Williston hosts first community forum on sustainability

Groups hope to conduct forums in other towns

By Colin Ryan
Observer correspondent

A computer and monitor left on all the time produces more than 1,000 kilograms of harmful greenhouse gas emissions in just one year. An old toilet uses three gallons per flush, double the amount used by the newer, more efficient models.

These facts and others were presented to visitors at a Community Sustainability Forum held in Williston Town Hall on July 19. The forum was co-sponsored by Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), Alliance for Climate Action (ACA), 10% Challenge, and Vermont Earth Institute (VEI). The District said this was the first of a series of forums to be held around the county, in order to raise awareness on sustainability.

Representatives from the organizations staffed booths filled with information about practices that people can employ if they want to be more environmentally responsible. The District encouraged using its ‘Local Color’ paint, which is re-blended from disposed paint collected at the CSWD Environmental Depot. By not having to barrel it and dispose of it as hazardous waste, the paint is better for the environment, and it is affordable due to the avoided disposal costs.

“I thought it would be a ‘you get what you pay for’ product, but that wasn’t the case,” said Williston resident Don Gaffney. “My son used it all through a new house he built in Starksboro. It’s very good paint, covers well, and looks great when it dries.”

Though the event was only moderately attended, the various representatives were positive. They explained that the event had already generated a lot of interest, and were trying to get people involved in the conversation of how to reduce one’s environmental impact.

“This is the first forum we’ve held here in our home town,” said Marge Keough, business outreach coordinator for CSWD. “And it’s the first step in our formal approach to go town by town and get the information out there. We’ve already gotten requests to hold the forum in Burlington, South Burlington, and Shelburne. We hope to hold these a couple times a year, per town.”

A District spokesperson said they hope people will take the advice to heart.

“We’re hoping that people will take home tools and ideas, and plug them in to how they make decisions,” offered CSWD Marketing and Communications Coordinator Clare Innes. “Everybody can benefit from this information, without feeling like they’re being forced to give up their lifestyles. What we’re hoping to do is help people see how simple it is. It doesn’t take more thinking; it just takes smarter thinking – a different kind of thinking. How can I take this area, and use it to reduce the amount of energy I expend?”

Innes referred to the idea of the carbon footprint, which is the amount of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) emitted through the combustion of fossil fuels as demanded by an individual as part of his or her daily life. For example, when you buy local goods, you decrease the amount of emissions resulting from the transportation of that item from production to the place of purchase.

Numerous other suggestions were presented, including:

When you purchase a product in a plastic container, think about if that container is recyclable, or bound for a landfill.

Reduce construction waste, which makes up a huge portion of the waste stream.

Buy locally. Transportation creates much of the pollution in Vermont.

Use non-toxic household cleaners, or make your own. Both are just as effective as harsher chemicals.

Consider paving your driveway with permeated concrete, which allows rainwater to absorb into the ground, instead of running into the stormwater drains, a process that tends to pick up oil and other pollutants, and carry them to the lake.

Of course, with so many possible ways of changing your habits, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. For that reason, presenters went out of their way to remind people that a tiny lifestyle change can add up to a significant difference.

“Take one focus at a time,” Innes said. “When I purchase groceries, I can always bring my own bag. And composting is really easy because you don’t need a backyard to do it. You get the bucket, peel your vegetables into it, and then bring it to our drop off site. By doing that, you can keep 600 pounds of trash a year out of the landfills.”