Green Decade Policy and Political Positions

The Green Decade Board has developed series of positions which we, as an organization, support. These positions provide the basis for our activities in the recent elections for Mayor and in legislative activity within the City. Below are the positions adopted, broken down into several categories. These are summary positions. If you would like to have more details pertaining to any of them, please feel free to contact Kevin Dutt at kevin_dutt17@yahoo.com or Brooke Lipsitt at (617) 965-0107.

Transportation

Preference to Low-Emission Vehicles

The City of Newton should provide incentives to its citizens to drive low-emission vehicles through the following initiatives: (1) establish free parking at meters for low-emission vehicles, and (2) establish preferred parking for low-emission vehicles and ride-sharing vehicles in all municipal lots and for all new developments.

Many communities have begun to implement systems that allow hybrids and other low-emission vehicles to park free at any metered parking spot. Similarly, communities are creating specified parking spaces similar to handicapped-designated parking in all municipal lots.

Providing incentives to drive low-emission vehicles and to reide-share will result in a reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the City.

The City of Newton should allow hybrid and plug-in vehicles to park at metered parking spots at no charge. This policy will promote the use of vehicles with lower emission and higher mileage characteristics, thus reducing the City's carbon footprint and emissions hot spots in heavy traffic areas. There are many cities and towns across the country that have successfully implemented similar programs.

Bicycle Lanes

The City of Newton should establish marked bicycle lanes on all main streets within its borders. Despite a requirement by the state to have marked bicycle lanes, the City has regularly requested waivers to avoid having to comply with the state law. The Commonwealth has granted the waiver on every request.

Marked bicycle lanes have proven to increase dramatically the number of commuters who will ride a bicycle to work or on local errands, reducing the number of drivers on the road. A survey of Toronto cyclists found that only 18% of cyclists reported feeling comfortable biking on major roads without bike lanes, whereas 53% reported feeling comfortable cycling on major roads with bike lanes (Decima Research, 2000). It has been shown that with increased comfort, more and more people will use bicycles.

The City of Newton should develop a plan to establish bicycle lanes on all major roads in order to reduce automobile traffic, reduce the City's greenhouse gas emission, reduce the wear-and-tear on its streets, and increase the safety on all streets.

Commit to City purchase of only low-emission vehicles whenever available for application.

The City of Newton should develop a policy to ensure that all City vehicles purchased are the lowest emission possible for the use required. Currently, the City is purchasing hybrid vehicles for certain applications. While this is a good start, the City should develop a more comprehensive policy that includes a low emissions strategy for all vehicles including Fire, Inspectional Service, Police, and other departments with vehicles.

Low-emission vehicles such as electric vehicles, hybrids, and high-mileage diesels, have a smaller carbon footprint and reduce emissions hot spots caused by fossil-fuel burning vehicles idling in traffic. And though they may carry a small premium in price, the overall life cycle cost of these vehicles is substantially lower than that of conventional vehicles. This results in a lower annual operating cost for the City, thus providing both environmental and economic benefits.

Mandate Snow Shoveling of Sidewalks

The City of Newton should require residents, businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to shovel all sidewalks after snowfalls. Currently, the City becomes an extremely inaccessible walking community during the winter. Many people who usually walk are forced back into their cars to go even a very short distance. Those who do walk are at risk of being hit by cars, as they are often forced to walk in the streets. Many communities nationwide have mandated sidewalk shoveling. Best practices have been developed to deal with the details of snow shoveling policies that cover all of the possible issues that may arise.

Cleared sidewalks will reduce the number of cars on the road. This will reduce the carbon emissions of the City as a whole. It will also improve the community aspect of our City in the winter by letting residents access public transportation and other nearby destinations on foot.

Create secure and accessible bicycle parking at village centers, T stops, including commuter rail, at Crystal Lake, Gath Pool, and municipal buildings.

The City of Newton should create secure and accessible bicycle parking in high-demand areas such as T stops, commuter rail stations, Crystal Lake, Gath Pool, municipal buildings, and schools. The installation of secure bicycle-parking areas will enable citizens to use their bicycles for a range of activities.

Bicycles use is an opportunity for the City to reduce its carbon footprint and also drive down traffic congestion. Creating bicycle-parking areas is an extremely cost-effective way to facilitate bicycle use and create an alternative to using a car for short trips.

