Earth Day celebrated around the state

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(Host) Earth Day is being observed throughout Vermont today with a variety of activities.

In Chittenden County, an effort is being launched to reduce homeowners’ carbon emissions. And in southern Vermont, a beer company is about to invest in cleaner energy.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has more.

(Sneyd) Wes Sanders believes in the power of peer pressure.

So he’s organizing teams that will work together to reduce their household carbon footprint – and then spread the word to friends and neighbors.

(Sanders) "People need time to change their habits. The good thing about the eco-team approach is it’s based on peer accountability, on the mutual support and solidarity of this group of people. It’s very social. It’s not an individual process.”

(Sneyd) Sanders has helped to organize more than 30 "eco-teams” from Rutland to Burlington.

Each team is made up of at least five households. The teams meet regularly to compare notes on what works and to encourage each other to keep up the good work.

They’re given lists of ideas – and the amount of carbon they can cut if a suggestion is followed. For example, each compact fluorescent light bulb that replaces a traditional incandescent saves 100 pounds of carbon a year.

The goal is for each household on a team to cut 5,000 pounds of carbon a year by changing the way they use energy. Then, they’re asked to become missionaries to the cause, organizing more eco-teams so the carbon reduction multiplies.

(Sanders) "Our idea, our goal, is that this process becomes viral, that is it just begins to have its own momentum.”

(Sneyd) Sanders is looking forward to a momentum boost this Earth Day. That’s because Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss has agreed to join an eco-team and helped encourage 16 teams to form in Vermont’s largest city.

Within four years, Sanders thinks Burlington can reduce its residential carbon output by 25 percent.

Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater is aiming for similar strides.

The popular beer-maker is using Earth Day to announce that it expects to buy a quarter of its electricity through renewable "cow power.”

Some of the power sold by Central Vermont Public Service is generated from cow manure.

Seth Wyman of Long Trail says the brewery will pay a $10,000 premium for the renewable power.

(Wyman) "It’s 100 percent renewable resource right here in the Green Mountains. Not to knock solar or wind power, because those are great technologies, as well, but this actually gives back more than just energy. It gives back financial support to the dairy industry, which is already established here in Vermont and unfortunately  is struggling.”

(Sneyd) Long Trail says it’s also helping to power cow power by giving farmers the "mash” that’s left over after beer is brewed. It turns out that the leftover grains in the mash make a great non-alcoholic feed supplement for cows.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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