Creating Climate Solutions in Plainfield and Marshfield

By Rich Phillips and Jaiel Pulskamp

Over the past 12 years Plainfield and Marshfield community members have been working together on projects to reduce the carbon emissions from municipal building and homes. Through energy audits of municipal buildings and weatherization efforts, they have been involved in efforts to:

  1. Upgrades heating system for municipal buildings to reduce oil/gas use.
  2. Convert streetlights conversion to LEDs.
  3. Install solar to help offset municipal electric use.
  4. Improve public transport, including successfully advocating for the Rte 2 Commuter bus.
  5. Identify potential weatherization problem areas at the home level.
  6. Assist Twinfield School with several infrastructure improvements to reduce fossil fuel use. These included a major correction in the thermal envelope of the elementary wing, the conversion of lighting to T8s and significant reduction on power use and peak power loads. Subsequently the school also completely renovated the heating system saving considerable money and carbon emissions

Many of these projects were completed without a lot of resident involvement. We knew that we needed to make more of an effort to engage the residents to make further progress in meeting local goals for fossil fuel use reduction. This was the basis for the two Town Meeting Day Resolutions, supported by 350Vermont, which both passed unanimously. 

The resolution had two key goals we wanted to focus on. The first section was directed towards developing a coordinated approach among town officials and committees to implement climate friendly options to the extent of their jurisdiction. The second focused on state-wide goals, local goals and local projects supported by 350Vermont. The Resolution included several additional specific projects at Twinfield Elementary and High School, and a  resident weatherization project. A few weeks before Town Meeting, we organized a climate change gathering to collect ideas from the residents. The discussions at this grassroots level allowed people to form new, clearer understandings of the need for local climate action – many went on to become active allies. Through this we developed a stronger local network of climate activists. 

Since the resolution we have formed a Climate Action Team to work in conjunction with our existing Energy Committee to focus solely on Climate Change. That committee began working with Twinfield on the projects identified in the resolution. We became aware of the Climate Economy Model Communities Program by the Council on Rural Development, a grant program to which we applied successfully. One of the attributes in our application that set us apart from others was the passage of the 350Vermont supported resolution, showing resident support for climate action.  

The resolution has been fully supported by our Select Board. Progress under the resolution is being reported on annually by our Energy Committee. We believe we are moving towards an effective transition towards the goals in the resolution with, though there is still much work to do. The Model Communities process is engaging many residents in the Climate efforts and is taking up the efforts at Twinfield identified in the resolution. Working in collaboration with this program and with 350Vermont has vastly increased our local capacity to create climate solutions. Now, with our local network of climate activists strengthened, and a plan to follow, we are truly starting to attend to the work that needs to be done to ensure a livable planet.

For more information on the 350VT Solutions Campaign contact Jaiel@350vt.org.