuals, whether at the micro, mini, or macro level, that ultimately will make a difference.

A hundred years from now, the current period of “gut and rebuild” will be looked upon as a mistake and our community should encourage less of it.

We need to continue to treat our old Newburyport homes like the climate assets they are by making personal choices to minimize wholesale reconstruction. Not just for history’s sake but for the climate’s sake as well.
Jack Santos is a Newburyport resident and retired technology executive who now spends his time supporting local history efforts and historic preservation, with a keen interest in the local impacts of climate change. He may be reached at

ACES and its Youth Corps invite you to stay updated on environmental matters by subscribing to our monthly newsletter via the “Subscribe to Updates” link on this page. Please consider joining our community of stewards who are committed to Make Every Day Earth Day by contacting We can make a big difference together.

This educational column first appeared in The Daily News of Newburyport on June 28, 2024.


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