Support and advocate for proposed walking/bicycle path from Riverside to Wellesley.

The City of Newton should support a plan to develop the walking and bicycle path between Riverside Station and Wellesley Lower Falls. This path will provide an opportunity to promote both pedestrian and bicycle use. It will create an example of the broader opportunity for walking and bicycle paths across the City. This kind of initiative should ultimately result in fewer people using cars, instead opting for walking or bicycling for short errands. Over time, this will reduce the City's carbon footprint and will make the City a more pleasant place to live.

Energy & Resource Use

Require a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) or other appropriate rating at the time of sale of any residence.

The City of Newton should require that any home placed on the market for sale has a Home Energy Rating Score. The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is designed to determine the energy efficiency of a home in a very objective way. It calculates efficiency independent of the energy use habits of the occupants and is often compared to the miles per gallon ratings for automobiles.

Requiring a HERS rating for all homes will enable buyers to compare homes based on their efficiency. More importantly, it will drive sellers to improve their rating by making their homes more energy efficient and more attractive to potential buyers. This program can be put in place in conjunction with a typical home inspection, and there are already HERS experts licensed in the State who can perform this assessment.

This program would have a tremendous impact on the overall energy consumption of the City and would greatly reduce the City's greenhouse gas emissions.

Install solar photovoltaic panels on every public building with appropriate solar exposure and orientation.

The City of Newton should install solar panels on all municipal buildings with appropriate solar exposure. This program would dramatically increase the City's use of renewable energy and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The vast majority of buildings could use the energy within the building itself, reducing transmission costs and waste of energy associated with transmission lines.

In addition to providing an environmental benefit, the installation of solar panels could even provide an economic benefit to the City over time, depending on the price of grid power and the availability of state and federal incentives. Solar panels have become much more cost effective in the last few years, and there are State incentives for installation. In addition, a new state program known as net metering would allow the City to sell any unused power back to the grid at favorable rates.

This program would serve an educational function, showing citizens how effective solar panels can be and possibly encouraging private property owners to install similar systems.

Establish betterment process for energy efficiency and solar installations on private structures.

The City of Newton should establish a betterment process that would enable citizens to finance the implementation of energy efficiency and solar installations on their homes. This program would allow residents to pay back the costs of these systems through their property taxes over the payback life of the system installed. A similar arrangement is currently in place to assist property owners in financing sidewalk and certain street improvements. It permits repayment, at low interest rates, over a 20-year period.

A betterment process would make these energy efficiency systems more cost effective for residents and would also enable residents to invest in systems with longer payback periods. Without a betterment system, such obligations might be less attractive to a resident who might sell the house within a few years of making the investment and therefore, not realize the savings. Under a betterment program, the obligation would be transferred to the new owner's property taxes, and that new household would be realizing the benefits from energy savings.

Financing and paybacks are often the biggest hurdles for residents in evaluating capital investment in energy efficiency systems. The City has a low cost of borrowing, which it could leverage to enable citizens to install these systems.

Energy efficiency and solar installations have an enormous impact on reducing the carbon footprint of the City.

Replace gas street lamps with the highest efficiency streetlights available.

The City of Newton should replace all natural gas street lamps with high efficiency electric bulbs. The City spends more than $1 million annually on energy and maintenance of its streetlights. A small percentage of these lights are still powered by natural gas. These lamps are extremely inefficient and must burn the 24 hours a day to function. Replacing these lamps with high- efficiency electric bulbs would reduce the City's energy consumption and its greenhouse gas emissions.

This initiative would have the additional benefit of reducing the City's operating costs. Some lights are already being changed over, but all natural gas-burning lights should be changed. The Energy Commission has studied this issue and has determined that the payback period for this effort would be very short.

Ban use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers within the City.

The City of Newton should ban gasoline-powered leaf blowers from use within the City limits. The gasoline-burning, two-cycle engines used on these leaf blowers have little to no regulation, burn inefficiently, and emit various pollutants that are the primary cause of acid rain, smog, and various respiratory ailments. As an alternative, electric leaf blowers provide the same performance while using substantially less energy pollution.

This policy would provide environmental benefits including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.

Institute and publicize steeper block rates for water/sewer to encourage conservation.

