This week’s Lunch and Learn, an initiative of the Environmental Studies Department, featured Alicia Hunt, director of Energy and the Environment for the city of Medford. Ms. Hunt spoke to a packed room of students, professors, community members, representatives of the Tufts Institute for the Environment and the Office of Sustainability, and President Monaco himself!
Ms. Hunt began with an overview of city demographics and background. Medford was actually the fourth English settlement in North America! Today, the city is home to 56,000 residents, but it is also 1/3 green space, including The Fells.
Medford has also long been a trendsetter in environmental and sustainability innovation. Its Go Green Medford initiative has placed the city at the vanguard nationally. In 2002, Medford switched all its traffic lights over to LED – revolutionary at the time, but now the standard of efficiency. In 2004, its city hall was the first in Massachusetts to receive the Energy Star Plaque, and in 2009 Medford built the first municipal-scale wind turbine at a school in Massachusetts. “We love to be first” with everything green, said Hunt.
In fact, Medford has gotten so good at setting the standard for sustainability that when the Department of Energy launched its Better Buildings Challenge, they specifically recruited Medford to participate, knowing the prestige and expertise which Medford would bring to the program.
Hunt was also quick to point out how helpful the state’s grants and other incentives are in driving sustainability.
Just last year, Medford developed a local energy action plan, an updated version of its 2001 climate action plan. Other recent initiatives and accomplishments include an Idle-Free Medford education outreach campaign and participation in SolarizeMass. Tufts’s planned installation of solar panels on the roof of Dowling Hall will be part of Medford’s Solarize Medford initiative. Hunt emphasized that the work that the city had done in vetting potential solar companies and determining which would work best in the community made the process and decision immeasurably easier for residents looking into solar installations.
In addition, while Medford has long had a focus on residential sustainability, Hunt said they are adding a focus on encouraging green business practices.
Of course, we were glad to hear that Hunt and her department are always looking for Tufts students and faculty to contribute to the efforts, whether through work-study, volunteering, internships, stenciling by storm drains, investigating the feasibility of a compost program, etc. Tufts is so fortunate to be situated in such a sustainable city!