Category Archives: Going Green

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint One Mile at a Time

Greenhouse gases (GHG) are the largest contributing factor to climate change, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that almost 27% of GHG emitted from the United States are caused by transportation. One way to green up your commute: opt for a hybrid or electric vehicle the next time you’re shopping for cars.

Electric v.s. Hybrid

The difference between electric and hybrid boils down to how the car is powered. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) only use an electric motor and a battery. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have both electric and gasoline-powered systems and typically have a range of 25 miles or so per electric charge before it switches to gas.  

A typical hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is similar to a PHEV in the sense that it has both an electric and gas-powered system, but the battery isn’t charged through an outlet. A typical gas-powered car creates energy in the form of heat when using the brakes, but HEVs can capture that energy to charge the battery. 

Different car manufacturers including Tesla, Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota produce a variety of BEV and PHEV options and consumer demand is increasing pressure for more companies to ramp up production. Waitlists are stacking up in the wake of each new model introduced. As of July 2022, Ford had a waitlist with over 200,000 customers for the F-150 Lightning electric truck.  

Electric vehicle charging
Charging Station at Moose Hill

How and Where to Charge Your Vehicle

There are three speed levels to charge an EV. Level 1 (a regular household electric outlet) requires no upfront costs but is the slowest; it can take up to 50 hours for EVs and 6 hours for PHEV to fully charge.  

Level 2, which is most common for residential and public charging stations, can charge an EV in 4-10 hours and a PHEV in 1-2 hours. This level requires a 240-volt power supply for the car to plug into. If you aren’t sure if you have a 240-volt power outlet or if your grid is equipped for one, call you electrician for an assessment of your installation options.  

Level 3, direct current fast charging (DCFC), only takes up to 90 minutes to fully charge and is most commonly available along interstate highways. 

More and more towns and businesses are offering public charging either for free or at a minimal cost. You can even encourage your workplace to install a charger. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) offers several programs that make stations more accessible and the Workplace and Fleet initiative provides businesses in nonresidential areas with a 60% rebate for Level 1 or Level 2 EV charging equipment and installation. 

Electric vehicle charging
Charging Station at Boston Nature Center

How to Buy an EV

The Green Energy Consumers Alliance is a great resource for comparing EVs when shopping for a new vehicle. Their Drive Green site lists several dealers, prices, and charging specifics.   

Before picking out any model, don’t forget to explore potential rebates. Currently, EV buyers may be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and residents of Massachusetts that buy an EV for less than $55,000 from a licensed dealership in the Commonwealth may receive a state rebate of $3,500. Visit to learn how to apply and for other state and federal rebate programs. Rebates and credits are subject to change with new laws and legislation, like the recent signing of the Inflation Reduction Act.  

Electric vehicle charging
Charging Station at Moose Hill

EVs at Mass Audubon

Mass Audubon is hoping to build a fleet of EVs across the state. We currently own two EVs (Chevy Bolts) and are in the process of replacing additional sedans with EVs and PHEVs. We are also looking into the new electric pick-ups (e.g. the Ford Lightning or Chevy Silverado). 

In the meantime, we know many of our staff and sanctuary visitors already have EVs and PHEVs and need a place to charge while at our properties. We have 19 Level 2 charging stations available for visitors and staff located at 15 wildlife sanctuaries around the state, with each plug providing about 25 miles of driving range for every hour of charging time for an average EV.  The electricity powering the cars at all our sanctuaries is also sustainable, sourced from solar panels and other green resources.

To learn more about the myths and facts about owning an EV, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Vehicle Guide

What To Know About Going Solar

From charging your phone to heating your home, energy powers your life. Unfortunately, not every energy resource is sustainable. Currently, many people rely on fossil fuels for most of their energy needs. Fossil fuels are finite resources—such as coal, oil, and natural gas—found in the earth and release excess greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – the root of climate change.  

Solar energy, on the other hand, is cleaner and limitless. If you are interested in going green, solar panels may be a great addition to your home. Here are the basics you need to know. 

Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

How do solar panels work? 

As you drive through your town, you may see solar panels on the roof of someone’s home. These solar panels, or photovoltaic cells, rely on sunlight to create a microscopic reaction that separates electrons from the atom. This separation results in an electrical current that we can harness and use. Even when the sun isn’t shining, power is generated by an electric grid connected to the module. 

Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary

What to consider before getting solar panels 

There are a couple of factors you need to consider before installing any solar panels on your home, including location and orientation to the sun. Solar panels should be placed in a location with plenty of direct sunlight and free of any trees or buildings that could block the sun’s rays. For houses in the Northern Hemisphere, it is optimal for solar panels to face south.  

Once you confirm that your home is suitable for solar panels, you must decide what type and number of panels to install. A solar photovoltaic (PV) module can be installed on your roof or mounted on the ground. 

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

Buying versus leasing solar panels 

While both buying and renting solar panels are cost-effective green solutions to powering your home, there are different advantages to both options. When you buy solar panels, they can increase your home’s value and save you more in your monthly energy costs. On the other hand, upfront costs for solar panels are much less when leasing, and you are not in charge of future maintenance.  

No matter what you decide, there are several statewide and third-party programs to help you finance solar panel installation. If you choose to use a third-party program, there are typically two types of agreements. The first is a lease that allows you to only pay for the solar system rather than the electricity generated. The second option is a power purchase agreement (PPA) in which the provider installs the PV array and then sells the electricity generated back to you at a rate that is usually lower than the local utility price. 

If leasing or buying isn’t feasible for you, a community solar program where you receive energy from a shared solar system, may be a perfect solution. 

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary © Phil Doyle

Solar at Mass Audubon

Here at Mass Audubon, we strongly support responsibly-sited solar power, and improved access to it, as highlighted in our Action Agenda goals. Through careful site selection and consideration, 20 Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries are powered in part or in full by solar PV arrays. Our teams meticulously choose solar installation sites to minimize the loss and fragmentation of existing ecosystems and support resilient landscapes, so our first choice is to always install solar panels on an available roof. 

Mass Audubon’s largest array, with 119 PV roof panels, powers the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, and even has excess power for nearby buildings to use. In addition to the ELC, the Nature Center, Farm Life Center, and Green Barn are all equipped and powered in part by separate solar arrays.  

Unlike the panels at Drumlin Farm that are fixed in one direction, the PV array at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton tilts and rotates to follow the sun. Throughout the day, the panel adjusts to track the sun’s location and generates as much solar energy as possible. Compared to a fixed array, adjustable arrays can harness 45% more power. 

In April of 2022, the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan announced it’s accomplishment of reaching a net-zero energy status, or becoming carbon neutral, through the installation of solar panels on the George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center, and a nearby ground-mounted array. By becoming carbon-neutral, the Boston Nature Center is eliminating the emission of more than 136,000 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide annually.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about the solar panel benefits, costs, and programs, visit Mass Save, an organization that aims to help residents and businesses across Massachusetts save money and energy, leading our state to a clean and energy-efficient future. Be a leader in your community and consider switching to solar power today.