Wellesley Sustainability Director Marybeth Martello says the biggest surprise for her in working on the town’s newly released Climate Action Plan was that “So many Wellesley community members are concerned about climate change. They are eager to understand what the town is doing and learn the steps they can take to address this crisis.”
The point of both is that the town seeks to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with reduction goals of 50% (by 2030) and 75% (by 2040) along the way. To do that, the town government, local business, and residents will all need to do their part.
The town has been leading by example, and on the way are the electrification of Town Hall, sustainable designs for the new school buildings, and a big new solar installation atop the Boston Sports Institute at 900 Worcester St.
There’s lots of Annual Town Meeting action that will support Climate Action Plan goals.
One warrant article aims to put Martello even more firmly in the center of town government by having her report to Wellesley’s executive director rather than the Climate Action Committee. Other warrant articles propose to outfit Wellesley High with LEDs and amend the zoning bylaw with new sustainability provisions, including those that make heat pump installation easier and less expensive. Sustainable Wellesley‘s Mary Gard had raised the heat pump issue with the Planning Board back in the summer, pointing out that the current bylaw is outdated in lumping in quiet heat pumps with noisy HVAC systems.
The town’s “leading by example” that we’re trying to learn from is getting those big anonymous gifts or state grants that it then uses to buy electric police vehicles or heat pumps. If a donor wants to replace our gas guzzlers with free EVs, we’re all ears.
While such freebies are unlikely for residents (there are rebates and other incentives), the Climate Action Plan does have a series of actions in mind to help residents go greener. These include establishing a “climate coach” program to help homeowners go all-electric, and working with realtors to disclose home energy ratings when properties are listed.
Buildings, which account for two-thirds of emissions in town (nearly 40% of that is residential), are one of six main focus areas of the plan:
The plan lays out goals and proposed actions in each area. Members of the Climate Action Committee are working on mini-playbacks on assigned areas to bring these goals and actions to fruition in coming months.
Several climate actions in the plan are already underway. “The Town of Wellesley is taking a lead-by-example role in areas of energy, buildings, mobility, natural resources, waste, and governance,” Martello says. “At the municipal level, we are exploring solar and battery storage projects, creating a voluntary energy reporting program for large commercial property owners, examining opportunities for municipal electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, practicing sustainable landscaping, promoting our Recycling and Disposal Facility, and integrating climate action into budgeting and programming.”
On the RDF front, the town plans to launch an app on Earth Day in April, renew outreach to new residents, and encourage those who do use curbside haulers to at least supplement that with RDF visits for yard waste, scrap metals, e-waste, and other items that contribute tons of material to the RDF.
Martello says Wellesley’s efforts extend beyond town borders. Wellesley is active at the state level advocating for communities like ours that have municipal light plants to have more access to state initiatives to buy wind- and hydro-powered electricity (more than half of electricity consumed in
Wellesley is already generated from carbon-free sources). The town also supports development of an opt-in net-zero building stretch code.
“We can’t do it alone—we need every resident, business, and institution to take climate action,” Martello says.