New WR Group Wants to Make Saving Energy Easy

From The Bulletin, December 24, 2008

by Scott Wachtler

For a long time Rickie Harvey was frustrated with the federal government’s response to global warming. Instead of waiting for politicians to change, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

After seeing that many other Boston area neighborhoods and towns had community groups getting residents to thinking green, she decided to start her own.

About a year ago, Harvey created the non-profit organization West Roxbury Saves Energy. Starting in October, she and other members began distributing brochures and fliers throughout West Roxbury to show people that there are things that can be done on the grass roots level to help combat global warming.

“At first I wasn’t very educated about the subject. I thought since it was a big deal and we had to wait until the federal government stepped in,” she said. “But there are an endless amount of steps everyone can take. We decided to put together ideas that focus on saving money because that helps pull people in.”

Some of the ways WRSE recommends people can help save money and energy include, using public transportation or carpooling at least once a week to get to work. WRSE says it saves on gas and saves on parking.

Power strips suck up energy by consuming power the entire time they are plugged in. When not in use, WRSE suggests that you unplug any cords connected to electronics.

Another money saving tip is to wash laundry in cold water. According to WRSE, 90 percent of the energy used for the washer goes toward heating the water.

Harvey said the brochures and fliers have been a big success and have helped the organization grow. They currently have seven members and a number of energy saving ideas on their agenda.

“The goal was to raise awareness that there are simple things people can do to save money and help fight global warming,” she said. “Since the filers were distributed, over 300 people have visited our Web site.”

Earlier in the month, two members of their steering committee, Dave Newbold and Ray Porfilio, held a Winterizing Workshop at the West Roxbury Library. Porfilio is an architect who incorporates “Green” building technology into his designs. Both he and Newbold gave residents tips on basic ways to tighten homes against the cold this winter.

Harvey called the workshop a success with 25 residents attending the event. “I’m not an expert on any of this,” Harvey said. “I’m just trying to get like-minded people together and wade though the massive amounts of material that’s out there and then distill it into easy steps people can to help themselves and the environment.”

For now, Harvey is busy looking into ways the community can work with local businesses to help the environment. Currently, Prime Cleaners on 651 VFW Parkway will take 5 cents off your laundry bill for each hanger returned. Harvey would also like to see The City of Boston give the West Roxbury True Value permission to be a drop-off place for used Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL).

“CFLs have mercury in them and can’t be disposed in the trash or landfills,” Harvey said. “You can dispose your CFLs at any TrueValue in Cambridge or Home Depot, but we would like to have a local place here in West Roxbury. This is something I would really like to get done.”

Harvey said this will become more of a problem since people are starting to use CFLs more and more.

Another idea Harvey would like to work on for the future is to start a low-carbon diet group. By working with small groups made up of five or six families, Harvey said the group can work together to lower their carbon-footprint by lessening their carbon dioxide output through the choices they make.

“West Roxbury is the kind of place something like this could really work since there are so many families here,” she said. “What you do is make a promise as a group to lower your meat consumption and reduce your garbage output. You also get together to discuss strategies for how the group can succeed.”

For more information about West Roxbury Saves Energy, visit the group online at www.westroxburysavesenergy.org.

Corrections:

WRSE would like to note the following:

  • WRSE launched in October 2008
  • WRSE has seven Steering Committee members