By James Niedzinski
---- — MANCHESTER — The town that established — then postponed — a ban on the single-use plastic bag is taking new steps toward being recognized as a designated “green community,” while students at Manchester Essex Regional High School are stepping up their environmental efforts, as well.
The application process to make Manchester a state-designated Green Community is underway, and the deadline is approaching. The application is due toward the end of the month, said first-year Town Administrator Gregory Federspiel — whose previous town of Lenox had gained “green community” status.
The bid in Manchester comes as the town prepares to implement its ban on the distribution of thin-filmed plastic bags by local businesses —a step that gained approval at Town Meeting in the spring and was slated to begin July 1. It was then postponed to allow businesses to unload the remaining bags they had on hand.
It also comes on the heels of an energy audit by Guardian Energy Management Solutions. The town is in the process of getting a report on where the town can save energy dollars, Federspiel said.
”The global view is that there are certainly some areas to save some money,” Federspiel said.
One of the biggest opportunities locally is at Memorial Elementary School, he said, and the Manchester Essex Regional School Committee is weighing its energy-efficient options for the aging Memorial School, as well.
Other energy-savings opportunities include a better heating system for the town’s fire department, and new pumps and wastewater installations for the Department of Public Works, Federspiel said.
Energy-saving measures would require town investment, Federspiel noted.
“It costs money to save money,” he said.
He added, however, that if the town gains state recognition as a “green community,” grant money from the state could be used to fund those improvements; earlier, town officials estimated that some $135,000 in state energy grants could be flowing Manchester’s way if the town gains the designation.
The state’s Green Communities Designation and Grant Program, run through the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, has already helped 110 cities and towns — including Gloucester — earn green community designation.
More than $20 million from those Green Community grants is already at work in 103 communities. Cities and towns, however, must continue to show documented efficiencies and savings to maintain their continuing grant eligibility. In Gloucester’s case, for example, that means documenting savings and efficiencies through its wind turbine project.
Meanwhile, Green Scholars in a program at Manchester Essex Regional High School are still living up to their name.
Today, around 30 students will take part in a “green apple” service day, with students dedicating the day to cleaning local beaches.
MERHS juniors Oliva Lantz and Sam Koufam noted that the school — whose colors are green and white — has been recognized as environmentally friendly and has received a national Green Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education.
“One thing that’s unique about our program, it’s really student-oriented,” Kousam said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.