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Between the Rows: Local groups spearhead sustainability efforts, on Earth Day and every day

  • Two PV Squared workers install solar panels on a local rooftop. PV Squared’s Anna Mannello says the electricity generated from all the solar panels the Greenfield-based company has installed since 2002 is 54,812,000 kilowatt hours’ worth, which is equivalent to an estimated 38,760 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Courtesy photo/PV Squared

  • PV Squared, a Greenfield-based solar energy company, has grown substantially since its founding in 2002. Today it has 44 workers, with 29 owner-workers. Courtesy photo/PV Squared

  • Tom Sullivan envisions creating a pollinator corridor in Greenfield, which would begin at the pollinator garden he and Nancee Bershof designed in front of the John Zon Community Center. Said garden includes native bee balm, pictured. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman


For the Recorder
Published: 4/19/2019 5:46:42 PM

Forty-nine years ago, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson thought about the disastrous 1969 oil spill near the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., and decided that more attention needed to be paid to environmental problems. Thus, he planned a national teach-in on the environment.

What Nelson arranged, with help from Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey and Denis Hayes of Harvard University, was the inaugural Earth Day, which will be celebrated on Monday.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans, young and old, took to the streets and auditoriums to speak about the environmental problems they faced. I myself was at a rally in West Hartford, Conn. that day.

By the end of that year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been created and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts had been passed by Congress.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, and 200 million people in 141 countries participated. Today, more than a billion people celebrate Earth Day and look for ways to protect our environment.

Locally, we have Nancy Hazard, who worked with many others to create Greening Greenfield, which aims to foster a more resilient and sustainable community. In 2010, Greenfield was among the first Massachusetts communities to be designated as a Green Community.

The Greening Greenfield website lists many ways we can lower our energy costs, and the programs that will help us make use of solar energy in our homes.

One environmental problem is the loss of many species of birds, animals and other creatures. Greening Greenfield has invited Tom Sullivan of to talk about a pollinator corridor. On his recent trip to Ireland, he was inspired by their countrywide pollinator plan, which supports pollinators that are vital to food production. He now has a vision of creating a pollinator corridor in Greenfield.

Such a corridor would begin at the pollinator garden he and Nancee Bershof designed in front of the John Zon Community Center, and be planted to Energy Park with the help of volunteers. To celebrate Earth Day, Sullivan will speak at the community center today from 1 to 4 p.m.

Another upcoming Greening Greenfield event is a discussion of the book “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” edited by Paul Hawken. The event will be held on Monday, June 3, at the Greenfield Public Library. This is an amazing book that devotes two pages to each of the 100 challenges that would reduce global warming.

Some of those challenges quickly come to mind: composting, heat pumps, mass transit and green roofs, to name a few. Some are surprising. Think of managed grazing that, by 2050, could result in 16.34 gigatons of reduced carbon dioxide, at the net cost of $50.5 billion and with $735.3 billion in net savings.

I saw this system used at Sidehill Farm in Hawley some years ago. The pasture had been fenced into small sections, and cows were allowed to graze in one section for about two days before being moved to another section. This avoided overgrazing, let more native plants take root and allowed manure to be spread more evenly, improving the soil and the forage without the addition of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. I saw the value to the cows, and to the improved soil and forage, but did not recognize the benefit to the environment at the time.

Readers can choose the fields they are most interested in so the book — which is available at local libraries — is not intimidating. Hazard said, “This is an opportunity for collective learning. We learn what is sustainable together.”

One of the organizations at the forefront of local sustainability efforts is PV Squared, a Greenfield-based solar energy company. The company was founded in 2002 by four owner-workers; today they have 44 workers, with 29 owner-workers.

“Since 2002, the electricity generated from all of the solar systems we’ve installed is 54,812,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is equivalent to an estimated 38,760 metric tons of carbon dioxide,” said PV Squared’s Anna Mannello. Another way of thinking about it is 4,361,467 gallons of gasoline used or 4,942,423,440 smart phones recharged.

Mannello said PV Squared has worked with Habitat for Humanity, installing solar systems on eight local projects including houses on Deerfield Street. Four more projects are in the offing. Their work not only sequesters carbon dioxide, it provides a sustainable home for a family.

There are other organizations that make our area more sustainable, too.

■Just Roots supplies organically grown food that provides food security for many families, and recently installed a 9.1 kilowatt array of solar panels.

■Greenfield Community College teaches an array of classes that include concepts and principles in ecology including ecosystems, population, food production, energy, pollution, technology and resource depletion.

■Community Involved with Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) helps farmers with the business of farming. It also partners with the University of Massachusetts Extension to teach sustainable agricultural practices.

Earth Day is a day to recognize the challenges to our environment, and to encourage the ways we can work every day to protect it. The theme continues on Friday, April 26, with Arbor Day, which will be celebrated from noon to 1 p.m. with a tree planting organized by the Greenfield Tree Committee, the Greenfield Department of Public Works and the Franklin Land Trust. Come join the celebration in front of the Greenfield Post Office.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her website:

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