Egremont — There isn’t a day that I am not grateful to be the town of Egremont’s sustainability coordinator. With all the environmental achievements we’ve made, who wouldn’t be?
Over the past five years, we’ve seen our three municipal solar arrays produce close to 50 percent of our total municipal electric demand. Thanks to an electricity aggregation purchasing program, our residents are enjoying Class 1 Massachusetts solar electricity at a cost lower than traditional “brown” power. And through energy system upgrades and conservation installation measures in town buildings, we’ve lowered the municipal energy consumption by a whopping 25 percent!
Last month we were proud to achieve another milestone: The tonnage of Egremont trash generated at the Egremont Transfer Station hit a record low. In fiscal year 2019, we lowered our trash to 362 tons from a high point of 481 tons seven years ago.
Just to give you an idea of what that means to our community, a lower weight of trash collected means lower need for landfill space or incineration, fewer hauls by trucks to pick up the trash, and a savings in the disposal costs. So that reduction of 119 tons translates into a savings of approximately $11,000 for the year in disposal costs alone.
A combination of many factors made this happen. Egremonters actively participate in many easy-to-use trash diversion programs. At the top of the drive up to the Egremont Transfer Station is the community compost station, where residents bring kitchen scraps in compost buckets (provided free by the town).
Kitchen scraps and leftover food, on average, represent almost 15 percent of household trash by weight, according to Environmental Protection Agency data from a few years ago. Yard trimmings are another 14 percent, approximately. So household biodegradables really add up. In addition, Egremont has a wonderful Swap Shop, where residents bring for reuse household items, clothing and other textiles too good to be discarded. Textiles in the waste stream represent 4 percent of trash.
On top of all that, Egremont’s Transfer Station operator Bill Wood answers the many trash and recycling questions that come to him during the course of his day in the field.
Egremont residents care about the sustainability of our planet and have incorporated environmentally friendly practices into their day-to-day lives. Whether it is the purchase of an electric car, consuming less, producing less trash or investing in solar for their homes, Egremont residents just get it.
With that “good for the planet” mindfulness, members of the Egremont Green Committee and Egremont resident Hinda Bodinger will soon be launching another waste reduction program. It is called the Egremont October Plastic Reduction Challenge, and it will seek participation from Egremont residents to reduce purchases that involve plastic packaging. The project will include daily emails with tips on ways to reduce plastic consumption and will offer information on alternatives to plastics. Participants will be entered into a daily raffle featuring an assortment of these non-plastic products, with the grand finale being a drawing for a basket generously supplied by Guido’s, our local food market.
As Egremont chips away at trash generation and energy consumption, we hope to show that small local efforts have larger, worldwide benefits. It is said that it takes a village. With gratitude and pride, I say that Egremont is that kind of village.
The Egremont Green Committee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .