Belmont’s Proposed Plastic Bag Ban

A group has been pushing for a plastic bag ban in Belmont, similar to ones in Arlington and Somerville. This ban would require merchants to use paper bags or reusable bags for shoppers to carry away their merchandise. By banning plastic shopping bags, it will improve marine habitats, (see links to research below) reduce litter, and recycling contamination. (They cannot be recycled curbside!)

Sustainable Belmont met in December prior to the formulation of the proposed ban policy and voted to “support a ban that would preferably reduce carbon emissions.” Banning plastic bags will increase the use of paper bags. Carbon emissions, water and air pollution are many times greater with paper bags than with plastic. (see links to research below) Paper shopping bags can be reduced by charging a nominal fee. This is the kind of ban Cambridge and Boston (to be implemented later this year) have in place. Anyone who’s shopped in Cambridge has been asked, “would you like to buy a paper bag?” This simple question changes behavior–as many of us will remember to bring our own bags. However, this nominal fee is not part of the proposed plastic shopping bag ban for Belmont.

Being an environmentalist these days is often not clear cut. Where ever you stand on this issue, you should let the Selectmen know your views. Email or call them prior to their meeting on Feb. 26 or better yet, attend the 8:15 am Town Hall meeting to discuss whether to endorse a petition for Town Meeting to ban plastic shopping bags in Belmont.

For more information on how plastic litter harms the environment:
Rochman, Tanaka and Takada (2016),Sussarellu et al, (2015) Derraik (2002)

For more information on the environmental impacts of plastic vs. paper bags:[2]_2.pdf

Belmont’s Climate Action Plan

Belmont’s Climate Action Plan

Belmont’s Climate Action Plan Needs Interim Goals

At the first meeting in 2018, a day prior to a “bomb cyclone,” an unusual extreme weather event bringing record high tides, with flooding and hurricane force winds, Sustainable Belmont gathered to discuss our Climate Action Plan.

As the above slide shows, Belmont is lagging behind it’s trajectory for 2050. The problem is that the longer we put off reducing carbon emissions, the more challenging and expensive this task becomes. This is important for our kids future, since scientists point out that the atmospheric level of CO2 needs to drop to 350 ppm to keep the earth from warming–we’re heading for increasing global temps beyond 2 degrees celsius. We are currently over 400 ppm and continuing to accelerate emissions. CO2 takes hundreds of years to dissipate, so emissions accumulate–like a bathtub with many faucets and only one drain.

Humans often ignore goals far into the future, but more immediate goals can serve to motivate changes. What interim goals make the most sense? For instance, Concord has committed to having 100% of their electricity provided from renewable sources by 2030. Belmont could commit to something similar and by hiring an energy manager as many towns have to manage the shift away from fossil fuels.

Paradigm Shift

Some in attendance drew attention to a  shift that needs to happen in our thinking about energy: in addition to efficiency to consider fossil fuel free options. For instance, electric vehicles (EVs) use less than half of the fossil fuels needed per mile (given the source of electricity and transfer losses) than a traditional car. Air source heat pumps are another example of lower fossil fuel use over high efficiency oil or gas furnaces. With renewable energy and battery storage increasing capacity on the grid as expected over the next few years, these comparisons favor electric appliances even more.

What steps can we take?

When weighing public policy options, Belmont’s town officials, from the Selectmen, Town Administration to Schools need to consider what impact different policies will have on the town’s climate action plan.

In 2018, to ignore the town’s carbon footprint when deciding policy is negligence. Most citizens want the environment to be a consideration whether its building a new high school or adding more renewable energy to our electricity.

As individuals, we can begin to think about how we can reduce our fossil fuel consumption, and not just energy efficiency. Consider EV’s and air source heat pumps rather than gas or oil fired appliances.

For more information, download the presentation: Jan 3 SB CAP presentation.pptx

Sustainable Belmont Votes

Sustainable Belmont Votes


At December’s meeting, Sustainable Belmont’s Advisory Group and Members met and voted on the following measures:

  • Approved efforts to make the new high school zero net energy, a building standard that will balance the energy consumed with energy generated, mainly by using solar collectors. The assumption is that the lower operating costs will save the town money.
  • Supports the PTA/PTO Green Alliance’s proposal to improve recycling, add food recovery and composting in Belmont Public Elementary and Middle School cafeterias.
  • Supports efforts to define a plastic shopping bag ban that preferably reduces carbon. Reducing plastic shopping bags will benefit wildlife and decrease litter problems.
  • Supports a proposed State law that requires municipal light plants such as Belmont Light to buy renewable energy, similar to rules that guide investor-owned utilities. This change is supported also by MA Climate Action Network and many of its affiliates. If enacted, this rule would further help de-carbonize Belmont’s electricity and support the Town’s Climate Action Plan.

Belmont Drives Electric!


This new community-run program, sponsored by Sustainable Belmont, Belmont Energy Committee, Belmont Light and Belmont residents, promotes the use of electric vehicles in Belmont. Based on the highly successful Belmont Goes Solar model, the program includes pre-negotiated deals with local car dealers, Belmont Light monetary incentives, and community volunteers available to answer your questions.

