All Things Sustainable

By Mark Sandeen, Chair, Sustainable Lexington Committee  |

Are you curious whether solar power makes sense for your home? How you can lower your energy bills? How our local climate is changing? Will electric cars make a difference? How safe is our water supply? Should I buy my food locally? Send your sustainability questions to and we’ll have the Sustainable Lexington committee get back to you.

Q: Do we have enough sunshine to make solar power practical in Massachusetts? Can solar power really make a difference?

A:  Yes and Yes. The Boston area is a great location for solar installations. A solar energy system installed in the Boston area will generate almost as much electricity as the same system would generate if it was installed in Sacramento – just 11% less. A Boston area installation will generate only 19% less than if the same system was installed in Reno, Nevada. Interestingly, that same Boston area installation will generate almost double the energy compared to the same installation in Germany.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report this week “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis” that shows just how amazing the solar and renewable energy potential in Massachusetts truly is.

NREL has determined that utility scale and rooftop solar power installations have the technical potential to deliver 111,398 GWh of electricity each year. To put that into perspective, Massachusetts consumed 57,123 GWh of electricity last year. That means solar power from Massachusetts has the potential to deliver almost double the electricity we are using today!

If you’d like to learn more about solar power, join us for a viewing of the documentary film “Here Comes the Sun” on September 12th at 7:30PM in Cary Library followed by an update from our solar energy task force outlining the Town of Lexington’s solar energy progress. This event is sponsored by Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition. For more information go to Admission is free and open to the public.

Q: I noticed that Lexington’s Board of Selectmen issued a letter to support the reduction of mercury pollution from power plants. Is mercury pollution a concern here in Lexington?

A: Yes. Mercury pollution, much of it coming from coal-fired power plants, represents a particularly widespread threat to families nationwide. A dangerous neurotoxin, mercury poses a particular threat to pregnant women and small children. Exposure affects a developing child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that as many as 1 in 6 women of childbearing age have high enough mercury levels in their blood to harm a developing fetus.

As of 2010, all 50 states have fish consumption advisories in place to warn residents of the potential health effects of eating fish caught from local waters. Of these advisories, 81% were issued in part because of mercury pollution accumulated within the aquatic food chain.

Reducing mercury pollution from coal power plants will result in as many as 11,000 lives saved, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks prevented every year!

Clean, healthy air and water are fundamental American rights. The mercury and air toxic rules supported by the Board of Selectmen will also reduce exposure to a host of other health-threatening toxics, including arsenic, cyanide, chromium and acid gases.

Feel free to contact us at We look forward to hearing from you.



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All Things Sustainable

By Mark Sandeen  |
Chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

The Colonial Times is starting a new column this month focused on sustainability.
Curious whether solar power makes sense? How you can lower your energy bills? How our local climate is changing? What we can do to avoid flooding? Will electric cars make a difference? How safe is our water supply? Should I buy my food locally? Ask your sustainability questions here and we’ll have members of the Sustainable Lexington committee get back to you.



Q:     Can you tell me a little bit about the Sustainable Lexington Committee?

A:      The Sustainable Lexington Committee was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to enhance the Town of Lexington’s sustainability and resilience in response to environmental, resource and energy challenges. We’re a group of town residents who are passionate about creating a sustainable future in Lexington and believe that effort will also improve our quality of life.

Q:     That’s a pretty broad charter. What does that mean in practice and where do you start?

A:       We believe we’ve got to set priorities if we’re going to be effective. We are always looking towards the areas where we can have our biggest impact. Currently our top two priorities are energy and water. When we look at energy, we look at the energy used in our buildings. About 60% of all of Lexington’s energy is used in our buildings and the biggest portion of that energy is used to heat and cool our buildings. So that’s an important focus.

When we think about water, we remember the spring of 2010 when most of Lexington experienced flooded streets and many of us had storm water and/or sewage flooding our basements. Shortly after that our main water supply was interrupted and we had to boil our drinking water. It reminded us of how important our water infrastructure is.

Q:     What are you doing to address energy issues?

A:        We think improving the energy efficiency of our homes is probably the single most important action any of us can take to create a more sustainable future and it is also happens to dramatically reduce our energy bills. I’ve cut my energy costs in half in the last year and my house feels warmer and more comfortable than it did before!

We think this type of result is possible for many homes in Lexington and we’ve made arrangements for two local companies, Sagewell and Next Step Living, to provide free energy assessments for Lexington residents as a way to help you get started. You can get more details at

Q:     How would I know when it is time to replace my heating system?

A:       Is your furnace or boiler old enough to vote? It’s time. Are you on a first name basis with your repair man? It’s time. Can you hear (or feel) your heating system kick on no matter where you are in your house? It’s time. Are your heating bills skyrocketing? It’s time.

Heating systems have had dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and reliability over the last two decades and they run a lot quieter than older systems. Plus there are great incentives and rebates available from the federal government, from the state, and from NSTAR/National Grid for installing a high efficiency system.

You can get a zero-interest, no money down, HEAT loan from MassSAVE that covers the entire cost of installing a new heating system. That means you won’t have any out of pocket expenses and you’ll lower your energy bill. How can you beat that?

Q:     How is the town performing today and how can we tell if we’re improving?

 A:     As part of this column we’ll be providing examples of how individual residents are making significant changes while improving quality of life and reducing costs. We’ll also be providing regular updates on the town’s overall performance. Over the past few years, our buildings have consumed an equivalent of about 21 million gallons of gasoline. About half of that energy is consumed by commercial/ municipal buildings and about half is residential.

By improving the performance of our homes and increasing the town’s use or energy from renewable resources, we’re confident that we can reduce our consumption levels by 20% over the next ten years. We’ll keep you up to date on how we’re performing against this target.


So please send us your questions and tell us your stories of improvements that you have made via email at or via Twitter @LexSustain. We look forward to hearing from you.


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