Engineer helps Westborough residents go green


By Serena Howlett, Contributing Writer

Sharad Mehta and his wife Alka Yadav-Mehta

Westborough – Global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer are highly complex topics most people can’t begin to wrap their heads around. Sharad Mehta is an engineer who typically “looks at systems as a whole.” His work at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington includes defense and disaster relief projects. But Mehta is also a concerned citizen and Westborough resident who believes individuals can help make our planet a healthier place. Not content with hand-wringing about global warming, Mehta makes hands-on plans and takes action.

For the past two years, Mehta’s has worked with the Westborough Rotary Club’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) to plan and carry out three programs. One project is about the effects of non-biodegradable plastic, which contaminates the food chain and drinking water. 

“We visited a recycling facility and observed the way film plastic, such as single use plastic bags, jams the rollers,” Mehta said.

To discourage the use of plastic grocery bags, COTE is participating in a challenge to collect 500 pounds of the environmentally hazardous bags for a recycling project. 

Two other Rotary projects address the contribution of fossil fuels to the depletion of the ozone layer – and, ultimately, global warming. These projects ask for individual buy-in to meet the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions (100-percent renewable) by the year 2050. 

“For homeowners who switch to green technology,” Mehta explained, “there is an initial outlay of cash, but in the long run, the new systems reduce monthly bills.” 

Mehta practices what he preaches. He talked enthusiastically about his electric car.

“It’s really very efficient,” he said. “I can charge my car overnight in the garage. To do this, you need to have the same kind of electrical outlet required for an electric dryer. I can recharge my car in about 20 minutes at an EV charging station.” 

Mehta also uses an “air-source heat pump” for home heating. 

“The estimate we have is that 85 percent of the time we will be on electricity and be cost-effective,” he said. “When the temperature falls below 25 degrees, the system will switch to propane.” 

Mehta also touted the efficiencies of solar panels. 

“With solar panels, I can feed energy back and forth from home to grid,” he explained. “As a result, my electric bill is negative.”

Mehta plays a leadership role in implementing the town of Westborough’s Climate Action Plan. Working groups focus on electric municipal vehicles, heating municipal buildings, waste management and transportation. Recognizing the important contribution of trees to air quality, as a member of the “Tree Canopy” group, he volunteers identify unhealthy trees and opportunities for tree planting around town. 

Mehta is tireless in his efforts to inform people about what they can do to save the environment. Last year, Mehta gave a two-hour presentation at Westborough Library.

“I want to introduce ideas at the right time,” Mehta said, “so people have the information when it comes to making a decision.”