Converting from a gas-combustion powered car to an electric vehicle could cut your transportation carbon footprint by half.  Save money and help reduce Belmont’s carbon footprint.

Belmont Drives Electric is also working with Belmont Light and the town to implement public charging stations for EV’s in Belmont and get some electric cars for the town fleet. We will keep you updated on the progress. Please talk to your town representatives to support this program. Thank you!


Nov. 12, 2016
Belmont Drives Electric Information & Test Drive Event

Info Session: 1:30-2:30pm
Test Drives: 2:30-4:30pm
Belmont High School Cafeteria & Parking Lot

Why is now a great time to consider an EV in Belmont? How do electric vehicles (EVs) handle in the snow and cold? Are EVs budget friendly? Come find out answers to these questions and more at a free public educational event sponsored by Belmont Drives Electric on Saturday, November 12 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. During the information session, Belmont residents can find out about time-sensitive cost-saving incentives, need-to-know information regarding charging an EV, the environmental benefits of EVs, and other important information, such as efficiency of EVs in cold weather as well as maintenance and overall cost. Belmont EV owners will discuss their experiences and there will be time for questions and answers.

After the one-hour information session, EVs will be available to test drive a variety of EVs and PHEVs (plug0in hybrid electrical vehicles) and there will be a live demonstration of how to charge an EV.

Refreshments will be served.
Rain or shine!

For more information, please see the flyer here: Flyer – BDE Nov 12 Info Event.

December 15, 2016
EV Info Event & Test Drives at Belmont Light Open House
Belmont Light, 40 Prince Street

Details to be announced

More info:
To talk to a volunteer EV coach 617-855-5405
or email:

2017 Green Belmont Garden Tour: Map

Front Yard Garden

You can do a lot with a front yard. Gone are the days of manicured lawns, English privet and the like. Design for drought and plants that give back!

Map Options

Enter for a chance at a rain barrel or compost bin at the gardens or visit or the Beech St. Center.

Thank you to Organizers: Jeri Weiss, Nancy Forbes, Martha Cohen, Lucia Gates, and Jan Kruse for their ongoing dedication in organizing the tour. Thank you to all the generous gardeners who opened their yards to our community. We always welcome new volunteers and gardeners – please contact Sustainable Belmont to volunteer.

We hope you enjoy the 7th annual Green Belmont Garden Tour – a tour of varied organic and sustainable gardens that will inspire you to create an environmentally friendly, attractive and productive outdoor space of your own. These gardens, whether big or small, all make excellent use of the available space and sustainable practices.

Shade gardens provide a great retreat. Design with leaf variety in mind to create visual interest. Photo Credit: edgeplot

Shade gardens provide a great retreat. Design with leaf variety in mind to create visual interest. Photo Credit: edgeplot

What do we mean by “organic?” Organic landscapes do not use toxic pesticides and herbicides and instead focus on building resilient, nutritious soils that support strong, healthy plants and conserve water and other resources. The goal is to create a healthy environment for homeowners, children, pets and wildlife – especially birds, butterflies and our most important pollinators, bees.

You will see many types of gardens, some focus primarily on vegetables, others on ornamentals, and many on both. There are gardens with fruit trees and berry bushes, with sun and shade environments, rain barrels, compost bins, chicken coops and beehives. Please ask your garden host questions about anything you are curious about. We hope you take home some ideas you can use!

Save Money and Reduce Trash Campaign

“It pays to be green”: Sustainable Belmont supports Pay as You Throw to reduce trash, pollution, and carbon emissions

This year, Sustainable Belmont is campaigning to reduce trash and increase recycling, lowering Belmont’s carbon emissions and saving money for the Town. This campaign supports implementing a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) bag option when the Town selects its new trash contract in 2018. This option could reduce Belmont’s trash by 25%, which lowers the town’s carbon footprint as if all homes saved 4.5% of their energy use.

Why PAYT? Our trash carries significant risks. It contributes to global warming, has harmed communities in Massachusetts (MA) and disposal options are getting fewer and more expensive. (Only 11% of MA communities have unlimited trash paid entirely with property taxes, like Belmont.) Fortunately, like 147 other MA communities, Belmont can try Pay As You Throw (PAYT) bags to help mitigate these risks. This is where households buy and use special bags sold at local retailers that cost more than ordinary garbage bags. Communities have found this provides a kind of “trash meter” that helps reduce waste significantly.

PAYT bag programs have been shown to:

  • Cut waste
  • Increase recycling
  • Reduce trash disposal costs
  • Protect the environment
  • Provide residents greater control over disposal costs

We recommend returning all bag fees to households, so it will cost the average taxpayer nothing.

How can I help with the campaign?
Attend a public meeting at Town Hall on Sept. 25, 6:00pm, and express your support for PAYT to reduce carbon emissions and save money. If you can’t attend, please consider calling (617. 993.2610) or writing to the Board of Selectmen to let them know that you support environmentally beneficial trash programs such as PAYT bags and that they should consider the environmental benefits of a PAYT bag program in the upcoming trash contract.

