Concord’s Goal: Concord’s buildings and solid waste system minimize GHG emissions and are resilient to a changing climate.
This involves electrifying and improving the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, setting bold sustainability standards for new municipal buildings and schools, and setting policies and incentives that encourage sustainability and resilient design.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Buildings
While greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building sector decreased 23% between 2008 and 2019, they still represent the largest single source of emissions in Concord at 65%. Standards for new buildings can help to slow growth in this sector, but meeting our goals will require addressing the existing building stock through energy efficiency and switching to electric heat pumps to make them as green as new buildings.
The majority of emissions from heating fuels used in both our homes and commercial spaces are from the direct burning of natural gas and fuel oil. Heating with these two fuels makes up 37% of our greenhouse gas emissions.
Transitioning away from these fuels to carbon-free electricity will be a key strategy to reducing GHG emissions moving forward.
High Efficiency Heating - Heat Pumps
Heat pumps use electricity to move heat from cooler places to warmer places, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. Your refrigerator is a heat pump, moving heat from inside the refrigerated cabinet (cooler place) into your kitchen (warmer place).
Because it takes far less energy to move heat than it does to create heat, as electric resistance or fossil fuel heating systems do, heat pumps are one of the most efficient home heating systems available. Heat pumps have been used in warmer climates for decades, but in the past decade have undergone a technology revolution and are now a great heat source in cold climates such as New England. There are three kinds of heat pumps - air-source, ground-source, and heat pump water heaters.
In addition to upgrading insulation and sealing air leaks, moving to heat pumps is a critical step to upgrading our heating and cooling systems with high-efficiency technologies that can be sourced with renewable energy, which is why they are also an important strategy in our efforts to transform our Energy system.
Historic and Efficient
While Concord has many older homes, there is no reason they cannot maintain their history while also taking advantage of modern ways to operate them. The Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women, is a perfect example of this balance.
Not only has the Orchard House led the way with ground source energy pumps, but it has updated its space with LED lights, low-flow toilets, and paperless ticketing. Another benefit is that its new heat pump system is quieter than a typical heating system, allowing for a more authentic historic experience in the building.
Heating New Buildings
New buildings using oil and natural gas undo the work of retrofitting our existing buildings.
While there have not been any new fuel oil heated buildings built in the last few years, natural gas still predominates in new construction and those systems are likely to remain in operation for a considerable length of time.
Waste comes in many forms: food, clothing, old furniture, yard scraps, paper and plastic, and recyclables to name a few. Concord has a goal to reduce how much waste we produce, as the waste we send to landfills releases emissions as it decomposes.
In order to be better stewards of the environment, Concord has a goal of increasing its waste-diversion rate, which is how much of our waste we avoid sending to a landfill where it can damage the environment and public health. Concord is currently at a 40% diversion rate and has a goal to increase it to 65% by 2030. Doing so will be a team effort between the Town, residents, and businesses to reduce, reuse, and recycle all waste (in that order!).
Concord residents do well by recycling about 40% of the solid waste they generate. This number has been fairly static over recent years and may reflect that a portion of the waste we generate is not recyclable.
One way to improve the recycling rate would be to limit the consumption of goods that are not recyclable - those that we know, at the time of purchase, will end up as garbage. Reuse is another effective option, especially for items that still have some life in them.
For more information visit the Town Recycling Page.
In addition to household waste, Concord generates a significant amount of organic material from trees and landscaping. In addition to household leaf pick up, a significant number of residents regularly drop off this organic material at the Town Compost Site.
In 2018, there was an increase in the amount of brush dropped off at the compost site related to damage from the nor-easters earlier that year. It is a good example of how having systems in place to handle material in normal times ensures that we can handle surges from extreme weather events and other shocks.
How You Can Help
Help Make Concord's Buildings More Efficient
Buildings are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Join the Town in taking steps to upgrade to more efficient systems.