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Acushnet gets some green for being green

State officials praised Acushnet for being an environmental ambassador at a grant ceremony Wednesday.

The officials, from the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, presented the town with a $154,225 grant, the first perk for the town since it was accepted into the state’s Green Communities program in December.

“You are on the path to be leaders in clean energy and environmental stewardship,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said.

Green Communities is a state program that makes grants available to towns that meet five requirements toward being more sustainable.

There are 123 Green Communities in the state, but Acushnet is only the second municipality in SouthCoast to earn the designation (Lakeville was the first).

On Thursday, officials said they hoped other SouthCoast towns will follow Acushnet’s footsteps.

Meg Lusardi, who directs the program, distributed Green Community pins to the 10 residents present at the event. She said she hoped they would become “ambassadors” to the rest of the region.

“We really hope you wear them as conversation starters to talk about the benefits of being a Green Community when you visit other towns in this area,” she said.

Acushnet Selectman David Wojnar said that task would not be difficult. The town is already planning to use $65,000 of the grant to install a motion-detecting system that connects to the lights in the middle school.

The system, which will automatically turn off lights in rooms where movement has not been detected for a while, is expected to save the town $35,000 per year.

“Everyone came together for a common goal,” he said.

Also present at the meeting was Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia, a resident of Fairhaven, accompanied by his grandmother and aunts, who live in Acushnet.

He said their presence was a reminder that communities have to do their part to be good environmental stewards for future generations.

“My grandmother, who has taught us about generational responsibility, is here to celebrate with all of you and see the town of Acushnet take on a responsibility not only for this generation but for generations to come,” he said.

Requirements to become a Green Community include:

– Creating bylaws and an expedited permitting process for siting alternative energy like wind turbines or solar farms

– Purchasing only fuel-efficient vehicles for the town

– Setting requirements to minimize energy costs for new construction projects in town

– Developing a plan to reduce the town’s energy use by 20 percent within five years