After the unusual October 2011 blizzard knocked out power for many of us for a week or more, we have been doing a lot of thinking about energy, our dependence on it, and how we generate it.
The Trustees are already leading by example on this front with an aggressive goal to drastically lower our carbon footprint because energy efficiency is part of what helps preserve resilient landscapes and strong communities in these times of climate change and less-accessible fossil fuels.
That effort includes the amazing transformation of a run down farmhouse in the hills of Ashfield into the super-efficient office and community space that now is the heart of the Bullitt Reservation. This farmhouse serves as a model of energy efficiency. Its air exchange system, electric heat pumps and plentiful insulation keep the interior toasty-warm in the winter with an average of less than $95 in monthly energy costs.
“With the world’s population recently reaching 7 billion people, it’s nice to know we’re playing our small part to lessen the strain on natural resources and local land,” says Mark Wamsley, a staff member of The Trustees working at the Bullitt Reservation, “and to do it with such great comfort and efficiency, it’s encouraging to know that practical options already exist for people to change course in a positive way.”
We know that it will not be the Trustees’ efforts alone that will have the biggest impact in energy usage across the state; success will come when each individual household joins us in decreasing their carbon footprints. We hope that people are inspired by the options we’ve employed at Bullitt, but we also want to encourage everyone to think about their energy usage regardless of whether or not you are able to make similarly sweeping changes to your home. There are many ways to increase the energy efficiency through small, simple steps including:
- Changing out your light bulbs
- Running your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full
- Line drying your laundry or adding dryer balls to your loads
- Improving the insulation in your home
- Plug air leaks in your home
- Unplug appliances you aren’t using
To support our members and friends in your efforts to reduce the energy usage in your homes we have teamed up with the nonprofit Western Mass Saves. They will provide a service to help you see the results of your energy saving efforts by using your own electricity bill to track your usage – and the corresponding savings! We have decided to partner with this program because of the important link between each of us taking on the responsibility of changing our behavior and homes to be more energy efficient, and the opportunity to view and understand the very real, very immediate impacts that our actions have.
The Mass Saves program is available for any WMECO customer free of charge. It will not affect the information or security of your online energy bill, but it provides you with a unique tool for gauging the value of the changes you make in your home. So please take a quick opportunity to sign up for Western Mass Saves, and help us collectively save energy.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to make your home as efficient as it can be, please visit one of The Trustees’ three sustainably-built (or renovated!) buildings:
Bullitt Reservation, Ashfield
The old farmhouse on the Bullitt Reservation has come a long way since it was first built in the 1820’s. After once serving as Ashfield’s town poor farm, and later as the caretaker’s house for the estate of U.S. Ambassador William Christian Bullitt, the quaint and historic cape underwent a deep energy retrofit in 2010. The farmhouse is now open to the public as a showcase for energy-efficient technologies that work for New England homeowners, as it sits lightly on the land amidst 246 acres of protected woods and fields.
Doyle Center, Leominster
Built in 2004, the Doyle Center is a 14,000-square foot, gold-rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building surrounded by tree-lined avenues within Doyle Community Park. With additional meeting space available in two adjacent buildings, the Center serves as an active conference, meeting, and events venue. www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/central-ma/doyle-reservation.html
Appleton Farms Old House, Ipswich
After three years and extensive renovations, the Old House has been transformed as The Trustees’ latest “deep-energy retrofit,” an existing building modified to reduce energy use by 50–75 percent. Old House now makes its own solar electricity and hot water, and the latter system uses a photovoltaic-powered back-up tank on cloudy summer days. On cold days when the boiler isn’t stoked, air-source heat pumps will protect the building from freezing; although with super-insulated walls, floors, and ceilings, the danger is slim. Visitors won’t see many of these innovations just by looking – they’re hidden in the attic, behind finished walls, or under the floorboards. Instead, when they gather here for a workshop or a program, or simply stroll through these rooms on a casual visit to the farm, they’ll take in the expansive view of the pastures from the front porch, peek into that closet from 1794, and savor the afternoon light streaming in from that 1880s-era bay window – just as generations of Appletons did before them.