Just Beyond the Ivory Tower

McGlynn Elementary School, Medford, MA

By: Cammy Peterson

Ever since returning to academia as a graduate student at Tufts University’s Medford, Massachusetts campus, I have reentered both the glorious exchange and isolating vacuum engendered by the ivory tower. I have learned gobs about clean energy innovation and climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. And, I’ve loved it. Yet, I was unaware of the impressive energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) efforts being implemented in my own backyard by Medford’s public schools.

I had no idea that five Medford schools had avoided over 1,300 metric tons of carbon pollution since 2007. Though I’d heard whisperings of a wind turbine at a Medford school (which turns out to be McGlynn Elementary School), I was unaware that the town is currently installing 700 kW of solar panels. These initiatives have all occurred since Medford joined the EPA’s Community Energy Challenge in 2007.

Currently, I am serving as an intern in EPA Region 1’s Energy and Climate Unit. I have been fortunate in this position to gain insight into some exciting municipal energy endeavors. Many of these have been spurred by EPA New England’s Community Energy Challenge, a program unique to the region. As the EPA New England website describes, the Challenge “is an opportunity for municipalities across New England to identify simple and cost-effective measures that increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use while reducing air pollution and saving money.” Communities that seek to undertake the challenge and attain EPA recognition for their efforts embark on a four-step process. They pledge to assess municipal energy use and set a baseline and reduction targets. They track this assessment using the free Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. Lastly, communities like Medford are encouraged to collaborate with utilities and organizations like Clean Air-Cool Planet to explore EE and RE opportunities, and to let EPA know when they succeed.

Medford’s motivation to make a difference helped them to secure funds from National Grid and a federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant to support their energy saving programs. EPA has recognized the schools for finding efficient ways to upgrade lighting and remote Energy Management Systems, and to shut off computers and the heat after the school day ends, among many other initiatives. EPA and Medford are obviously proud of all they have accomplished. I’m proud of Medford too, and plan to make sure my classmates know of the energy revolution happening right under their noses.

About the Author: Cammy Peterson is an intern with the Energy and Climate Unit in the Office of Ecosystem Protection at EPA New England. She is a graduate student in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning focusing on climate change and clean energy policy at Tufts University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and previously worked on environmental legislation for the New York State Assembly.

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