Town of Colebrook, NH, Explores the Feasibility of a Biomass District Energy System

Posted January 30, 2013 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Energy Efficiency, Fossil Fuels

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By Kevin McKinnon, Colebrook Energy Committee

In December, 2011 the Town of Colebrook hired the Biomass Energy Resource Center in partnership with Wilson Engineering to conduct an in-depth feasibility analysis of establishing a biomass district energy system in the Town of Colebrook. Last month that study was completed and is now available on the Town website.

The final 97-page report, funded by grants from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Northern Forest Center, Clean Air-Cool Planet, and First Colebrook Bank details how a woodchip-fired central hot-water boiler plant, located in the Industrial Park, could provide hot water for heating to commercial buildings and homes throughout the downtown of Colebrook via a network of buried pipes. The study also examined how such a project could begin small, beginning with just 41 heat customers and expand to eventually connect over 400 buildings. The report explores the logistics, engineering, and financial viability of such a district heating plant that conceptually would be operated as a heat utility by the Town of Colebrook.  The study concludes that, with some grant funds to lower the project’s initial construction costs, the plant could reliably deliver heat to buildings and homes that choose to connect to the system for less than it would cost to heat their home or building with oil or propane.

Woodchip heating is very common and has been growing in popularity in New Hampshire and Vermont over the past few decades. Today, dozens of schools, hospitals, colleges, and businesses in New Hampshire use boilers fueled with woodchips and pellets to lower their heating bills. Concord Steam, a private company, has operated a biomass district heating plant for over twenty years in Concord, New Hampshire.  Unlike Concord Steam, who pipes steam to dozens of buildings, the proposed district heating plant in Colebrook would use modern hot water pipes commonly used in Europe.

The recently released in-depth study, builds upon earlier preliminary studies, and draws the same end conclusion—that a woodchip fueled districting heating plant is logistically, technology and financially feasible and such a project would generate additional economic benefits. The benefits cited in the study include lower and more predictable energy costs, air quality improvements by reducing the number of small individual boilers in the town, and more dollars retained in the local economy by using local wood fuel.


Mountain Garden Club Completes Educational Rain Garden Project

Posted January 29, 2013 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Conservation

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MGC logoAn address given by Mountain Garden Club president (Gerrie Beck) at the dedication ceremony for the Club’s rain garden installation 

Good Afternoon,

As president of the Mountain Garden Club I would like to welcome you all to this dedication of our newest environmental project, the Rain Garden at Children Unlimited. This project, three years in the making was the idea of John Bruni and design of Ralph Lutjen with untold hours contributed by numerous members of the Mountain Garden Club. It would not have been possible without grants, sponsorships, donations and help from the following: Clean Air-Cool Planet (the sign), the Pequawket Foundation (plantings),  Coleman and Sons (Gravel and Rocks), McSherry’s (plantings), Rock n waters (landscape assistance), Jesse Martin, Friends of Children Unlimited, Russ Lanoie (mulch), and of course our club’s commitment to the environment stewardship and conservation.

This spot was the perfect place to build this rain garden from an environmental standpoint as well as an opportunity to use it as an educational tool for the children who attend school here and to teach the public through the beautiful and instructional sign created by garden club member DD Warren and recent publicity about the dedication. We are happy that Children Unlimited was eager and willing to collaborate with us to build it.

A rain garden is a shallow, constructed depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants & grasses. The rain garden incorporates plants that can thrive in wet conditions.

It is located in your landscape to receive runoff from hard surfaces such as a roof, a sidewalk and a driveway. Rain gardens slow down the rush of water from these hard surfaces, hold the water for a short period of time and allow it to naturally infiltrate into the ground. As a result, it reduces the impact on streams and rivers. An additional objective is that it serves to reduce pollution from entering a water body by plant absorption and metabolism. A rain garden also conserves municipal water resources by reducing the need for irrigation.

Rain gardens are a beautiful and colorful way for homeowners, businesses and municipalities to help ease storm water problems. There is a growing trend by municipalities and homeowners to incorporate natural processes to help relieve flooding and pollution. A rain garden has social benefits as it provides a way to make a positive statement on the environment. This rain garden is intended to be an illustration of a rain garden for people in our community to consider creating one.

