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04/25/2023 SWG Minutes

2155 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH 03574

Minutes of the April 25, 2023 Meeting

of the Bethlehem Sustainability Working Group


This first meeting of the Sustainability Working Group (“Group”) was held at the Town Library and commenced at 5:40 PM. Present were Bruce Caplain (member of Select Board and Energy Commission), Nancy Strand (member of Select Board and Transfer Station Committee), Barry Zitser (member of Transfer Station Committee), Rachelle Lyons (member of Conservation Commission), Bruce Etter (interested Bethlehem citizen), and Dan Crosby (member of Energy Commission)


Barry volunteered to take the minutes. Members then introduced themselves.


Bruce C. opened a discussion about forming the goals and mission of the Group. He noted that a number of communities have sustainability working groups, and he volunteered to draft a mission statement based on a review of the mission statements of these other communities.  He quoted from David Attenborough about the importance of the environment and the need to be creative in protecting it. He distributed copies of David Attenborough’s book, “A Life on Our Planet”, to each attending member.  Bruce highlighted some of the book’s identification of growing threats that have been occurring since the 1950s, including population explosion and deforestation..  A theme of the book is that we have turned the world upside down.  Where we used to be “a part” of the earth, we are now tearing it “apart”.


During the discussion on goals and mission, it was noted that the Group members bring diverse interests from their boards and commissions.  There was a consensus that the Group should avoid any appearance of infringing on the work of any board or commission. Our intent is to share goals and missions so that boards and commissions can tap into each other’s expertise and suggestions. Rachelle referred to this as “cross pollination”. Bruce C. stated that the Group could also fill in the sustainability gaps that do not fall within the existing missions and objectives of Bethlehem boards and commissions.


Bruce C. brought up the Sedona light ordinance, which seeks to minimize light pollution. He noted that during his pre-dawn bike rides he has seen many instances of unnecessary lighting, which also wastes energy. He also referred to Flagstaff as another town which has sought to minimize light pollution. Rachelle revealed that there is an existing Bethlehem lighting ordinance that addresses, among other things, light pollution, which is not always enforced, and which we could perhaps strengthen. She will email the Group a reference to this ordinance.


Bruce C. suggested that we should look at low hanging fruit as part of our priorities in order to be able to point to some accomplishments early on.


Dan emphasized that we should not allow our enthusiasm to turn people off.  We must respect and acknowledge cultures.


Nancy cautioned against making things too complicated. She discussed some of the challenges of the Transfer Station Committee, such as exploring solar power and finding funding for the proposed transfer station.  She cautions that we can’t rely on the “same 10 persons group”. We should encourage greater community participation.


Barry brought up an example of a gap not addressed by any existing boards or commissions – mass transportation, He also noted that the Transfer Station Committee could benefit in its exploration of solar power for the proposed transfer station by seeking the expertise of the Energy Commission..


Bruce C. noted the need for public education, and all agreed that this would be a priority for all boards and commissions in their pursuit of programs that would benefit the town. Bruce E. stated that we should use terms such as  “economically and environmentally” acceptable to gain public support. Bruce C. commented that we must, however, move away from just economics to quality of life. The word “sustainable” doesn’t mean the same thing to people.  Perhaps we should provide a clarification of the term “sustainable”.


Nancy asks if we can list categories for sustainaility. Bruce C. suggested listing food, water, trash, energy, and human inprint.


Rachelle emphasized that we must address values that people can relate to.


Nancy asked if there are other persons who have expressed an interest in joining the Group. Bruce C. noted that there are about as many others as are present.


Barry stated that we should meet more frequently at the beginning of the Group’s formation in order to get together a mission statement and subcommittees. He suggested perhaps every other month or monthly.


Rachelle suggested that a book discussion on timely topics might attract new numbers.


Bruce C. suggested that another meeting should be held in a month, and we should post agendas and have a section devoted to the Group’s work on the town website.


Bruce C. noted that the Energy Commission exchanges emails all of the time, so that we should not be concerned that such Group-wide emails violate any meeting requirement, as long as they are informational only.


Bruce E, and Bruce C. both suggested that we send each other our board’s and commission’s mission statements.


Bruce C. noted that there are two students from Profile High School who have expressed an interest in working with the Group.


We agreed to have the next meeting on May 23rd (the fourth Tuesday of the month). Bruce E. volunteered to share the taking of minutes with Barry.


The meeting adjourned 6:38, with Rachelle expressing gratitude that the meeting met a scheduled beginning and ending time..