Do Something!

On Jan. 27, 2022, the Cathance River Education Alliance and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust hosted a program offering just a few examples of the many ways to take action to address climate change. Below, you can watch the session (at the bottom of this post), read summary highlights of the program, find resources to learn more, and consider suggestions on how to get involved.

Our guests were:

  • Ashley Krulik, Sustainability Coordinator for the Town of Falmouth
  • Sam Saltonstall, retired teacher who works and advocates for sustainability and climate action
  • Lily McVetty, Efficiency Maine
  • Andy Meyer, Efficiency Maine

Highlights of the session include:

  • “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
  • Individual actions are important, but … according to the experts, changes at the federal level are necessary to create the scale of reductions in greenhouse gases that are needed.
  • The Town of Falmouth has been talking about and planning for climate change since 2007. Efforts driven by citizens who tell staff and town councilors climate action is a priority. Some actions Falmouth has taken include:
    • Energy and sustainability plans for the town and schools
    • Converting to LED street lights
    • Energy audits and associated efficiency upgrades of muncipal buildings
    • Solar panels on town and school buildings
    • Municipal and police EVs (leased at no cost with help from Efficiency Maine and Hyundai)
    • Adding EV infrastructure (charging stations)
    • Programs for seniors and children to enhance resilience
    • Food waste programs and recycling programs for residents and businesses
    • Robust land conservation and trails
  • Current actions by Falmouth include:
    • Vulnerability assessment (broadband access, coastal flooding, etc)
    • Greenhouse gas emission inventory (data collection on natural gas and electricity usage, etc)
    • Updated action plan draft by summer of 2022. Possible priorities:
      • More aggressive carbon reduction goals
      • Increased EV infrastructure
      • Nature-based resiliency measures
      • Electrification
      • Critical infrastructure updates.
  • Sam Saltonstall described his journey from working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions locally (promoting energy efficiency in his community, etc) to recognizing that individual efforts were not enough. He joined the Citizens Climate Lobby and learned how to wield the tools of political action. He continues to work on climate at the local level, but splits his time between that and work to promote federal action.
  • Window Dressers is a Maine nonprofit with a local presence in Brunswick that makes low-cost window inserts with volunteers and those who wish to get them. The inserts increase comfort and lower heating bills. Custom-measured inserts can be purchased and many are made for low-income families.
  • Efficiency Maine has a wealth of resources to improve energy efficiency of individuals, towns, and businesses.
    • Incentives – just a few examples (upper end of range available to low-income residents)
      • $5500 – $9600 for air sealing and insulation homes
      • $1200 – $2400 for heat pumps – people REALLY like heat pumps.
        • Heat pump hot water heaters pay for themselves very quickly ($850 instant discount).
      • $2K – $5500 for an EV
    • Loans
      • Up to $15K for home energy loans – provides resources to make the capital investment needed to get financial benefit of lower energy costs
    • Tax credits for EVs, solar, geothermal
    • Tools and technical information
      • List of registered (certified) residential vendors
      • Suggested questions to ask of vendor and references
      • Charging station locator
Take Action!
  • Communicate the need for action on climate change to your representatives – at all levels. It doesn’t take many phone calls to a local legislator to make a difference.
  • Check out the 16 most effective ways to reduce your emissions and persuade others to do the same.
  • Learn how to be an effective advocate for action on climate at the state and political level.
  • Encourage your town residents and leaders to start planning for climate change, and take advantage of Efficiency Maine municipal incentives. Start an Energy Committee or join Topsham’s Energy Comm.
  • Gather a small group of friends to learn more about climate change, how to take action, and start taking action – together.
  • Organize a community build of window inserts in your community, order window inserts, or volunteer for Window Dressers.
  • Check out Efficiency Maine’s website and read about towns, businesses, and individuals who have benefited from their help. Check out Efficiency Maine’s vendor locator.
  • Install a heat pump (for heat or hot water) using rebates from Efficiency Maine.
  • Weatherize your home with help from Efficiency Maine and Window Dressers.
  • When you replace your car, buy or lease an EV or hybrid with help from Efficiency Maine and federal tax credits.
  • Replace your lightbulbs with $.50 LED bulbs subsidized by Efficiency Maine.

Suggested homework:

  • Tell someone something you learned from this session.
  • Explore Efficiency Maine’s website. Even if you don’t expect to use their programs or information, spread the word to others!
  • Learn what your town is doing about climate change.

Town of Falmouth’s Sustainability webpage

Efficiency Maine website

Window Dressers website

Saving Us –  inspiring book by inspiring speaker and atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe about how to talk to people about climate