My Turn: To become a Climate Leader


Published: 04-21-2024 10:26 AM


When I was a working stiff, the company I worked for (for 39 years!) had a motto: “Never sacrifice the long term for the short term.” This successfully carried the family-owned horticultural company into its fourth generation of leadership. I took it as my own, and it has provided me with good health and good finances past my 70th birthday.

Ashfield is now facing the long term with a clear eye and a positive outlook. They are ready to tackle the tough but rewarding job of becoming a Climate Leader Community.

What does this entail? Making a plan to quit burning fossil fuels over the next 25 years in our town buildings and vehicles. Nothing drastic or overnight: We will just go for the more sustainable options when equipment is due for replacement. The way prices are coming down — for electric vehicles, heat pumps, solar panels — it may also turn out to be the cheaper option, too.

We can offset a very large part of the cost, too. Grants are available, especially if we can gain the Climate Leader designation. Easier to get if we can get in at the head of the line (if we wait, won’t we then be more of a Climate Follower?).

And solar panels pay for themselves in just 7-9 years, with loan payments covered by the electrical cost savings, and 15-20 years of nearly cost-free “gravy” after that. It also involves a small change to the building codes.

If you are building a big house, 4,000 square feet or more, you will need to add a solar array to cover your energy needs. You can still have a propane furnace and gas stove if you want, but the wiring has to support an all-electric option for the future. This will pay back in resale value in the long run, and the solar array will pay back with free electricity in the medium term. Newly built but smaller mixed-fuel houses are only required to have the wiring and a small solar array that will partially offset their needs. And shady properties can get exemptions and can buy into community-owned arrays.

So yes, we are going to ask people to join us in investing a little more now for substantial payback in the future. My company had another slogan: “Do the right thing.” Not only do these plans make financial sense for the residents of Ashfield, but we can take pride that we are not part of the problem of climate change, but part of the solution.

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Ellen Leue lives in Ashfield.