Low-Carbon Diet Good for West Roxbury, and the World

From West Roxbury Transcript
March 5, 2009
by Greg Kwasnik

Several West Roxbury households are undertaking a belated New Year’s resolution, vowing to reduce their ecological waistlines in the coming year through an environmentally friendly, low-carbon diet.

Dozens of community members met for a “Smart Energy Party” at West on Centre restaurant last Monday night to learn how to reduce personal energy consumption. West Roxbury Saves Energy, a community group dedicated to helping the residents make informed choices about energy use, organized the event.

The event challenged West Roxbury households to reduce their carbon footprints by 5,000 pounds in 2009. A carbon footprint is the measurement of carbon dioxide, in pounds, that a person or household releases into the atmosphere over the course of a year. The average American household produces 55,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year; the average Kenyan household produces just 400 pounds.

Households that commit to the low-carbon diet will join together in small community-based support groups that will meet several times over the next three months. The groups are intended to ease the transition to greener living through teamwork and collaboration.

“We’re trying to build small communities by creating low-carbon diet groups,” said Gretchen O’Neill, a member of the West Roxbury Saves Energy steering committee and an organizer of the event.

She explained that the low-carbon diets are effective because of their simplicity and low cost that makes it easy for many people to participate and make a difference.

“We’re not crusading for high-end energy-savings strategies,” O’Neill said. “Our object is low-cost ways to save energy.”

Presentations by steering committee members Ray Porfilio and Dave Newbold taught various strategies to reduce carbon footprint size. To ease a household’s impact on the environment, Porfilio suggested that residents limit the amount of trash they generate, reduce in-house energy consumption and buy carbon offset credits from their local electric utility. He explained that winterizing a house, or even unplugging unused electronic devices, could add up to big energy savings over the course of a year.

West Roxbury resident and City Councilor John Connolly attended the Monday meeting and promised to follow the low carbon diet. Connolly, who chairs the Boston City Council’s Committee on Environment and Health, said that community involvement is an essential component to solving the world’s environmental problems.

“The key to reversing global warming starts with the individual and goes neighbor to neighbor,” Connolly said. “People getting together to reduce energy and carbon consumption is the key to sustainability, and a sustainable Boston.”

City Councilor John Tobin also attended the event, noting that reducing the size of household carbon footprints isn’t just about helping the environment. He said that being green means the average homeowner will see more of a different kind of green.

“It’s not only good for the planet, but selfishly, its good for the bottom line,” said Tobin.

For Parker Newbold, 19, reducing carbon footprints is serious business. Newbold, who will attend Brandeis University next fall, has already worked to reduce his family’s carbon footprint. What motivates him is the fact that preventing irreversible climate change is sure to fall on the shoulders of his own generation.

“It’s going to be our problem soon,” he said. “It’s already our problem, but if we don’t do something to raise awareness, we’re going to continue to see dire consequences.”