Green Projects: they’re everywhere!

…well, at least in one city in Massachusetts…

Nate Frigard and Jen Smith of Crimson & Clover Farm – a Community Supported Agriculture co-op in Northampton, MA, USA.


Northampton, Massachusetts is only one of 351 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States.  It’s in the oft-forgotten western part of the state, far away (in relative terms) from the gold dome of the State House in Boston, nestled in the Connecticut River Valley and not far from the bucolic colleges like the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Smith, Amherst, and Mount Holyoke.

Its population is 28,500 and it seems as if 28,420 of them are activists.

This yields a maelstrom of ideas, especially in the area of green projects.

In Massachusetts, 110 cities and towns have recieved more than US$21M from the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental affairs, in what is called the “Green Communities” program.  Remember, a program is a collection of related projects, managed together to achieve benefits not possible if they were managed individually.

These projects are exemplary.  Here we’d like to point you to an article from the Boston Globe Magazine and highlight a few of these projects.  Why?  Because Northampton, like the colleges nearby, has a lot to teach the rest of the Commonwealth, the rest of the USA, and the rest of the planet.  Perhaps this is why the article was titled, “Green Lessons from Northampton”.  And perhaps we’re featuring it here on EarthPM because green projects need green project managers.

1. Northampton’s Community Farm

“What if a city could grow enough food to provide for all of its residents? A few years ago, a group of Northampton citizens, with support from the city, commissioned students at the nearby Conway School of Landscape Design to look at the issue. So-called food security brings lots of environmental benefits, such as drastically reduced fuel needs for shipping, as well as protection in a time of crisis, and the group wanted to know where Northampton stood.

The resulting report, published in spring 2010, showed just how precious local farmland was. If all available open space in the city were devoted to agriculture, Northampton could feed only about 47 percent of its residents.

The school’s findings came out as local-food activists had begun working to save a farm that the city was planning to convert to sports fields. Lilly Lombard ran a listserv that helped marshal the troops. “We quickly organized our eaters under the name of Grow Food Northampton to protect that prime land for organic farming,” she says. After a few weeks of political battling with the city, Grow Food turned to the Trust for Public Land, which came up with a solution to the tug of war: Buy an adjoining farm as well, providing for both sports fields and agriculture. The Trust, a national land conservation group, used grant money to purchase both farms, with the intention of selling the 185 acres to the city and Grow Food.”

2. Bicycle trash collection?

“When it comes to trash, some Northampton residents go one step greener than recycling. They have their household waste — including recyclables for sorting — hauled to transfer stations by bicycle. Pedal People, a company started 10 years ago by cycling enthusiasts Ruthy Woodring and Alex Jarrett, uses long flatbed trailers hitched to bikes not just to remove their customers’ trash but also to distribute local farm shares, make diaper service deliveries and pickups, and even move furniture. After tens of thousands of miles, Pedal People has grown from a two-person operation into a flourishing worker cooperative with 13 partner-owners serving more than 500 customers. It is one of the city’s officially recognized trash-hauling services. Northampton’s David Narkewicz says, “I may be the only mayor in the country signing a trash and recycling hauling contract with a bicycle-powered company.””

3. Malting their way towards greenality

“Humans have been producing beer for thousands of years, and until the Industrial Revolution, it was brewed where the grains were malted. Today almost all American beers, even locally brewed craft beers, are made from grains that have been malted — the term for germinating and drying — in the West or Midwest, according to Slow Tractor Farm owners Andrea and Christian Stanley. She and her husband have sought to change that, says Andrea, by “bringing malting home.” When they opened Valley Malt in Hadley, one town over from Northampton, in 2010, they couldn’t find any record of wheat or barley having been commercially malted in Massachusetts for over a century.

The Stanleys hope to brew their own beer eventually. But for now they cultivate grains on land leased from Grow Food and use them, along with grains from other Northeast farms, to produce malt for customers such as the Wormtown and Cambridge breweries in Massachusetts and Good Nature Brewing in New York. So instead of drinking beer brewed from ingredients hauled thousands of miles, Northeasterners can enjoy truly green beer — and not just on St. Patrick’s Day.”

4. A green ‘point person’

“A full-time employee charged with helping city residents and businesses become more energy-efficient is a luxury for many communities. But by participating in an innovative state program, Northamptonites earned the money to pay for it.

In 2004, the Renewable Energy Trust, a state-sponsored public benefits fund, partnered with National Grid to offer Massachusetts residents an incentive to support green energy. Through the Green Up program, customers could opt to pay a premium toward electricity that came from renewable sources. In return, they could get a tax deduction, and their city could qualify for grants to be used for local green energy initiatives. Some 6 percent of Northampton households opted in, and the city received more than $253,000 in bonuses through the now defunct program. The city used some of that to establish a full-time energy officer. Chris Mason, who holds degrees in electrical engineering and resource management, came on board in 2007.

One of only a handful of full-time city energy officers in the state, Mason helps city government, local businesses, and residents become affordably energy-efficient. The city has a $6.5 million budget for renovations of 33 city buildings, from libraries and schools to the mayor’s office, and Mason helps oversee those projects and works with community groups and business leaders to reduce their energy consumption.

