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Working for solutions to the climate crisis

Green Newton board member Beverly Craig kicks off the open meeting at Newton City Hall that sought to find local solutions to help combat climate change.
Green Newton board member Beverly Craig kicks off the open meeting at Newton City Hall that sought to find local solutions to help combat climate change.Photos by Nicole Havens for The Boston Globe

Newton residents filled the War Memorial Auditorium of City Hall one day this fall to discuss practical solutions they can take to combat the climate crisis, highlighting the need for education and advocacy.

Local nonprofit Green Newton brought about 80 people together from the community for its first open meeting on Nov. 19 after hearing many residents ask what they can do.

“We have to know that there are solutions, and we’ve got to do everything in our power to make those solutions happen,” said Marcia Cooper, president of Green Newton.

Participants — everyone from students and parents to retirees — formed “Green Action Teams” that will meet monthly in 2020. The teams include Transportation & Electric Vehicles, Home Efficiency & The Modification of Home, Advocacy & Initiative, Youth Education & Schools, Reduce Reuse & Recycle, and Food as Climate Action.

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Each team shared ways people can reduce their carbon footprints, such as bringing reusable mugs to coffee shops, participating in “Meatless Monday,” and switching from gas to electric stoves.

Philip Warburg, a senior fellow at the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy who lives in Newton, noted that taking these personal steps contributes to solving the larger problem of the climate crisis.

“I think there’s no question that we’re in the midst of a huge transformation in terms of our global climate,” Warburg said. “Certainly, in the Boston area, the impacts of climate change will be felt in the coming years and decades.”

He said one of the smallest and most effective things someone can do is to stop using a clothes dryer, as it is “about the most energy-consuming appliance in our home.” His family hang-dries their clothes, which he said also saves money.

Warburg said another step that people can take is choosing public transportation or walking to Newton villages rather than driving. He stressed finding alternatives to cars because “transportation right now is the largest single energy-consuming sector in the United States.”

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“If each of us can do something to reduce the carbon footprint of our mobility, we’re doing a lot toward addressing the climate change issue,” Warburg said. “It’s not divorced from the bigger picture, it’s very much part of the bigger picture.”

Cooper said it’s essential to learn sustainable living strategies so you can share them with others.

“Once we become educated as individuals, then we can carry on conversations where it can inspire people and open their eyes to things that they didn’t realize they could do, easy steps that they can take to make a difference.” Cooper said.

Oliver Nichols, a senior at Newton South, brought his mother and brother to the open meeting after hearing about it in his sustainability class.

“I feel like it’s important to think about and know more about,” Nichols said, “especially because we’re going to end up being the people who have to deal with it.”

Newton Highlands resident Amy Plotz, who has already taken steps such as installing solar panels and backyard composting, attended because she wanted to learn how she could do “a little bit extra.”

“I think everybody needs to start doing their part to reduce carbon emissions,” Plotz said. “That’s sort of why I’m here, because I have a pet peeve right now with everyone idling, looking at their cellphones while they’re sitting in parking lots.”

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Some Newton residents at the event said they had devoted their retired life to the local efforts.

Meira Appell said she recently retired from being a schoolteacher partly because she felt “climate change was such a pressing issue and I wanted to devote my time to that.”

Cooper, who is a retired art teacher and has been president of Green Newton for 11 years, said the organization’s initiatives to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and educate others has become a “major priority” in her life. But fighting climate change requires the help of the community.

“It’s a daunting task, but so what?” Cooper said. “It’s like, What are you going to do, just sit back and say it’s hopeless? No, it feels really good to participate and to make one step at a time.”

To learn ways to help the environment, visit Green Newton’s website at www.greennewton.org.


Nicole Havens can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.