Community Foundation grant helps promote climate action.

BY PAULINA ORTIZ ORIVE | August 25, 2023

The Harvard Climate Initiative Committee (HCIC) has added a new project to its Climate Action Plan. The project, Flags Going Green, encourages residents to complete two environmentally friendly actions from among those listed on the Harvard Energize website. They will then receive a flag saying “We are going green” to display in their front lawn to acknowledge their support.

The HCIC has already awarded more than 50 flags and is hoping to reach more neighborhoods to achieve its goal of 200 flags, said Ellen Leicher, the chair of the committee.

This project has been possible through a recent grant the HCIC received from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. The idea is to “make the invisible visible,” said Leicher. “You might put a solar [system] on your house, put in a heat pump, you might drive an electric vehicle, but people don’t see what other people are doing,” she said. The yellow flags with green lettering acknowledges the effort.

On the Harvard Energize website, residents can pick from among 17 actions, which include the ones mentioned by Leicher and others, such as engaging in ecological landscaping, advocating action for climate, and reducing wasted electricity. Afterwards, people can share testimonials on their experiences with these initiatives.

Two examples on the website describe switching to an electric lawn mower. “Battery time is good and getting better but still need to swap batteries to complete yard,” wrote Don L. “I get to take a break when the battery runs out of juice!” said Andrew W.

According to Leicher, neighboring towns have begun to show interest in the project as well. Ac- ton has already started implementing the same flag system, and other towns like Groton are looking into getting started.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be nice on a regional basis, if you drove through these towns and every- body was kind of in tune with climate?” she said. “Climate doesn’t stop at the town line.”

Harvard has not only shared this project with other towns, but also gotten ideas from them. “We learn from each other,” said Leicher.

This new project is only one of many steps the nine members of the HCIC have taken to educate people

about climate action since 2022. In December of that year, their Climate Action Plan was approved by the town. The plan, posted on the committee’s website, suggests actions in six areas: buildings, energy, transportation, natural resources, agriculture, and preparedness. Their overall goal is for residents to reduce carbon emissions and contribute to halting global warming.

Since then, they’ve held multiple events, including open houses during Earth Day, in which residents had the opportunity to visit neighbors who had taken environmentally friendly actions and learn more about how they might implement some- thing themselves.

“We want more people to participate,” said Leicher. “We want people to do whatever they can to ad- dress climate, and we’re giving them the chance to make it a little bit fun.”

When asked about future goals of the HCIC, Leicher spoke about the committee’s efforts to get more people to put attention toward climate issues.

“We’re fortunate in this town, but we’re part of the problem,” she said.

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