Malden going green

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson focuses the attention on other people in the city when he explains how Malden won a state Green Community designation.

City Councilor Craig Spadafora and city Public Facilities Director Eric Rubin deserve the praise, Christenson said, along with residents and merchants across the city who helped Malden meet the five categories required to win the designation.

Rubin, not to be outdone, credits city legislators like state Rep. Paul Donato for working to help Malden carve out zoning to provide room in the city for light manufacturing and renewable energy. City officials have worked over the last several years to shape a plan to reduce energy usage by 20 percent and they have come up with plans, including a vehicle fuel efficiency policy and energy savings-oriented building codes.

None of these innovations were developed overnight and most of them are starting points for reeducating business owners, developers, contractors — not to mention city officials — to alter their perspectives from the way things were done in the past to the way they should be done in the future to save energy.

Malden, like any community, is not an island unto itself. Energy is dispersed across regional grids and usage patterns are defined by population density and other measurement standards.

What Malden has achieved is far more important than meeting a state standard. By altering the way people in municipal government think, the city has set a standard for what other communities can achieve.

Lynn and Chelsea have already made strides on energy savings with wind energy facilities rising above their skylines like giant pinwheels. Lynn’s wind turbine provides electricity savings to the Water and Sewer Commission and sits near the former wharves where coal barges once hauled the 19th century’s energy source into Lynn.

Swampscott joined the push for energy savings by taking energy-saving steps at the town’s high school moving to install LED (light-emitting diode) lighting across the community.

The state backed up its Green Community designation for Malden by awarding the city $332,540  to launch an energy program and the city plans to focus on converting 3,400 local street lights to LED.

The Baker administration deserves praise for putting money where its mouth is when it comes to praising Malden for efficiency measures. That support stands in contrast to the administration’s lack of support for the Lynn-to-Boston ferry. With funding yanked last summer, the ferry was effectively eliminated as an alternative transportation system with the potential of pulling drivers out of their cars.

Malden now has the opportunity to replicate its success by showing other communities how it achieved energy savings goals. That education effort can begin with city officials showing their counterparts in other communities how to organize an effective and goal-oriented Energy Efficiency Commission.

“This designation highlights what we can do when we work together for the greater good of our city and is a strong example of the impact that volunteers are having in and around our community every day,” said Spadafora.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to apply that same teamwork ethic toward making energy savings strides in other communities.

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