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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kennebunk Selectmen Sign Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement

Kennebunk is now officially the fifth town in Maine to sign onto the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. Thanks to the efforts of members of the Sustainable Energy Alliance, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to sign the Agreement and commit Kennebunk to reduce its carbon footprint.

The following press release was written by Sassy Smallman, Public Relations Director of SEA:

The Kennebunk Board of Selectmen signed the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement (MCPA) last night in response to a formal request presented by the Sustainable Energy Alliance, a local citizens’ organization.

Kennebunk is the fifth Maine municipality to sign the MCPA.

Belfast, Biddeford, Portland and Saco signed on last year. As of this week, 408 US cities representing over 59 million Americans have signed the agreement. The MCPA is based on the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect in February of 2005 in the 141 countries ratifying it.

As signers of the MCPA, participating communities commit to taking the following three actions:
  • Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities;
  • Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol -- 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system.

The Sustainable Energy Alliance initially approached the Board of Selectmen about signing the agreement last November. Since that time, a municipal energy committee has been working to assess the town’s energy use. The committee determined that the town can reasonably work toward the U.S. MCPA goals. A big savings in electricity bills was achieved with streetlight upgrades in the 1990s. Other changes that will help Kennebunk reduce its greenhouse gas emissions may include lighting and insulation upgrades in town buildings and a biodiesel test project. At last night’s meeting, Bill Hetzel, on Kennebunk’s energy committee and a member of SEA, gave a detailed report to the Selectmen summarizing the town’s energy use in 1990 compared to projected energy use, efficiency and savings in future years.

Formed last summer, SEA is headed by Rob Bartlett of West Kennebunk. SEA is planning to kick off a yearlong community carbon challenge next month, asking households in the area to take specific steps to fight climate change by reducing their use of fossil fuels. The group is also planning a “Walk for a Change” on Saturday, June 16th.

For more information and to become involved, go to the SEA website at or contact Jennifer Niese via email at SEA’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at Christ Church on Dane Street in Kennebunk.

The meeting will include a presentation on the science of global warming and Maine’s proposed signing of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Will Al Gore's Oscar Spur More Action?

In my opinion, "An Inconvenient Truth" has been a significant catalyst for individuals and community action against the challenge of climate change and global warming. An article in the Maine Sunday Telegram titled "Gore's Truth spurs Mainers to action" (click title to read article) gives excellent examples of how seeing this movie has changed lives and motivated people to find ways to help address this growing threat. You can add me to that list as well.

I saw the movie early last year with my wife. As the credits were rolling and Melissa Etheridge was singing "I Need To Wake Up", we sat there knowing that we had to do something. To try to make a difference, with like-minded friends, we decided to start a grass-roots organization to work against global warming at a local level. The Sustainable Energy Alliance was born.

Our first major project was working with the Sierra Club and others to show "An Inconvenient Truth" to local residents for free. Almost 400 people showed up on a Friday evening last October to see the movie. Almost 100 people stayed after the movie to discuss how to start making the changes suggested by Gore.

Since that time, I have talked to many people about global warming and climate change. It astounds me how many of those conversations start with "I saw Al Gore's movie and I really want to do something about it..."

I hope that the Oscar - and the publicity surrounding it - will convince even more people to see the movie. If the experiences that I've heard from others is at all representative, this will likely spur more people to realize that our course is not sustainable and that changes need to be made.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Global Warming And Your Diet

How much global warming pollution is generated by your diet? Believe it or not, your food choices can make quite a difference.According to the calculator at the Conservation International website, carbon dioxide emissions from each type of diet are as follows:
  • vegan - 2 tons per year
  • vegetarian - 2.7
  • mostly vegetarian - 3.0
  • omnivorous - 3.8

If you are an omnivore, odds are that you will not suddenly become a vegan to reduce your carbon footprint. But, if you can move even slightly in the direction of a vegetarian diet, then you can help to slow global warming and climate change.

Another diet consideration is the distance that your food travels to get to your plate. I blogged about this in my December 12, 2006 post. The "Eat Local Foods Coalition of Maine" lists 10 reasons to buy local foods, including:

  • Locally grown food tastes better.
  • Local food supports local farm families.
  • Local food preserves open space.
  • And the one most pertinence to this subject: Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.

In addition to reducing the amount of global warming emissions required to put food on your table, the site says "[c]over crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry."

If you live in Maine are interested in buying more local food, the Get Real. Get Maine website has a search tool that you can use to find local "Community Sponsored Agriculture" or CSA farms. In my experience, buying a share in the CSA at Wolfpine Farm in Alfred, ME last summer was a fantastic way to eat fresh-from-the-fields, delicious organic vegetables at a reasonable price. It also allowed my family to try vegetables that we'd never even heard of before like bunching leeks and Japanese eggplant!!

So, the next time that you buy groceries or eat at a restaurant, consider the effects of your choices on the environment and on your community.

Bono Talks About Changing The World

I am a fan of Bono. Well, all of U2, really. But one of the things that I admire about Bono is his passion for saving the people of Africa. Some may roll their eyes at this Rock Star/Activist, but I think that Bono is a man who understands that he has a unique ability to talk to the people in power - the ones who can do something about the pain of the African people - people from Strom Thurmond to George Bush to Pope John Paul II.

I recently found a video at the TEDTalks website recorded in 2005 when Bono received a TEDPrize award from the group. He speaks eloquently about the challenges facing Africa and how NOW is the time to solve this crisis. There are two quotes that I find particularly inspiring:

"Idealism detached from action is just a dream, but idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting, is very real, is very strong and very present in a crowd like you."

