Skip to content

08/22/2023 SWG Minutes

2155 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH 03574

August 22, 2023 Minutes of Bethlehem Sustainability Working Group


The meeting commenced at 5:35 PM. Present were Jess Donnelly, Barry Zitser, Dawn Russell, Bruce Caplain, and Paul Karpawich, We were later joined by a guest speaker, Martie Cook.   There were brief introductions.


Paul, who appeared for his first meeting, is a Bethlehem resident, and is raising money to address food waste issues in 9 neighboring schools.  The money is used to pay stipends to teachers, buy equipment, and to educate students.  Paul stated he was “here to lend a hand and learn what I can”.


Bruce read the Group’s Mission Statement:

“The purpose of the Sustainability Working Group (“Group”) is to facilitate, educate and enable residents, businesses and municipal entities on economic, environmental, and socially sustainable practices so humans and nature can exist in productive harmony for present and future generations, while collaborating with others when appropriate.”


The minutes of the July 25, 2023 meeting, prepared by Bruce Etter, were unanimously approved with one amendment. The sentence which previously read: “Barry talked about potentially doing a year-round offering at the dump potentially” was replaced with: “Barry noted that the NCES landfill generates enough heat to allow for a year-round community greenhouse, but that he has found no enthusiasm in the past for such a venture.”


Bruce has mentioned that he has gotten the Bethlehem News subscriber list from Chris Jensen so that the Group can advertise future events.


There was a discussion about the Group providing a presentation at the September 9th premier of “King Coal” at The Colonial Theatre. A motion was made, and unanimously adopted, for the Group to offer to provide refreshments at The Colonial patio during the hour prior to the movie showing, and to have Barry give a presentation of approximately 15 minutes, as a guest speaker on the public health and environmental impacts of coal, through a PowerPoint and commentary subject to review and approval by Rachelle. The motion further provided that Rachelle prepare publicity for our sponsorship and Bruce and Barry work on providing refreshments with a focus on avoiding single-use plastic.


Bruce described the Button-Up presentation as an energy presentation designed to help persons lower their heating and utility bills. We’re going forward with sponsoring this September 20th event.


Concerning the application for a grant from the Tillotson Foundation, Barry noted Rachelle’s request that we add an education component.  Bruce indicated that the application process is not complicated and he has already received Select Board permission to apply. He would like to be able to have giveaways that would benefit the community, such as composters. He will send out a one paragraph description of how the funds would be used and described in the application. A motion was made and unanimously approved to proceed with the $2,000 grant on this basis.


Bruce noted that we received no response to our emails and letter to Tri-County Transit requesting a meeting.  He suggested following up with additional calls and contacting others within the organization.  Bruce will send us a copy of the letter which was sent to Tri-County. Dawn suggested we try to contact the Operations Manager, Kayleigh Chaloux.


Bruce brought up the national week-without-driving movement set for October 2nd through 8th, and suggested that the Group support this event. Jess suggested looking into E bikes, perhaps through the REI Co-op, as a long-term measure to reduce driving.


The Group decided to skip over the agenda item concerning a light pollution grant, due to Rachelle’s inability to make today’s meeting.


Dawn attended the Matt Koeller/Eversource webinar on solarization. She thought it was well presented, and discussed such items as net metering. She felt that the Group might want to invite him to make a presentation. Bruce noted that the Energy Commission is trying to extend solar to Main Street businesses. He suggested that perhaps any such invitation for a presentation be in conjunction with the Energy Commission, which will have some news to present tomorrow.  Dawn mentioned that in Brattleborough about 55% of the businesses have solar power. While Dawn and Bruce noted that the webinar is recorded, we would prefer a live presentation. It also provides the opportunity for questions and answers. After the presentation we could send the webinar to the Bethlehem News for those who missed it.


Bruce noted that he had sent out the letter to Eversource’s Chief Customer Officer, suggesting that the utility participate in next year’s Vintage Market in the Mountains in order to reach out to customers with information concerning ways to save on their utility bills.


Martie Cook addressed the Group on the possibility of expanding the Bethlehem Elementary School (BES) community garden near the solar array, to provide plots for interested Town residents, and also to provide an orchard.  Martie has been here for 5 years, and was instrumental in the formation of the BES garden. She has her own garden business. She notes that Carole Bay has done a remarkable job with the BES garden.  This is the 8th community garden Martie has started. The BES garden got donations from Presby, Lahouts, and Home Depot.


Martie addressed the important points for ensuring a quality garden. Gardens should be east facing, with tall plants on the west side.  Water is critical.  The public works department put in a water line at the BES garden, but she doubts there is enough pressure to provide water beyond the BES garden.  There are specific grants for the provision of such water. She describes raised-bed versus in-ground options. Raised beds are a lot easier to operate, although more expensive to initially set up.  There could be two model beds for individuals, and some beds for the community to raise produce for the food pantry.  There are currently 27 raised beds at the BES site.  A shed for equipment storage ,and materials, such as untreated hemlock lumber, can be funded through grants.  There may be a need to establish plant limitations, such as prohibiting plants that can poison other plants.  She raised the issue of whether there should be a fee.  A fee provides an incentive to regularly attend to your garden, even if it is only $5.  Another issue is who would be allowed to utilize plots.  About 25% of Bethlehem’s residents are renters.  She favors making plot rentals available to any willing resident.  She noted that people are sensitive about their gardens.  They often treat their gardens almost like pets.


Martie recommended talking about this possible community garden expansion soon.  We should find out who our demographic is likely to be – experienced persons or new persons who want to learn to garden. We may also want to start small, perhaps 10 plots versus 40. The community garden can always be expanded if there is the demand.  During its first year, the BES produced 250 pounds of food.  The pandemic interfered during the next years. She again stated that her biggest concern is the water.  There is clearly enough space for an orchard. There is a lot of money out there for a project like this, and she does not believe that money will be a barrier.


It was agreed that Martie and Barry will set up a meeting with Carole Bay.


Martie wonders if we can use Bethlehem forests for CO2 credits.  Bruce stated that while he struggles with this, it is worth putting in as a future agenda item..


The meeting adjourned at 7:10 PM.