Take Action to Protect Buzzards Bay
Get involved: What you can do to help
It would be nice if someone else or the government could solve all the environmental problems you may be concerned about. However, the reality is that actions to protect or restore the environment often start with individuals. It is the actions of our citizens, both individually and collectively, that often define the aesthetic and ecological conditions around us. These actions include your decisions as a consumer, how you care for your property, how you handle your waste, your choice of transportation, and whether you participate in government and local decision-making. On this page we have suggestions and links on how you personally can “protect and restore water quality and living resources in Buzzards Bay and its surrounding watershed.”
Participate in Local Government
Many residents believe that state and federal regulators have the greatest effect on the quality of the environment and livability of their community. This is not the case. Rather, it is the cumulative decisions of local government boards and the laws and regulations adopted by cities and towns that can have the most profound effect on your surroundings. Minimum sizes of lots, width of roads, frontage requirements, and land uses are all defined by local zoning. The Zoning Board of Appeals must decide when these zoning rules can be waived. The Planning Board oversees requirements for new development. Local Conservation Commissions oversee the state wetlands law and the local bylaws or ordinances if they have been adopted. Boards of Health oversee the state sanitary codes, and any local regulations adopted. Open Space and Community Preservation Act committees make important decisions about the future of their community. Boards of Selectmen are the chief policy maker and executive branch of local government. Most of these boards are composed of unpaid volunteers appointed or elected to their office.
Your greatest opportunity to affect your community, and one that requires the greatest sacrifice on your part, is to enter public service. Increasingly towns are finding it difficult to find volunteers to appoint to many critical boards in their community. Even some elected boards may have uncontested vacancies. Participate in government, and you can make a big difference.
You do not have to be a doctor or a nurse to be on a Board of Health; you do not have to be a scientist to be on a Conservation Commission. All you need is a willingness to learn the laws under which the board operates, and to fairly apply those laws to all parties that come before you.
Begin by watching the board in action on your local cable access channel. Better yet, attend the meetings in person, and ask questions during public hearings. After a few meetings you will begin to get a clearer picture of how the boards operates, what projects are in its jurisdiction, and whether the work of that board matches your interests. Even if you do not join the board, by attending these public meetings and providing feedback to the board, you have performed an important civic duty.
Participate in Town Meeting and Elections
The adoption of laws (“Bylaws”) in a town is made at Town Meeting. In cities, laws (“ordinances”) are adopted by the City Council. You can affect the future of your community by attending town meeting and casting your vote for or against the various questions (“articles”) that come before it. Most towns in the Buzzards Bay watershed have open town meeting, and any registered voter can attend and vote. Some towns have a representative town meeting. If you live in such a town, run for this office in your precinct. Your responsibility as an elected town meeting member is to attend the Spring and Fall Town meetings, and to attend an informational meeting prior to each.
Whether or not you can attend town meeting regularly, you can also bring your own ideas to town meeting for a vote. In most towns, petition articles require only the signature of 10 residents. So if you have a great idea, town meeting may agree and pass your article.
Participate in clean-up, recycling, or educational events
Participate in non-governmental organizations
There are many citizen groups and education groups, lands trusts, and other organizations involved with many fine projects in your community. Help monitor the environment, monitor the performance of town boards, help raise money for a good cause, or help with efforts to preserve the most valuable habitats in your community. Seek out these organizations and volunteer for a project.
Live Green – Buy Green
Maintain and periodically pump-out your septic system, minimize fertilizer use and pesticides in your lawn and garden, properly dispose of hazardous material, recycle, and conserve electricity are a few things you as a citizen can do to help. Collectively your choices as a consumer help shape the quality of our environment.