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Amherst’s town website has new section focused on environmental endeavors

Many teenagers want to get involved in local and regional environmental efforts, but don’t know how.

Many business owners want to adopt practices that promote sustainability, but need assistance.

Amherst Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello said she hopes a new section of the town website, called Sustaining Amherst, will answer such questions and give people direction toward sustainable living.

“We designed this section so that residents can go to one location to find the information and resources they need to live a more environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle,” Ciccarello said.

Sustaining Amherst, which can be found at www.amherstma.gov/sustainingamherst, is the result of several months of development by Ciccarello and Sally Miller, an intern from the Land Use and Architecture graduate program at the University of Massachusetts.

The website features nine navigation buttons to connect users to topics such as “Resources for Homes and Businesses,” “Sustainability Stuff for Teens” and “Kids Spot.”

For those interested in pursuing solar projects, the website gives links to getting a home energy assessment and contacting area professionals and technical assistance programs.

Children can pursue links to environmentally friendly games, projects they can undertake and fun facts about energy at EnergyStar Kids.

The external links for teenagers include Coastal Studies for Girls, a semester-long program based in Freeport, Maine, and Earth Force that helps middle and high school students encourage teachers to develop in-school programs that address local environmental problems.

Perhaps the part of Sustaining Amherst for which Ciccarello is most excited is the creation of five videos called a “Sustainable Tour.” Ciccarello worked on this with local videographer Lauren Erwin.

Each video has 10- to 20-minute tours of buildings, including the Lord Jeffery Inn and South Congregational Church, both retrofitted using techniques such as solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.

Ciccarello said she hopes the videos will be inspiring for those who watch them.

The “Current & Proposed Projects” button links to town endeavors to be green, such as the polystyrene ban enacted by Town Meeting last fall following a recommendation from the Recycling and Refuse Management Committee, and the tree warden’s plan to plant 2,000 new public shade trees over the next three years.

“I hope people will find it useful, interesting and educational,” Ciccarello said.

A formal launch party for the website takes place Feb. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Town Room at Town Hall.

The unveiling comes as the town gets ready for Sustainability Festival, which will be held April 27 on the Town Common. Ciccarello said she is still soliciting vendors for the event, ideally people who have locally made products or items that promote a green lifestyle.

Ciccarello is also involved in the Grow Food Amherst project, which looks to get 350 Amherst residents involved in the planting of 100 new gardens this year.

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