“Low-Carbon Diet” in Good Taste

By Rickie Harvey
As published in The West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, March 19, 2011

West Roxbury Saves Energy recently held its third Smart Energy Party and started this year’s program with some thought-provoking questions whose answers often surprised many of the event’s attendees.

As an introduction to how residents of West Roxbury might want to think about their energy use, WRSE asked for guesses to such queries as how many plastic bags are taken each day by customers at the local Roche Bros., how long can a car idle without breaking Massachusetts law, and how many gallons of recyclables can each of our big blue bins hold.

The answers may surprise even the most informed readers of this column as well. Even though customers of Roche Bros. can receive 5 cents for every bag brought into the store to reuse for groceries rather than taking a new bag, 12,000 plastic bags are dispensed at the store every day (or 84,000 each week); by contrast, the nickel rebates were given out for only 1,825 reused bags last week.

As for idling, in Massachusetts we are breaking a state law if we idle “unnecessarily” for longer than five minutes. We also waste a lot of gas idling, since we get zero miles per gallon that way and use up to a gallon of fuel for every hour of idling.

And those big blue bins? They hold 96 gallons of materials that you are diverting from our landfills, so fill ’em to the brim with cardboard, plastic, newspapers, cans, and other items — but no plastic bags, please! In the first three months of single-stream recycling in West Roxbury, recycling increased approximately 44 percent compared to 2007, which translates into some 275 tons of solid waste per month. Well done, residents of West Roxbury!

The second part of the evening forum on smart energy use focused on ways to calculate and reduce our household carbon footprints, which is the amount of carbon emissions each of our households is responsible for contributing to the atmosphere (considered to be a primary reason for climate change) due to our daily activities — such as driving our cars, heating and cooling our homes, washing clothes and dishes, trash disposal, and meat consumption, for example.
Representatives from eight households who attended the event agreed to form a “Low-Carbon Diet” group and meet several times in the upcoming months to set goals and discuss ways of lowering their carbon emissions together. Participating in this group were City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who is chairman of the council’s Committee on the Environment and Health, and state Rep. Ed Coppinger. WRSE applauds their willingness to get personally involved in taking steps to reduce carbon emissions in our town. Stay tuned for results on your elected officials’ ability to lose “weight” on their green diets.

WRSE thanks Waves Car Wash for supplying the reusable water bottles used as “prizes” for those who answered the most questions correctly and NSTAR for donating CFLs, which were given out to all Smart Energy Party attendees for free. And of course WRSE is always grateful to West on Centre, for generously hosting the event again.

Anyone who was unable to attend the Smart Energy Party can view the Q&A slide show from the event at WestRoxburySavesEnergy.org.