"There are moments in history when civilization redefines itself. We believe this is one. We believe this could be the time when the world finally decides that the wanton loss of life in Africa is no longer acceptable. This could be the time when we finally get serious about changing the future for most people who live on planet Earth."

I believe that these two ideas are also important for the fight against global warming. Climate change will most effect the poorest people - the people who do not have the resources to deal with the coming changes. As low lying coastal areas are flooded, as prolonged droughts increase, as famines linger - the poor people in Africa and other parts of the world will be the worst affected.

The tide of public opinion is turning. The political will is growing. Like Bono, I believe that we can make a difference. We can redefine ourselves to meet the challenges of helping the world's poor and combating climate change.

Click here to view the video on the TEDTalks website.

One Billion (CFL) Bulbs

On a recent All Things Considered on National Public Radio, there was an interview with Brian Huyser who, after watching a show about global warming on the Discovery Channel, started the One Billion Bulbs website . His goal is to motivate people in the US to repalce 1,000,000,000 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs - resulting in significant savings on electric bills as well as a reduction in global warming pollution.

The project is broken into phases and is currently on Phase 2 - meaning that between 50,000 and 100,000 CFLs have been installed. The interactive map on the home page indicates that Maine is already over its Phase 2 goal. I didn't know that we had a goal, but I am glad that we reached it!!

Signing up is easy. It only requires setting up a free account and recording the number of bulbs that you've installed, the wattage of the old incandescent bulbs, and the wattage of the new CFLs. After entering the CFL information, the site will calculate how much money you will save ($107.05 for one set of CFLs that I entered) and the amount of CO2 saved (964.56 lbs).

Take a few minutes to join the effort. It is easy to think "How much difference can I make?" When you consider the cummulative effect of just replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLS on the One Billion Bulbs website, you can see just how big of a difference is possible. It gives me hope that we can successfully reduce our energy usage and combat global warming.

Click here for the transcript from the 2/8 NPR show All Things Considered.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

SEA in the Portland Press Herald

The Portland Press Herald ran a story that described various examples of "a new trend among Maine's local governments to reduce energy use and environmental damage... Many of those driving the trend say it's a response to a lack of action or leadership on the national level, especially the Bush administration's refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol and regulate global warming pollution."

The Sustainable Energy Alliance got significant coverage in the article:

"I think we're motivated by the slow pace of progress on global warming. The science is so clear now and yet the progress is so slow," said Jennifer Niese of Kennebunk.

"Niese, a biology teacher and the mother of a kindergartner, was one of a group of friends and acquaintances in Kennebunk who last summer started the Sustainable Energy Alliance ( The group made a pitch to the town's Board of Selectmen last fall, pointing out the dollars to be saved from reduced energy use.

Niese expects her town to begin by switching to energy-efficient lighting and computer screens and then move through a list of other improvements that should cost little and save a lot. "There's a lot of opportunity to save money on energy bills before you get into things that require a big investment," she said."

Click here to read the whole article: "Bright Ideas" from the 2/7/07 Portland Press Herald

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stephen Colbert Sides With Climate Change Skeptics?

Here is a great video of Colbert discussing the "need" for a second opinion on Global Warming. I am guessing that this is the approach that the Bush Administration uses to find their "experts."

With all of the bad news about climate change lately, I thought we could all use some humor.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What do YOU think: Global Warming or Climate Change

We here at the Sustainable Energy Alliance have been debating recently about whether "global warming" or "climate change" is a more effective way to frame the current crisis that we face. Does "climate change" seem more scary than "global warming"? Or vice versa? Is "climate change" being used by the skeptics to make the crisis appear less threatening? Is "global warming" simply a less accurate description of what we are facing - since it is expected that some places may become cooler as others warm during the coming century?

Does it even matter what we call it? Do both phrases paint a bleak enough picture that there is no real difference? Does framing really matter?

I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Please click on the word "Comments" below to let us know what you think. Thanks!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ideas for Saving Water from Ideal Bite

The good people over at Ideal Bite have a good post about ways to save water while washing dishes. Check out their site for this and many other tips how living more sustainably.

We recently went a few weeks without an aerator in our kitchen sink. I was amazed at how much higher the flow rate was without the aerator providing back pressure.

I recommend their daily e-mail tip as well. Sign up via the section at the top of there page.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

IPCC Report Due Out Friday

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the first part of it's latest report on global warming and its effects on Friday. This organization of 154 countries - including the United States (which is officially only now beginning to admit that global warming is real) and oil producing states like Saudi Arabia) - must reach consensus on these issues. Therefore, its reports are seen to be extremely conservative estimates of the potential effects of global warming.

According to the Scientific American, early drafts of the report state that "[c]limate change is real, it is already here and its consequences may be worse than anticipated."

It will be interesting to see how this is reported in the media. How much time and credibility will they give to global warming skeptics given the results of this report? Will this add steam to the momentum that is starting to build in the US Congress toward some action on global warming?

For more information, see the IPCC website at .

There is also a good entry about the IPCC in the Wikipedia at .

I hope this this report will further convince people - both ordinary citizens and political leaders - that the time to act is now. Global warming is real. Climate change is already here. The time for action is now.

Please write or call your representatives in Washington DC and demand that the warnings in this report be taken seriously and that legislation be passed this session to mandate reductions of global warming pollution.