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Mass. Celebrates Egremont’s Energy, Environmental Policies

A roadside sign reads "Egremont Mass."
Town Of Egremont, Massachusetts

The town of Egremont, Massachusetts has been recognized on the state level for its commitment to reducing the cost and environmental impact of energy. The municipality in southern Berkshire County was one of eight recipients of the state’s 14th Leading by Example Awards in 2020. Town Select Board Chair George McGurn spoke with WAMC about the recognition – and why the community trash compactor is the place to be for gossip.

MCGURN: First, we are a green community. And I really stress the community part of that. Because it's a whole string of efforts. We get about 40% of our municipal electricity supplied by solar. I believe we started with our police department and have just gone building to building to building. We've also had a program in which 40 private residences have received funding to have their own solar energy generation. And it goes right through a whole gamut of things: Our trash compactor and the way that operates. That's really a community center. Boy, you go there on a Saturday or Sunday, that's where you really find out what's happening in Egremont. But another community aspect of it I'd like to stress is that every year, all 39 roads mobilize scores of Egremonters, just from the point of view of cleaning up the roads. So we were recognized, I believe, for the whole agglomeration of activities that we undertake. It's just part of Egremont's DNA.

WAMC: Now, how did the community get together to decide that this was a top priority for Egremont?

Well, like so many things, there's one person who hates to be mentioned, I might add, who decades ago began preaching this kind of thing for Egremont. And of course, all Egremonters will know whom I'm speaking about- Marge Wexler. And she continues to serve on our green committee. She chaired it for years. But Marge has been what was, I guess, decades ago, a voice in the wilderness, is now part of the mainstream- Or we are part of her mainstream.

Looking forward, what's next for Egremont? Are there other areas that you want to continue these green efforts in?

Well, we certainly, you know, we get all of our energy in town from renewable sources. We also are looking at affordable housing, and certainly all of that affordable housing will be an example of green building, which is a very important priority now. And one of the things that we've also stressed is public education about all these issues, because it's complicated, what goes where and what bin up at the trash compactor, and that has an impact. You know, we think for instance, given this tumultuous year we've had that our population has doubled. And the trash compactor is one way that you can tell about that. And I can tell you people that come from elsewhere, have a big learning curve to climb. And Egremonters have done that over over decades. But we're we're pretty strict.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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