Downtown Mothers Make the Switch to Clean Energy

If the activity of millions of people around the world has been the main cause of global warming, as leading climate scientists contend, how likely is it that the actions of a single person can help reverse climate change?

Very likely, say a growing group of downtown mothers who believe that each step each person takes to reduce his or her carbon footprint will collectively give today’s children and grandchildren cleaner, healthier lives. Now, they’re urging neighbors to take an important step with them by choosing clean energy to power the electricity in their homes.

“Up until now many of us have felt that climate change is so big and so complex that we wondered what any of us could do about it,” said Muriel Finegold who, with Ania Camargo, is leading the downtown community organizing team of Mothers Out Front (MOF), a year-old nonprofit working to transition society from fossil fuel to clean renewable energy.

Camargo, who lives on Temple Street, had felt the same way. “For years I closed my eyes to the threats and realities of climate change because I thought they were too big for me to do anything about,” said Camargo. “MOF opened my eyes to the idea that by working together we could make a significant difference.”

And MOF aims to make that difference. Its goal is for 10,000 households statewide to switch to clean energy for their electricity by the end of 2014. The local team, which is reaching out to mothers and grandmothers all over the neighborhood, wants 600 of those households to be in downtown.

MOF has made the switch to green power easy for NSTAR customers by partnering with the nonprofit Mass Energy Consumer Alliance, which supplies energy to New England’s electric grid.

Currently about 80 percent of the grid’s electricity is generated by fossil fuels, nuclear power and other non-renewable sources, according to Erin Taylor of MassEnergy. But that percentage can be gradually lowered as more and more customers switch to green power, thus creating a demand for new renewal energy sources equivalent to their kilowatt-hour usage per month. This would enable Mass Energy to sign long-term power purchase contracts that stimulate new wind, hydro and solar projects. It will also help convince elected officials to invest only in clean energy in the future.

While the green energy won’t feed directly into their homes, consumers who make the switch are ensuring that wind, solar and hydropower is being delivered on their behalf to the power grid. The more households that make the switch, the cleaner and healthier the overall energy mix will be for all homeowners receiving their electricity from the grid.

Mass Energy offers two options for those making the switch, both of which allow it to directly match the amount of electricity consumers use with clean, local renewable energy in the grid. They can choose New England GreenStart, which offers a mix of 100 percent local green energy—including wind, solar, anaerobic digester gas and low-impact hydro—or New England Wind, which is 100 percent Massachusetts wind power. Because harnessing green power is still more costly than fossil fuels, there is an additional usage charge per kilowatt-hour, which is 100 percent tax-deductible.

Homeowners can offset that increase by becoming more energy-efficient. Recently, Beacon Street Joanna Brown took advantage of the free energy audits by NSTAR to all its customers. After implementing the recommended energy saving measures, she expects a significant decrease in her family’s utility bills.

So far, more than 100 homeowners in Greater Boston have made the switch, many of those from Beacon Hill.

“It was overwhelming to think about catastrophic climate change. At least it was for me. So it was a relief to learn there’s something positive I could do, ” said Ginger Lawrence of Pinckney Street, who found it easy to make the switch through the MOF link to Mass Energy.

Another resident who made the switch is Finegold, who lives on Mt. Vernon Street. Quoting Lily Tomlin, she said, “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that and then I realized I was somebody.”

For more information or to make the switch, go to

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