Email us to let us know if you can contribute to the campaign. We need volunteers to talk to friends and neighbors, create flyers, and attend Town events.

More information on PAYT:

Of all PAYT programs, bag-based programs are usually the most effective because they can work with all types of trash collection programs (including opt-out for seniors and low income residents or those with disabilities), require minimal initial investment, and encourage recycling and waste reduction. In addition, most PAYT programs report high approval rates.

In Massachusetts, there are numerous examples of successful programs using PAYT bags, including the example of Ashland, MA (a town with demographics not unlike that of Belmont). Brookline, Chicopee and Norwell have become PAYT communities in the past year.

Benefits of bag-based PAYT:

  • Little change is needed with PAYT bags, since most residents already bag their trash and patronize local retailers where they could buy bags. Administration of bag sales could be managed by a third party vendor without adding staff.
  • No expensive up-front costs to pay for heavy duty barrels and special collection equipment.
  • Over $200,000 available in state grants to Belmont for adopting PAYT bags.
  • No hassle to store or manage large barrels–residents use their own.
  • Bags come in different sizes–no need to save up to use a large bag if not needed.
  • Illegal dumping is rare with PAYT towns–early education and enforcement helps.
  • Polling data from MA towns with PAYT shows that only about 20% of resident’s dislike PAYT. Most appreciate the environmental and financial benefits and are likely to vote for a candidate that supported PAYT.
  • Don’t need long 10-year contracts to pay off barrels and automated equipment.

Environmental considerations:

  • MA passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) in 2008, which called for a 30% reduction in trash by 2020. Belmont’s just half way there.
  • PAYT bags has the biggest reduction of trash of all the options (25% confirmed by two independent sources, MA DEP and a consulting firm specializing in municipal waste).
  • 25% less trash means 4000 metric tons reduction of CO2 equivalent (equal to 4.5% of Belmont’s home energy use). This represents a significant step in achieving Belmont’s Climate Action Plan.
  • Globally, we’ve lost 50% of the Arctic’s sea ice in the past 30 years. This affects our weather and brings us closer to a dangerous tipping point, since polar ice reflects heat back into space rather than absorbing it in dark water.

Automation considerations:

  • Automation of trash collection that doesn’t result in significant reductions in waste is environmentally harmful. This is the case with 64 gal. barrels. (A Belmont household throws out an average 26 gal. weekly.) It takes longer for trash to get collected and increases truck emissions (can only do one side of the street at a time), and the manufacture of 10,000 heavy duty plastic trash barrels for each Belmont household adds more emissions and waste.
  • Automated collection with 35 gal. barrels is estimated to have 10% trash reduction, but it is still short of the target set with the GWSA.

Additional considerations:

  • Recycling hasn’t increased since the last contract was signed in 2011 (22%), in spite of more education and expanded collection efforts at DPW. This suggests that education efforts alone may not boost recycling significantly. (Arlington is 30%, Cambridge 39%)
  • Trash disposal options are getting fewer and farther away–just 7 landfills in MA and the newest incinerator is 29 years old. This puts upward pressure on disposal fees, making trash reduction an important financial strategy for Belmont’s future.
  • With the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, and the EPA eviscerated, it falls to states and towns to take action to protect the environment. In May, Belmont’s Town Meeting voted 62% in favor of moving past the 1990 override for trash, to clear the way for local action on PAYT.

7th Annual Green Belmont Garden Tour

Volunteers jump for joy for our 2016 winners of the rain barrel and compost bin raffles.

Volunteers jump for joy for our 2016 winners of the rain barrel and compost bin raffles.

Sunday, September 10
11 AM to 3 PM – rain or shine!

Gardens throughout Belmont
Pick up Map at 266 Beech St*

Sustainable Belmont is hosting its 7th Annual Green Belmont Garden tour. This free, self-guided garden tour highlights a variety of safe and healthy organic garden practices.

See how gardeners in Belmont have changed practices after last year’s drought. Learn about hearty perennial fruits, annual vegetables, and landscaping plants. See different composting methods firsthand. Talk with the gardeners about all their growing habits!

Compost tea is a popular new approach for organic plant inoculation and cures. Photo Credit: Michael Desmond Cox Photography of Belmont, 2013

Compost tea is a popular new approach for organic plant inoculation and cures.
Photo Credit: Michael Desmond Cox Photography of Belmont, 2013

This year enter a chance to win a rain barrel or composter at each garden you visit.

The more gardens you visit the better chances of winning! This raffle is an effort to help reach out to the Belmont community on issues of sustainability and to encourage healthy yards care in Belmont. If you are already on our mailing list, you may still enter the raffle and residency is not a requirement.

*Printed maps can be picked up from the Beech Street Center at 266 Beech Street on September 10, 2017 from 11 to 3 pm. Download and print or follow using Google Maps via this link on the morning of the tour (page will not be available until then as a courtesy to our participating gardeners).

Volunteer! We are *always* looking for volunteers to help with the tour. Please email Jeri Weiss at Thank you!