By Jane Keller Gordon, Assistant Editor
Carlisle resident Launa Zimmaro walks the talk. She and her husband Richard Kane both drive electric vehicles, compost, and utilize solar panels to supply most of their home’s electricity. Zimmaro is actively taking a deep dive into climate change issues through town committees and the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA).
She is one of 3,000 LWVMA members throughout 47 local Leagues in Massachusetts. The organization’s mission is, “… to empower and educate Massachusetts voters and effect change on a wide range of issues, including election laws and campaign finance, natural resources and the environment, women’s health, children’s issues, state budget and finances, public education, and public safety.”
What to do next
Zimmaro retired from a rewarding career as a special education teacher, Title 1 administrator, and school principal. She said, “At that point, I had an identity crisis about what I was going to do. I wasn’t calling meetings and communicating with staff and parents anymore. I needed to figure out what I wanted to do… My focus was going to be on environmental issues, which is what I really care about.”
In 2007, Zimmaro joined a grassroots group and the Carlisle Household Recycling Committee and Carlisle Energy Task Force. She proposed and spearheaded a school-wide composting program called Carlisle Grows Green. “I’m a foodie but I care about the food system,” said Zimmaro. The program is still going strong, offering discounted bins, collecting compostables at the school, and providing drop-off bins at the town’s transfer station for items not suitable for backyard compost, such as meat scraps.
The League was a perfect fit
Zimmaro connected with the LWVMA through a local colleague. “The organization is nonpartisan and deals with a breadth of issues that I care deeply about,” she said. By 2009, Zimmaro had joined the LMVMA Legislative Action Committee. “As an educator, I was known as a data queen. I’ve always searched for the cause, not the symptoms,” Zimmaro added.
Using those skills, Zimmaro focused on an effort at LWVMA called Life in the Balance. Over the course of two years, she helped organize forums on the food system, waste, water, and energy.
Democracy in the Balance
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Citizens United, Zimmaro and another volunteer, Becky Shannon, organized a program about money and politics for LMVMA called Democracy in the Balance. Over 500 people attended a presentation anchored by NPR’s Tom Ashbrook. Zimmaro and Shannon went on to present the content at national League conventions. “We held a caucus that had a huge attendance,” which generated greater focus at the national level.
In Massachusetts, Zimmaro lobbied the state house for a bill that would create a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. “This is the first comprehensive climate bill since 2008. It sets ambitious and achievable targets for reductions of emissions in every sector. It sets standards for appliances and for higher energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings,” said Zimmaro.
Zimmaro’s efforts helped move the LMVMA membership to vote to declare a climate emergency in 2018.
On a national level, Zimmaro is a member of the executive committee of the LMV US Climate Task Force (LWV USCT), serving as chair of the transportation team, and as a member of the renewable energy team. She views the need to reduce emissions from the transportation sector as the largest regional and national source of emissions is essential to addressing the climate crisis.
For more information about the LMVMA, www.lwvma.org.