According to Narkewicz, businesses’ efforts to save on energy and protect the environment pay off in more ways than one: “City residents are supportive of businesses that strive to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.” The Taco Bell has stepped up to the plate, so has River Valley Market, a co-op grocery store; they’ve both earned a LEED Gold rating — a building-industry designation for environmentally friendly structures. Other businesses are on the same path. Homeowners, too, are doing deep energy retrofits, and Mason can direct them to rebate programs and other financial assistance.

If Northampton is greener now than when he came on board, “the town’s the hero,’’ Mason says. “They were all gung-ho to be energy-sustainable, but they needed more tools. I just help them find the tools.”

To Lilly Lombard, Mason’s work and all of Northampton’s green initiatives are most significant when they spread and seed new ideas beyond city limits. “There’s so much cross-pollination going on within the Commonwealth — that’s the real take-home,” Lombard says. “The adaptations we have to make to face climate change are so huge that none of us can tackle them as mere citizens or isolated towns. We have to, all of us, inspire, share, and collaborate.””

We encourage you to read the full article.  And if you’re ever in western Massachusetts, visit Northampton – it’s getting greener every day thanks to these great projects.

Power Play

We blog about projects, and we blog about sustainability.  And we really like to blog about projects which “buy in” to the idea that they can set examples for others.  And it’s icing on the cake if it involves games or sports, especially on Father’s Day!

This weekend we came across a story about – of all things – a new hockey rink – in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and its outstanding consideration of energy and sustainability in its design and in its planned operation.

The article comes from The Cape Cod Times.  Here is a link to the entire story, we encourage you to read it.

But what struck us was the way that just one or two people in this project made the difference.

To quote the article,

“The rink is equipped with a number of energy-saving features, including a waste heat recovery system, lighting that is free of chlorofluorocarbons and advanced insulation. Many of these features were researched and planned by Sia Karplus, director of research at Science Wares, a Falmouth architecture and engineering company.

Karplus said she had worked on planning highly energy-efficient homes in the past and volunteered to help make the rink as energy conscious as possible.

“In many ways it’s a refrigerator with the door open,” she said of traditional skating rinks and their inherent energy waste problems. She then asked, “What can you do to make the most energy-efficient rink ever?””


What we want you to notice is the way Sia took this on as a challenge – as we always imagine the best project managers do their work – as change agents and “get-r’done” types of contributors.

Some of the statistics for this ice rink:

  • Cost: $6 million
  • Square feet: 49,000
  • Panels: 3,302
  • Seats: approximately 700
  • Electricity produced: 900,000 kilowatt-hours/year
  • Energy use estimate compared to other similar rinks: 50%

The creators and sponsors of this project are justifiably proud.

You can visit their site and see photos of the construction and some of the very creative energy-saving ideas they implemented by clicking here.

And whether you are a hockey fan, an energy fan, or a project fan, we think you’d agree that although the energy savings may be icing on the cake, there’s no icing on this play!



pushmi-pullyuIt’s almost time for New Year’s Resolutions, and we start with best New Year’s wishes for all of our readers and followers.  Happy New Year!

What will motivate you and your organizations as you move into this new year and set strategy?

In terms of setting projects and programs to become leaner, more efficient, and to reduce your impact on the environment, will you be pushed into this by regulation, legislation, laws, and limits?  Or will incentives from government, or better economics of doing things the right way have a pull on you and your projects?  Or, perhaps, it’s about image – an image that your advertising is projecting, which needs to match your actual way of behaving and performing?


Resolutions are set at the end of December, looking forward towards January.  Just as January is based on the Roman god Janus, with a forward and backward-looking face, the Pushmi-Pullyu, a creature from Dr. Dolittle, is the inspiration for this posting.

This is a good time to think about these forces which pull and push your organization – and thus your projects – in different directions.  Your PMO sits at a key point in the organization’s ability to execute portfolios, programs and projects, all of which should be tied firmly to the enterprise’s mission and values.  In our book (“Green Project Management“, CRC Press) we explore Interface Carpet and the way in which Ray Anderson made environmental commitments and how that in turn drove programs and projects for his enterprise – yielding tremendous savings in reduced waste, improvements in employee morale, and a better product.

Those of you who are sharp-eyed readers will have noted that the word “limits” above is a hyperlink.  And, in typical PM, Type A Personality fashion, you may have already clicked on that link and noticed that it was from a story in today’s Boston Globe.  This was another inspiration for today’s posting – the PUSH side of the equation.  But even in this story, the PULL comes out.  Let’s break it down for you, using some pull quotes from the story:


“Over the next decade, the plan aims to bring greenhouse gas emissions to levels that are 25 percent below those in 1990, the maximum possible limit allowed under the state Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. That legislation mandates an 80 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”


“Under the new plan, the state would cut at least an additional 7 percent through new initiatives and incentives, including a pilot program to make auto insurance cheaper for people who drive fewer miles.”

This story is interesting enough to read separately from the blog posting and we suggest you do just that by clicking here.

However we also – as is our habit – would like to share a a couple of  resources with you that resonate to this same theme – Pushmi-Pullyu.

Below is a chart from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change‘s Climate Change 101:

green can be gold - bar chart

Note the large number of “PULL” aspects to this chart – reasons to move towards acting with greenality, based on logic and necessity rather than mandate.  We think 2011 may be a key year for enterprises to realize this pull, and for governments to do whatever they can to accentuate and incentivize based on these pulls, while bringing out the mandates and limits – the pushes – where necessary.

As usual – it’s all about balance.

May 2011 be a very balanced year for all of you.