The City of Newton has a step block rate for its water and sewer costs. As a household or institution uses more water, the rate charged for each gallon of water increases and, with it, the associated sewer charges. The cost structure is designed to reduce excess, unnecessary use, such as car washing and landscape irrigation. Under its current structure, however, the costs do not have a significant impact on water usage in the City. An increase in the rates for use above a minimum level required for ordinary household use would result in a greater reduction in unnecessary water usage in the City.

Ban sale or serving of bottled water in City buildings and at City facilities.

The City of Newton should ban the serving and sale of bottled water in all municipal buildings and facilities. Bottled water has a tremendous environmental impact. It has a large carbon footprint due to the fabrication, shipment and disposal of the plastic bottles. Also, bottled water is not any cleaner or safer than tap water and is often less so. This is due to the fact that the quality of tap water is regulated by stricter EPA standards, while the FDA controls on bottled water are more lenient.

There are other benefits to eliminating bottled water from City buildings. There have been health concerns related to the plastic used for the bottles. The EPA estimates that only about 13% of these plastic bottles are recycled. Also, 60% to 70% of all bottled water is bottled within the state in which it is consumed. This locally bottled water does not fall under the regulation of the FDA but instead falls under the individual state's control. This water is often poorly regulated by the states and has the potential to create additional health risks.

This simple ban would reduce the City's carbon footprint, reduce its waste impact, and even have a slight financial benefit because the cost of bottled water is much more expensive than an equivalent quantity from the tap.

Utilize the most advanced pollution controls on City-owned and City-contracted diesel construction equipment and vehicles.

The City of Newton should develop a program to ensure that the most advanced pollution controls are used on all diesel construction equipment and vehicles owned by the City or contracted for City projects. Diesel engines have long lives, and, as a result, many of them utilize out-dated pollution control technology. The vast majority of these engines can be retrofitted with more advanced controls. In conjunction with updating its own equipment, the City should require that any contracted work be performed using engines with the most advanced controls to ensure the same environmental and health protections are in place on these systems.

Diesel engines are highly polluting systems, producing high amounts of sulfur and particulate emissions if they do not have the proper pollution controls. This program would improve the City's air quality and would be beneficial to the health of its residents.

Plant all municipal properties with and require all new municipal and private developments to install low-water plantings and/or use native species.

The City of Newton should plant low-water and/or native plant species on all municipal properties. Native species and low-water plants are more robust and can handle longer dry stretches without requiring watering. They are often more hardy to wear and tear, resulting in less maintenance as well. The requirement should apply to all municipal and private developments. This program would help dramatically reduce the City's consumption of potable water for landscape irrigation.

Waste

Institute Pay-As-You-Throw trash collection, with the first 35 gallons free.

The City should implement a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) program in which citizens would get free disposal of one 35-gallon container of trash. The City would charge citizens a fee for anything more than the 35-gallon container. All recycling of cardboard, paper, plastic and glass would remain free.

PAYT programs are used across the Commonwealth with very positive environmental and economic benefits. More than two-thirds of the towns and cities in the Commonwealth already have a PAYT system with typical results including increases in recycling rates to more than 50% and dramatic reductions in the amount of trash being thrown away. EPA studies indicate that this is one of the most effective measures to divert waste from incineration and increase participation in recycling.

This PAYT program would also be economically beneficial; the Citizens' Advisory Group estimated that the City would save almost $2 million annually with its implementation.

Require stores to charge a modest fee for all paper and plastic shopping bags.

The City of Newton should require all retail stores (grocery stores, department stores, etc.) to sell the paper and plastic bags in which they package purchases, rather than including them in their overhead cost. Plastic and paper bags make up a substantial portion of trash. Reusable bags could easily replace them as a better option. Some stores have moved to charging fees ($0.05 to $0.10 per bag) and have realized over 80% decreases in using the paper and plastic options.

This simple program will result in less waste generated. It will also result in fewer trees being cut down to manufacture paper bags, as well as less oil used to make plastic bags. This type of program can be a cornerstone of a broader reuse initiative in the City.

Establish separate municipal collection and composting of organic waste.

The City of Newton should contract a hauler to collect and haul organic waste separately from the regular trash. Based on data from the EPA and Massachusetts DEP, it can be estimated that 20% to 25% of our trash is organic waste (primarily food waste) that could be composted.

Currently, this waste is part of the City's trash, which gets shipped to incineration facilities. Composting will reduce the City's carbon footprint, is a beneficial reuse model, and also provides soil enrichment for local users.

