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RANDOLPH, Vt. – Lawmakers and business leaders are fighting climate change and looking to help Vermont cash in at the same time. A summit focused on just that brought hundreds together Monday at Vermont Technical College in Randolph.
Can you take on climate change and turn a profit at the same time? That was what government officials, educators, business leaders and investors were tackling Monday at a summit at Vermont Technical College organized by the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
“We are wrestling with how does Vermont respond to climate change in a positive way to create jobs, to attract young people, and to support economic renewal, particularly for the more rural parts of the state,” said Paul Costello, Vt. Council on Rural Development.
And that includes solar arrays that are spotted more frequently throughout the state and work being done down on the farm to improve soil quality.
“And as we increase organic content, fertility goes up, climate change sequestration goes up, water quality improvements go up,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross.
Businesses like Casella Waste Systems are already looking to the future when it comes to Vermont’s climate economy. Garbage disposal is now just one part of a growing portfolio.
“We have always traditionally done recycling. But we are getting into areas of say for example, helping manufacturers produce zero waste from their manufacturing facilities,” said Joe Fusco, Casella Waste Systems.
And from big business to little startups, Emily Donaldson founded “Cultivating Action.” It’s a new nonprofit that aims to put sustainable aquaponic systems in every school in the state by the end of 2017.
“If they have a grounding in the science behind a lot of the ecosystems and how they influence the world around them, then they will make better decision in whatever industry they go into,” said Donaldson.
While businesses are seeing green in being green -some wonder at what cost? Specifically a possible carbon tax that has been floated by lawmakers.
“Vermont is going to be at an economic disadvantage. And no matter how that money is spent, what will clearly happen is that Vermonters with lose,” said Matt Cota, Vt. Fuel Dealers Association.
And then there is the classic not in my backyard complaint. While people often say renewable energy is a good thing, they don’t necessary want to be forced to look at solar farms or wind turbines.
“We have to find the right balance point there and we recognize that this is a challenging new issue so it is inevitable that this kind of conversation has to happen,” said Costello.
And this conference now in its second year is sparking that conversation. Bringing climate change front and center in Vermont.