Taking big steps

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Congratulations to the kids involved in Plastic Free MV, who recently won a national award for their efforts in reducing the amount of plastics on the Island, particularly single-use plastic like straws and, more recently, bottles.

Last year, the students were able to convince voters in three up-Island towns to ban single-use plastic bottles of 34 ounces and under. This year, they’ll take the same bylaw to town meetings in Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown.

It was great to see their efforts recognized with a silver award from Bow Seat Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition.

This first-in-the-nation ban is creating some enforcement questions in West Tisbury. But for the kids, this was never about enforcement. Instead, it is about raising awareness about the proliferation of single-use plastic in everyday life.

We have to say that since they raised the issue, we’ve found ourselves more mindful of what we do — adding reusable cups for both coffee and water. And we respectfully decline straws when we order a drink at a restaurant that uses them. (We’d rather no straw than paper straws.)

This initiative is a good example of what we can all do to make a difference. The naysayers always come out and question just how much these local bans will help. But we remind them the ban on single-use plastic bags started in one place, and now it’s become so commonplace we’re actually stunned when we’re in a supermarket where the old paper-or-plastic question is still asked. There are now some Cape towns looking to follow the lead of the Plastic Free MV kids.

Meanwhile, we were pleased to see Robert Hannemann, chair of the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee and a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Climate Crisis Task Force, jump-started the discussion about Island towns adopting “serious greenhouse gas reduction goals” and the idea of having “100 percent renewable energy” by 2040. That’s a hugely ambitious goal, of course, but it’s time to figure out how we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and make the kinds of changes that need to be made.

We really like the idea that these discussions will be happening at town meetings across the Island, with a warrant article that will be brought forward to spell out the nonbinding goals on energy and carbon emissions.

And we were very impressed by the first in a series of six climate change forums — this one led by West Tisbury emergency management director Russell Hartenstine. Hartenstine’s interesting talk touched on the very real threats that now face the Island as a result of sea level rise.

“What kind of disasters are in our locality?” Hartenstine asked during the forum. “Tsunamis? Maybe. Volcanos? No. But earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, blizzards, and hurricanes? Yes. The Vineyard is a prime spot for many events. Are you ready for anything?”

The talks are held at both the West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs libraries to make them accessible to all Islanders. Upcoming talks include one Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 4 pm at West Tisbury library (repeated Saturday, Nov. 23, at 2:30 pm at Oak Bluffs library). Elizabeth Durkee, Oak Bluffs conservation agent, will speak about adapting to the impacts that the climate crisis will have on the Island. And we’re particularly looking forward to hearing Mark Rosenbaum, an engineer with South Mountain Co., on “Fixing the Plainfield School,” which focuses on how schools can save energy, money, and be part of the climate solution. The talk is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 18, at 5 pm at West Tisbury library. 

The Plainfield School was able to dramatically reduce its energy usage and fuel costs while fixing other challenges like moisture, air quality and classroom comfort. Are you listening, Tisbury School?