The MGC got the idea about a rain garden from a speakers talk on its benefits. The project commenced last year. The Children Unlimited site was considered due to the particular untended area to left of the building that had a depression. After review of the site the project entered into the design phase. The design is configured to be the proper size to deal with the surface water from the roof and a portion of the parking lot. Calculations were made to insure that the rain garden could deal with the water flow. The selection of plants and shrubs was largely based upon hearty plants and shrubs that were suitable for dealing with an occasional wet environment. The inspirational side of the selection took into account the beauty and appearance of the plants and shrubs. After developing an estimate which came in at a sizable cost, the MGC went to the community for help in making the rain garden a reality. The hands on part of the project involved a limited amount of excavation, the addition of loam, placement of plants and mulching. Stonework was added adjacent to the building.

rain garden

A sign was developed and installed to describe a rain garden and recognize contributors. This year the border of the rain garden was improved with the addition of shrubs. This was done to improve the overall appearance.

This project was a major undertaking by the MGC. It represents our recognition of the value of a rain garden to the environment.

Teaching children about conserving the environment and providing opportunities to see organizations as The Mountain Garden Club and Children Unlimited lead that effort, fulfill all of our club objectives to provide horticultural education, civic beautification and environmental stewardship. Our vision is a community where the Mountain Garden Club is recognized as the organization in the Mount Washington Valley for “all things green”.

We are so glad that all of you could attend today’s dedication.

Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council Rain Barrel Workshops

Posted January 24, 2013 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Conservation

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CAC LogoBy Patricia Henighan, Chairperson, Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council and  Gary W. Leather, Member of the Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council

Our Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) has been involved in local watershed protection and education since our founding in 2006. With stormwater pollution as a serious threat to clean water, we became interested in promoting rainwater collection as a way to cut down on overflow. Moreover, we felt it would also appeal to homeowners who want to reduce summer water bills.  Most commercial rainbarrels are prohibitively expensive, so the idea of making your own from a recycled barrel seemed even more enticing. We envisioned it as a way for people in the community to get together, help each other and the environment at the same time.

After doing a training workshop, we visited the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County to pick up some demo barrels and collect advice from their staff and their website. The idea of having some artist-decorated barrels as an extra perk worked as we were lucky enough to have two local artists volunteer for this project. Rain barrelIn addition, we displayed  sample rainbarrels several months before our workshops began at a local library and the Town Hall.  Columnists in the local newspaper featured our project in several issues and the  Earth and Water Festival held in May gave us a free booth. We partnered with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of our county in ordering the rain barrels so that we were able to share the expense of the transportation. 60 barrels were ordered and delivered in March. Four of our council members spent  four sessions preparing the barrels by drilling the holes and assembling the materials for the workshops.

While there was a lot of different sets of instructions available online, we made up our own to be used during the workshop that included tips for care and maintenance of the barrel. We planned four workshops of 15 participants each held in the three villages and one for the Town. The times and days were varied to account for different work schedules. All sign-ups and payment of the $15 fee were handled at the Town Clerk’s Office.  The first session seemed to creep closer with no sign-ups, but then by the last week we had full enrollment! We learned to caution the participants not to keep their supplies sitting close to the hole as retrieving them from the barrel was tricky.


After the first workshop, we ordered more screwdrivers and decided not to have people caulk until they got their barrel home. We also set up the barrels in pairs to encourage the participants to work together as three hands were often necessary for some of the activities.  Information on other ways to decrease stormwater and protect the environment as a homeowner was provided. A large watershed map came with  removable dots for participants to locate their favorite area for fishing or recreation. The workshop ran about an hour with people for the most part talking and laughing together. Many participants signed up for other CAC projects that might come up in the future.

I so appreciated that the rain barrel workshop was offered, what a great way to involve residents in conserving water and reducing runoff.  I liked the hands-on aspect of the workshop, in which we learned how to make it ourselves, so we could leave knowing how to make another one if we wished. -Martha Cheo

I really enjoyed the rainbarrel workshop.  The price was a bargain! ($15 for all the supplies and instruction)  Most rainbarrels cost $100+.   The instructions were easy to follow and the instructors were very helpful and patient.  When I got home, I set up my rainbarrel right next to my garden.  It has been full all summer.  My only concern is there doesn’t seem to be enough pressure so when I attach a hose, very little water flows out. I end up filling water cans or buckets from the rainbarrel and use those to water the garden since using a hose takes forever.  Please keep me informed of future workshops. – Misha Fredericks

