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Sustainability Coordinator Panel Discussion

by Chris Cain
April 8, 2019

Last Thursday evening, the Upper Charles Climate Action (the same folks who provide our weekly energy tips), hosted a panel discussion with four area sustainability coordinators.  The purpose was to inform those in attendance, or watching on cable access, about what these municipal employees do and the positive environmental and economic impacts of their work.

The session was held at the Pine Hill School in Sherborn.  Both Holliston and Sherborn have articles on their upcoming Town Meeting warrants related to hiring sustainability coordinators.

With the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, the need to reduce our greenhouse gases has never been greater.  Imagine if you will, only driving or riding in electric vehicles (car, bus, train, or truck).  Electricity is currently used to cool our homes and buildings.  It is not a quantum leap to use electric heat pumps to warm those facilities too. Further imagine that the electricity used to power our transportation, heating and cooling, comes from renewable sources like wind and solar.

"Strategic electrification" was a new phrase we heard from the panelists; what to electrify, how to source the electricity, and when to bring each new piece of the puzzle online.  One town already has an electric school bus.  Solar panels are on municipal rooftops and parking shelters.

The cost-to-benefit ratio of employing a sustainability coordinator was a major focus.  The cost of course is the salary and benefits for the position.  The benefits come in at least two big areas: cost savings through energy conservation and funding from state and federal grants.  The return on investment (based on the data presented last Thursday) can be up to 8 times the annual cost of having a sustainability coordinator on staff.

Perhaps 100 or so filled the seats, with members of Holliston's administration and legislator present to learn more about the opportunities that the sustainability coordinator role presents.

The majority of the time was spent in a Q&A session.  Many audience members asked questions, including the Holliston Town Administrator and Hollistonian Tina Hein.

The panelists were very forthcoming in their responses and most offered to be available beyond the confines of the evening's discussion to help citizens become informed voters.

At Holliston's Town Meeting on May 6th, a warrant article, supported by the Upper Charles Climate Action Group and several Hollistonians, will ask the citizens to vote to hire a part-time sustainability coordinator.


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Comments (1)

I thought the evening was very informative. The discussion on Return on Investment was compelling, but they also talked about the scope of their work, which is much wider than one can expect busy town officials to be able to address. I believe Holliston Cable will be posting a video. If you could not come Thursday, watch for the video to become available. Worth a watch!

- Fred Cunningham | 4/9/19 5:30 PM



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