Senator Eldridge’s Green Advisory Council Meets with Municipal Sustainability Directors

November 20, 2023

On November 18, State Senator Jamie Eldridge convened the fall meeting of his Green Advisory Council at West Acton Villageworks. Residents and community leaders from across Senator Eldridge’s district assembled to share ideas about how to protect the local environment and respond to the global climate emergency. The invited speakers were town sustainability directors. 

Senator Eldridge opened the meeting by sharing progress on several environmental bills that he is sponsoring. Notable among these is the Environmental Bond Bill, which would authorize Massachusetts to issue bonds for capital projects. The current five-year Environment and Climate bond expires in 2023, and Senator Eldridge is working on the successor bill, which he hopes will include $100M towards municipal vulnerability preparedness including climate resiliency. 

The two dozen attendees each introduced themselves, their organizations, and a glimpse of an environmental initiative in their town. The glimpses spanned everything from storm windows for a historic church in Stow, to a bylaw on tree clearing in Harvard, to an environmental book club based in Boxborough.   

Andrea Becerra, the Town of Acton Sustainability Director, joined the meeting by zoom. She discussed four initiatives that her office is working on. She stressed that each of these could serve as a model for other towns, and that each involved extensive resident participation. First, was the Energize Acton program. Individuals or teams commit to take actions to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions, such as insulating their home or eating more plant-based meals. They enter their commitments and accomplishments into a web-based dashboard, and Becerra’s office tracks the cumulative emission reduction townwide. 

4 blocks with input buttons
Dashboard on which participants in Energize Acton can enter their commitments to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.  From

Second, was the Neighborhood Clean Heating & Cooling Project, a pilot project to encourage households that currently heat with fuel oil to consider switching to electrical heating via a heat pump. The Sustainability Office worked with the GIS department to identify a neighborhood with a high concentration of oil burners, then worked with the energy management company Abode to help homeowners in that neighborhood obtain and understand energy audits and contractor quotes for heat pump conversions.  

Becerra’s third program was the Acton Business Energy Efficiency Grant Program. Under this program, funded with ARPA funds, businesses were encouraged to sign up for a free energy audit through MassSaves.  If a business undertook energy upgrades identified by the audit, the Town reimbursed up to $2000 of the cost above and beyond any other state or federal rebates.  And finally, Becerra discussed Acton’s energy coach program. Acton paid for seven local residents to be trained as “Energy Coaches.” Since the program began early this year, these coaches have offered personalized guidance to approximately one hundred residents to help them save energy or shift to less carbon-intensive energy sources.  

Eric Simms, Sustainability Director for the Town of Concord, spoke about Concord-specific programs. Simms stressed the value of towns working together; a dozen regional sustainability directors meet monthly to exchange ideas and suggestions. In a response to a question, Simms discussed how sustainability is being taken into account as the Town of Concord envisions reuse of the NMI Superfund Site, a 47-acre property located on Rt 62 about half a mile from the Acton town line. He stated that solar panels and battery storage are a likely use for part of the site. 

After the formal meeting adjourned, many attendees lingered and mingled.  Much sharing of ideas and exchanging of contact information could be observed. Senator Eldridge convenes such meetings several times a year, and invites “activists, municipal officials, advocates, and non-profit members to come together and share ideas on how to better protect our environment and combat climate change.” To be notified of future meetings, email the Senator’s Environmental Policy Advisor, Immaculate Mchome at

Kim Kastens has deepened her knowledge of Acton’s environmental issues as a Director of Green Acton; however, she submitted this article as a private individual. 


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