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Giving change some meaning

Thursday, November 15

Committee seeks to reduce pollution caused by carbon CORRECTION

Williamstown's CO2 Lowering (COOL) Committee's first meeting of the month took place on Wednesday. The day of the event was given incorrectly in yesterday's Eagle. The committee will hold a second event on Nov. 28, which will feature a talk from Nancy Nylen, associate director of the Center for Ecological Technology.

North Adams Transcript

WILLIAMSTOWN — Internet calculators have been spitting out doomsday dates and proper exercise rates for years, but the CO2 Lowering (COOL) Committee is about to recommend a new calculator for people who are curious about quantifying the amount of pollution they cause on a daily basis.

Wendy Penner, a member of the COOL Committee said she hopes the online tool will help inspire residents to make changes that will reduce the size of Williamstown's "carbon footprint."

"It's a really awesome tool that I think will provide a framework for our approaching carbon-reduction campaign," Penner said Wednesday of the carbon-footprint estimator. "It helps to show that little changes can be very meaningful."

Students and administrators working with the Office of Sustainability at the University of New Hampshire recently finished developing the "New Hampshire Carbon Estimator," which the COOL Committee is recommending. A link to the estimator will soon be accessible on the committee's Web site, www.coolwilliamstown.org.

Advertising the estimator is just one part of the committee's latest campaign, which is called the "COOLChallenge." The challenge will invite residents to register at the COOL Web site and pledge to find ways to live in a more "environmentally friendly" way. Penner said the committee is considering providing incremental incentives for participants, such as chances to enter into a raffle and draw for prizes.

"The hardest people to reach will be those who think climate change is such a big issue that there's nothing they can do," she said.

One way for skeptics to learn how small changes can lead to larger differences is to attend one of the committee's potluck dinners this month. The first will be tonight at the First Congregational Church, with supper at 6 and speakers at 7.

Resident Elizabeth Kolbert, known for her columns in New Yorker magazine, will lead tonight's presentation by introducing the details of the COOLChallenge. Then Williams College senior Matthew Baron will continue the discussion, which will end in a question and answer session.

Williams, which has been well-known for its environmental efforts, saw its grade drop from an A-minus to a B-plus in late October after the Sustainable Endowment Institute issued this year's report cards — most administrators blamed the slip on a few new requirements, including one that would have the college increase its support of public transportation.

One administrator told The Williams Record, however, that the college could do little more than it already does in that category since most students walk to where they need to go.

Regardless of the school's imperfect rating, Baron is one example of a student who is making an above-average investment in promoting sustainable living.

"I was working on campus this summer, and had all kinds of free time on my hands, so I decided that I would like to do something productive," Baron said. "I shopped around a little bit to see what community organizers were up to, and I was swept away by the enthusiasm and vision of Wendy Penner and Jane Allen, the COOL Committee president."

Baron said he is prepared to speak to a wide range of community members.

"The program is catered to all audiences, everyone from the hard-core environmentalist to your everyday family," he said. "Carbon reduction options range from something as simple as turning the thermostat down a couple degrees or turning off lights when not in use, to improving insulation in your home.

The point is that whoever you are, there are always steps you can take to improve the world around you.

"In a media world that is obsessed with telling us we are heading for unavoidable catastrophe, we aim to give everyone concrete solutions and help to empower people to be part of the solution."

Penner said she hopes to see at least 20 people attend tonight's potluck. The second supper this month will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 28, and will feature Nancy Nylen, associate director of the Center for Ecological Technology in Pittsfield.

Published Nov. 15, 2007


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