Placemaking in a Changing Climate Integrates Adaptation and Revitalization Best Practices

Posted January 10, 2013 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Community Action, Planning

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SHVBy Melissa Everett, Ph.D., Executive Director, Sustainable Hudson Valley

If we hope to take effective action on climate change in today’s resource-constrained world, above all we must work with human factors to draw out creativity and participation  so that citizens can be a full part of their communities’ responses. Placemaking in a Changing Climate is a learning framework, linking climate mitigation and adaptation by exploring how to create livable, vibrant, beautiful communities that are low-carbon and designed for resilience. Adaptable for professionals–or for citizens and political decision makers–the curriculum qualifies for continuing education units for architects, planners, and landscape architects. Created by Sustainable Hudson Valley and the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), this program was rolled out in the Mid-Hudson Valley in 2012 with financial support from Clean Air-Cool Planet‘s Community Catalyst Fund.

A diverse group gathered September 10, 2012 on the shores of the Hudson River at Norrie Point Environmental Center with presenters Phil Myrick, AICP (PPS), Denisha Williams, ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and Melissa Everett, Ph.D. (Sustainable Hudson Valley). The day covered principles such as designing streets for mixed use as places in their own right; cooling strategies using green infrastructure; and lighter, quicker, cheaper “pop-up” tactics for community design. Representing specific properties from the Roosevelt Estate to the Woodstock Library, as well as watershed associations,  landscape architecture firms and local governments, participants brought their own case materials on challenges such as preserving a forest around the public works complex of a sprawling town, educating citizen leaders in the regional Transition Towns network, dealing with civic apathy in floodplain development, and making local solar installations more attractive by integrating them with public art.

CA-CP’s support also allowed us to establish a spring 2013 training session at the State University of New York (SUNY Ulster, April 6) and create marketing materials for additional outreach. Placemaking in a Changing Climate is now available as an introductory workshop, in-depth training and customized local problem-solving workshop throughout the Northeast.

“Helpful, informative, motivating…inspiring!” -Uri Perrin, Executive Director, Honoring Eleanor Roosevelt


A New Year Message

Posted January 2, 2013 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Climate Change

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Adam Markham

Dear friends:

As we look ahead to 2013, we’ve got exciting plans and prospects in the works here at Clean Air-Cool Planet.  For starters, we’ve pared down our programmatic priorities to focus on our thriving national campus climate solutions efforts and our climate impacts and adaptation work.

We’ll remember 2012 as the year that Superstorm Irene showed us all how close to home the effects of climate change can be and just how unprepared most communities in the U.S. are for such impacts.  Our projects with the New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Working Group (NHCAW) and with the City of Bridgeport are helping to develop approaches to increase resilience at the local level— approaches that we think can provide models for communities throughout the Northeast and across the nation.

Also in 2012 we completed a comprehensive assessment of the lessons learned from ten of our biggest community-based programs undertaken over the last six years.  We were able to document real and lasting impacts from Clean Air-Cool Planet’s involvement in more than 150 communities, and draw substantive conclusions that can help community leaders, non-profits like ours, and funders alike sharpen and strengthen their approaches to climate action. One of the biggest lessons learned for us was the importance of going deep and staying involved over the long term—a lesson we will apply in 2013 in the communities of the Piscataqua watershed of New Hampshire and in Connecticut’s coastal Fairfield County.

Last year our campus sustainability program went from strength to strength. A major milestone was reached in October when we launched a new online version of our Campus Carbon Calculator™ in beta. On January 21st, the Campus Carbon Calculator will go live for every campus in the country. More than 90% of the college and university campuses that publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions do so using our Calculator. In 2013 we’ll be expanding the capabilities of this tool and adding new modules that will help accelerate the revolution in campus sustainability.

There was sad news too in 2012. In early September we heard that one of the co-founders of Clean Air-Cool Planet, Ted Smith, had lost his life in a tragic hiking accident in his beloved Montana. Ted was instrumental in creating the vision for Clean Air-Cool Planet and in helping to steer us through our first decade and he was a true climate and conservation leader, to whom many activists, including myself, owe much for the mentoring and sage advice he gave them.

