OPINION: A Way Forward For A Greener Framingham

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By Mary Kate Feeney

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FRAMINGHAM – As I write this piece on my back porch, my attention is caught by the haze in the air caused by the wildfires on the west coast. Our rainiest July in recent memory may have kept my vegetable garden watered but is a reminder of changing weather patterns. Devastating floods in Europe and China and heatwaves in England further prove climate change is real and here.

Yet, in Framingham our government continues not taking ambitious action making us a greener community.

The Spicer Administration has yet to outline a long-term plan.

The Environmental Subcommittee of the Council hasn’t met since March.

The Mayor-appointed Sustainability Committee hasn’t met, as of my writing.

Solar canopies in the parking lots of Brophy School and Fuller Middle School are delayed.

Top it all off, none of the candidates for mayor have outlined an environmental platform.

And all these frustrations came to head with a passionate debate about the 10-cent bag fee in this week’s Council meeting and in online forums.

In the past year I have written several opinion pieces highlighting my concerns about our lack of action with suggestions on what we can tackle to make up for lost time. Here I am – again – with all those issues still lingering waiting for action.

Is anyone in Framingham’s government interested in building a better future for our kids? Or are you all just going to keep talking about it?

Moving forward, the city must refocus on reducing our carbon footprint by 2030.

The plastic bag ban must remain. It requires us to change our shopping habits, but if residents of 144 municipalities in Massachusetts can do it, so can we.

Keep the 10-cent fee on reusable bags. The Council should outline guidelines on what businesses can do with those funds, encourage the city to apply for a grant to purchase reusable bags to distribute to residents (they did this in Boston), put in enforcement regulations with fines, and waivers for those with EBT cards. Additionally, work with community partners to start a reusable bag sharing program at the library to expand access to these bags.

Develop a plan of action to install solar on municipal properties. Not every building can handle solar on their roofs, let’s look at solar canopies in our parking lots, like at Framingham High School or the Main Library, and cap the old landfill on Mt. Wayte and install solar on the site.

Introduce electric or hybrid vehicles into the city fleet and install charging stations in Downtown. We have one charging station at Farm Pond, which is nice. Installing charging stations in Downtown Framingham will encourage people to visit shops and restaurants in the area.

Launch the bike sharing program. Announced at a celebration in November of 2018, the city granted a two-year license to Boston startup Zagster to bring its intercity bicycle-share system to Framingham. Bikes have yet to appear; now is the time to properly launch the program.

Speaking of bikes, time for the Council to approve the Sidewalk, Bike and Trail Advisory Committee that was proposed in March. We need residents, especially bike and outdoor enthusiasts, involved with developing our trail system. Once this is approved, let’s get them to work with the Spicer Administration on drafting an ambitious multi-year plan to acquire, design and open the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and the Upper Charles Rail Trail.

Establish food waste drop off or composting programs such as Wellesley’s Food Waste Drop Off program that takes food scraps and sends it to an anaerobic digester where they are converted to electricity. When I lived in Nova Scotia 15 years ago, separating our organics from other recyclables and trash was already a way of life. And we should create a swap/reuse program for items at the Recycling Center.

Back in the early 1990’s, my friends and I “adopted” Angelica Brook through a statewide nonprofit to keep it clean, and marched through our neighborhood on Earth Day to raise awareness of the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.

The 10 year old me was focused on doing what she could to save the planet, and probably thought this issue would be managed by the time she was in her late 30s. But here I am, still talking and writing about those very issues. I cannot let 10 year old me down, but more importantly I remain focused on leaving a better Framingham for today’s kids.

We cannot let them down. We owe it to all our kids to act. Today!

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Mary Kate Feeney, a resident of Pheasant Hill, is a candidate for District 3 Councilor and a former aide to Governor Deval L. Patrick.

editor

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