Claire Brown a student at The New School in Kennebunk, tells members of the Kennebunk Select Board about greenhouse gas emissions at a recent meeting. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – With a population pegged at 11,380 in 2016, Kennebunk emitted .38 metric tons per capita of carbon dioxide, about .07 tons per capita more than South Portland, which had a population of 25,065 that year, according to data collected by students at The New School. The students collected data from those towns, along with Camden, Portland, York, Kennebunkport and Brunswick.

It is part of the myriad of research they’re been doing to put a number on the town’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change and how to cope with it is a topic on the minds of many these days – and particularly in communities which have signed on to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. Kennebunk signed on last year and part of its three-year commitment is determining greenhouse gas emissions in the community.

Enter students at The New School, where a climate change curriculum was developed last year. This year there are 12 students in the class, taught by two faculty members.

These young men and women have been asking for numbers and putting them together to provide a picture for the town’s Energy Efficiency Committee, the wider Kennebunk community and for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. It is a task that time consuming and so the students report in to the Select Board periodically to let them know what they’ve learned.

Students at The New School in Kennebunk have been compiling date for the town’s Energy Efficiency Committee and gave an update to the Select Board. Courtesy Image

Presenting the information on Jan. 28 were students Henry Benoit, Claire Brown and Samantha LaFond.


“Climate change will have a large effect on the Kennebunk area, said Brown, as she showed a 2013 video of a van at Kennebunk Beach being overturned by high surf during a storm. “Without intervention, the ocean’s rising waters will damage businesses, ruin real estate, and destroy transportation infrastructure.” Many tourist sites will become inaccessible, she added.

As to the carbon dioxide emissions, students have remaining work to do, .Kennebunk Energy Efficiency Committee vice chair Margaret Bartenhagen. She said the figure will likely get larger, as the school students are awaiting additional information from the town, Maine Department of Transportation and Central Maine Power.

Not surprisingly, given the size of the bus fleet, the students’ data showed that RSU 21 leads the municipal departments in fuel consumption.

Electricity consumption is also highest in RSU 21, followed by the Kennebunk Sewer District and Kennebunk Water District. Kennebunk Fire Department used the least amount of electricity, students’  date showed.

Recommendations by students included switching to hybrid cars instead of gas or diesel, and for heating homes, using heat pumps and installing solar arrays

The students plan a further update in June.

“This is a multi-community effort, and it’s important to know where we are,” said Bartenhagen. “These young men and women are doing a yeoman’s task here – we could not be doing this without them.”

Comments are not available on this story.