The Hopkinton Sustainable Green Committee is springing forward with a number of initiatives to protect the town’s environmental health and educate the public how to safeguard resources.
The group originally formed in 2008, but vice chair Rebeka Hoffman said it was reborn in late 2019 after years of inactivity.
“In 2019, I went to a Select Board meeting and in the citizen participation part I said we need to revitalize this,” she said. “Amy [Groves] got on board, and over the summer we met with town manager Norm Khumalo and [assistant town manager] Elaine Lazarus, and slowly but surely the wheels of government turned.”
Groves, the secretary, said it was difficult at first to transform the organization into something with a deeper mission “because the committee still existed on paper.”
“It had not met for several years,” she said. “Obviously those previous members were not going to be part of this unless they stepped up. We had to figure out how to resurrect an existing committee, and Norman and Elaine were very helpful in that.”
One thing that surprised Groves was that the town did not have a sustainability coordinator, compared to surrounding towns, she explained.
“When we started this, we knew that some of the previous members and some town employees had done some good work,” she said. “Hopkinton had been designated as a green community years ago, and we have a big residential solar program. A lot of improvements have been made on municipal buildings and in the schools. But aside from that, we had no plan whatsoever for going forward, or the structure and people in place.”
“This was just the right time for us,” added Hoffman. “We had better get our act together as to how we treat the planet. It’s long overdue.”
Outreach has been a key component for the Sustainable Green Committee. It has been networking within Town Hall and beyond to gain momentum.
“We’re finding more and more groups that we need to work with and talk with,” Groves said, noting that the COVID pandemic had slowed the group’s traction in the beginning. “We have been talking with the Select Board, Parks & Rec and the schools. We’re finding that it’s really touching every aspect of residential and business life in Hopkinton.”
Groves pointed out that she and Hoffman are “a study in contrasts,” which reflects the dynamic composition of the 11 current members of the committee.
Chair Andrew Michael Hayes brings another dimension to the leadership team. He works in the water industry and formerly at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and has a background in environmental science. He also enjoys hiking.
“Having the opportunity to help the town is a big step forward,” he said.
“I came to this knowing nothing,” Groves added, “but I realized that I was someone who could keep the wheels moving. Some people have a deep expertise in this area. I just got involved because I have a deep sense of town pride. Maybe that’s a bit of a competitive sense of town pride.”
Hoffman, an avid camper and hiker, said she has been interested in environmental causes since her childhood.
“I preached my first sermon on it when I was a senior in high school,” she said, “but I was concerned long before that.”
Hoffman also has participated in the People’s Climate March.
“But where does the rubber hit the road?” she asked. “It should be right in the town you live in. There’s a whole bunch we can do right here given our government structure.”
One issue that got “folded into” the committee’s work is expanding the town’s recycling program. To that end, in honor of Earth Day on April 22, the Sustainable Green Committee held an electronics and furniture recycling event on April 24 from 9:30 to noon in the parking lot between the Hopkinton Center for the Arts and Hopkinton High School.
“People are always asking how to dispose of things,” Groves said. “They are hungry for information. This provides a great opportunity.”
Another event is a slideshow on sustainable lawn care with Laura Davis and Long Life Farm, a local organic farm.
“One of our efforts in town is looking at toxic pesticides being applied to town land,” Hoffman said. “This is an issue that has already been started in town, so Sustainable Green is helping to move it along.”
Groves said another goal is to work on a net zero implementation plan. One way of achieving this is through a municipal aggregation plan for purchasing energy.
“Almost all of the towns have this already, but we have been severely lagging,” she said. “We would be having the town go to an energy supplier and purchase energy generated by sustainable means — solar or wind. Residents and businesses would continue to have their bills generated from the same distributor as before, but the bill would give us a slightly better rate. And we would have the great satisfaction of having our energy generated through sustainable means, so as long as we do it correctly, it’s a win-win.”
Another huge mission is education, both on a community and a school level, according to Groves.
“We’re finding that a lot of people don’t know what to put into the recycling bin,” she said. “It’s just that simple. People have wildly divergent ideas, and rarely are they correct.”
She added that the group is “sniffing out grants.” One opportunity may be for residential composting bins.
“Composting is really wonderful because it makes something wonderful out of something that you wouldn’t think is useful,” Groves said. “That’s why they call it black gold. If we can get enough people doing it, the cost is really reasonable.”
Organic land care and composting are on the horizon for the fall, Hoffman added.
Interest is growing, according to Groves, and the committee will have to be capped at 16 active members, with the emphasis being on active.
“We are also focusing on data collection and what is possible,” Hoffman said. “We’re still finding our way in some respects. We are certainly interested in hearing from people in the town on their ideas.”