Clean Air-Cool Planet is honoring Ted Smith’s memory through the creation of the Ted Smith Fund for the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders.Our goal is to raise $500,000 for the Ted Smith Fund to enable us to double the number of CA-CP Summer Climate Fellows we can support during the next five years.  Our Climate Fellows program has become one of our biggest successes, with nearly 50 Fellows undertaking challenging and impactful projects during its first five years.

To all of our friends and supporters, I’d like to extend our warm wishes for a very happy 2013. Please be on the lookout over the next several weeks for more updates, as well as a redesigned website that we hope will showcase our successes and highlight our most popular resources.

Yours truly,
Adam Markham
President, Clean Air-Cool Planet

Community Catalyst Fund Grant Helps Launch Major Renovation Project

Posted December 18, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Planning, Uncategorized

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armoryBy Michael Blakeney, Good Profit

Good Profit, the non-profit organization dedicated to public projects in architecture and design, public health and agriculture, has won approval from the New Rochelle City Council to move ahead with its plan to renovate the Echo Bay Naval Armory in New Rochelle, New York.

Clean Air‐Cool Planet’s Community Catalyst Fund support made our conceptual design and the production of a 72-page bid book capturing our work possible. The Armory renovation will save historic structures, create jobs, make the waterfront accessible to the public, establish a center for education and local/regional produce and cuisine. New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said, “Good Profit brings to New Rochelle a compelling and exciting concept with enormous potential to activate our waterfront and energize our entire community. The New Rochelle City Council was greatly impressed by the broad and deep experience of Good Profit’s first‐rate development team, and we look forward to working in partnership to achieve this ambitious vision.”

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Who benefits?

  • Residents of New Rochelle (75,0000, bordering New York City and 17 miles from mid‐town)
  • Residents of Westchester and Fairfield Counties and the region including New York City (Over 10,500,000 people live within 25 miles of New Rochelle
  • Culinary community
  • Veterans and their families
  • New Rochelle schools
  • Regional farmers
  • Regional restaurants

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Echo Bay Armory Programming

  • 49,000 square feet of space on three waterfront acres, walking distance from the transit center
  • Anchor of the Armory will be restaurant experiences orchestrated by award-winning chef Jeremiah
  • Tower, our executive culinary director
  • Restaurants and vendors serving and selling locally-raised and harvested foods
  • Indoor open market
  • Farm and food distribution depot, helping to improve distribution of locally-grown food
  • Programming for veterans including job training
  • Commercial office space
  • Exhibition hall and special events venues
  • New Rochelle city bike program
  • Aquaponics and education programs
  • Employment
  • Financial and Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

The development of the Armory and its site will be designed to promote environmental sustainability. Wherever feasible, renewable energy systems will be utilized for the production of thermal and electric energy. The project will also seek LEED certification.

About Good Profit

Good Profit brings together ideas, expertise and funding that work together to promote transformational projects in architecture and design, public health, and agriculture. We take the best practices from the non‐profit and private sectors to achieve outstanding results for the common good. State and local governments are strapped for cash. At the same time the private sector is not investing in public works at significant levels. There is a tremendous need to leverage expertise and resources across all sectors of the economy to get major projects accomplished. We can do that. Good Profit brings multiple stakeholders to the table. We listen carefully. We look for the intersection of mutual interests that can bring diverse parties together.

Good Profit is fiscally sponsored by the Open Space Institute as part of its Citizen Action Program.

Community Catalyst Fund Supports Development of the Southern Westchester Energy Action Consortium

Posted December 17, 2012 by coolplaneteditor
Categories: Community Action

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SWEACBy Nina Orville, Executive Director, Southern Westchester Energy Action Consortium

The Southern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (SWEAC) utilized the $2,500 grant received from Clean Air-Cool Planet’s Community Catalyst Fund to support a successful organizational development project to chart a new phase in SWEAC’s development.  SWEAC began in 2010 as an informal collaboration among Southern Westchester municipalities to accelerate progress towards municipal sustainability.  The recent planning process established a pathway to formalize the inter-municipal initiative while maintaining a streamlined approach to administration.SWEAC event

SWEAC engaged the services of Penn Flood Consulting for this project and created an organizational development task force that included representation from elected officials, municipal staff and volunteers and the Westchester Community Foundation, a SWEAC funder.

The process resulted in a recommendation to involve participating municipalities directly in the ongoing governance of SWEAC while continuing to use the services of a fiscal sponsor.

These recommendations will maximize the impact of SWEAC’s efforts and position the consortium for continued success.