Organic collection and hauling costs less (often 30% to 60% less) than hauling organic waste with the rest of the trash. This is because the organic waste has a value to the hauler as a compostable product. This would provide citizens who prefer not to compost on their own property with an alternative while saving money for the City.

Require implementation of business, multifamily, institution, and school recycling of paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass and recycling at all parks and public spaces.

The City of Newton should require businesses, multifamily residences, institutions, parks, public spaces, and schools and other City facilities to recycle. Under the current ordinance, only residents who have City trash collection are required to recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass. There are approximately 3,600 businesses and 11,000 multifamily dwellings in the City, most of which are not currently required to recycle. These larger buildings generate at least the same ratio of recyclable to non-recyclable waste as the residences from which the City now collects trash.

The City of Newton should require recycling in all City facilities. While the City does have recycling bins in some public buildings, they are not required as an established policy. As a result, many facilities do not recycle. By making recycling a requirement, the City can ensure that all facilities are participating.

This program would dramatically reduce the City's carbon footprint and reduce the amount of trash sent to incineration. It would also be financially beneficial because it is approximately 30% less expensive to collect and haul recyclables than to collect and haul trash.

Require building contractors to recycle all recyclable construction and demolition waste prior to obtaining an occupancy permit.

The City of Newton should require building contractors to recycle all recyclable waste material from their construction sites. Hundreds of construction projects are completed every year in the City. These projects generate large quantities of waste, often thousands of pounds of material including metal, wood, concrete, plastic, and glass. Percentages vary greatly from project to project, but a large percentage of site construction waste and demolition materials on a typical work site can be recycled with some basic separating by the contractor.

This program would divert large quantities of construction waste from incinerators or landfills, thereby reducing the City's carbon footprint.

Smart Growth

Modify zoning ordinance to encourage transit-oriented development with greater residential density, dwellings above retail space, and reduced parking requirements near public transportation hubs.

The City of Newton should enact a zoning ordinance to encourage transit-oriented development, with a focus on greater residential density in village centers where public transportation is available. In these areas, zoning can be designed to increase density without increasing the burden on roads and parking. Specific changes might include reducing the number of parking spaces required for each dwelling unit, increased building height, and mixed use developments which would enable residents to meet daily needs without use of an automobile.

Newton is fortunate to have a large network of public transportation through the commuter lines, T llines, and bus routes. Increasing density in these areas is one of the most environmentally responsible efforts that the City can undertake. It will result in an increase in smaller residences (e.g. multi-family dwellings) as well as reduce the number of cars that residents require and ease parking requirements for residential development.

The environmental benefits include dramatic reductions in energy consumption in the area of housing and transportation, ultimately reducing the greenhouse gas emission per capita in the City.

Adopt Town of Wellesley by-law limiting by-right residential renovation/replacement to 10 per cent increase over existing square footage.

The City should adopt an ordinance to limit the by-right expansion of homes, whether through renovation or replacement, to 10 percent of the existing square footage of the home. Any expansion larger than 10% would require a special permit or a design review process. The Town of Wellesley already has a policy like this in place.

The policy would discourage building homes much larger than the norm for the neighborhood by forcing property owners to submit to a public process for review of their designs. Building size has a direct correlation to energy consumption, so institution of this policy would result in a slower growth of the City's carbon footprint.

Take all steps necessary to qualify as a "Green Community" under the State's Green Communities Act, including adoption of the "stretch code."

The City should take all steps to qualify as a "Green Community" under the State's Green Communities Act. This effort would include activities such as creating an energy use baseline and a program to reduce energy use by 20% within 5 years, developing a policy to purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles, and developing a policy to minimize lifecycle energy and water costs for all new construction, and adoption into the of the "stretch code" for construction.

The "stretch code" is an optional building code which will exceed the 2010 State building code by requiring new residential construction to meet a performance standard that indicates compliance with stricter energy efficiency guidelines and also enhances energy efficiency requirements for commercial construction.

This Green Community program is a comprehensive approach to reducing a community's greenhouse gas emissions. It encompasses some activities that also provide substantial fiscal benefits, such as the reduction of resource consumption through life-cycle cost analysis. Qualification as a Green Community will also allow a community to benefit from state funding set aside for this purpose.