Sustainability Is Big in Boston

Boston is one of America's oldest cities, with a rich economic and social history. As the Northeast region's hub, Boston is home to 617,594 residents, many institutions of higher education, some of the world's finest hospitals, and many cultural and professional sports organizations. Every year, millions of people visit Boston to take in its historic neighborhoods, attend cultural or sporting events, and conduct business.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been determined to make Boston the most sustainable city in the United States. For this city, “sustainability” has broad meaning, including not only traditional measures of environmental sustainability, but also economic vitality, public health, educational attainment, public safety, and social equity.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been determined to make Boston the most sustainable city in the United States.

For these reasons, Boston is a finalist for the 2012 Siemens Sustainability Community Awards.

Boston has developed a variety of partnerships, programs, and regulations to meet Mayor Menino’s bold goals for sustainability and climate action. The city is working closely with state and  federal partners to implement sustainability programs and advocate for further policy developments to assist Boston achieving a more sustainable future. 

Not waiting for state or federal action alone, Boston developed a host of partnerships from the CEOlevel Boston Green Ribbon Commission to community-based organizations. The city also is developing programs and tools, from green building standards to re-engineering Boston streets for the future, to advance sustainability, leverage economic development, and improve the quality of life in Boston neighborhoods.

Boston leaders believe sustainability will bring the city many economic gains. For example, meeting energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals will produce net savings of $2 billion in energy costs for residents, businesses, and institutions by 2020. Furthermore, Bostonians will benefit from improved public health and reduced health care costs, as well as reductions in air pollution and traffic congestion and a safer, cleaner environment.

Boston leaders believe sustainability will bring the city many economic gains.

Here’s a sampling of Boston’s sustainability initiatives:

A Climate of Progress

Given the inextricable ties between energy conservation, transportation, energy generation, waste management, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate adaptation, Boston has ongoing initiatives in all of these areas for its own municipal operations and its residents, businesses, and institutions.  “A Climate of Progress” is Boston’s comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by the year 2020. Its major components include:

  • Specific measures and policies to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions from all sources 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050
  • Steps for integrating expected climate changes into all planning and project review processes
  • A framework for engaging all segments of the community in sustainability action and leadership
  • Guidelines to ensure that Boston’s innovative businesses and workforce can take advantage of sustainability opportunities

Green Buildings

The City of Boston was the first in the nation to adopt a Green Building Zoning, which places Boston as one of the top cities in the nation with green buildings.  Boston implemented a new “Stretch” Energy Code that requires new residential and commercial buildings to achieve approximately 20% better energy efficiency than the state’s base energy code.

Renew Boston

The Renew Boston energy efficiency program was launched in 2010 seeking to catalyze clean energy solutions across all sectors of Boston innovative network of energy efficiency and alternative energy service providers is  helping Boston save energy and money for residents and businesses while creating jobs.    

Since January 2011, Renew Boston:

  • Conducted over 7,000 comprehensive energy assessments and over 1,500 insulation improvements in Boston homes, saving residents over $2 million a year in energy costs
  • Completed 700 energy upgrades for small businesses, saving over $650,000 a year.

Innovation District

Mayor Menino established the Innovation District on the South Boston waterfront as geographical area for clean tech and biotech companies to grow their businesses in Boston.  Since January 2010, 100 companies and 3,000 jobs have set up in Boston’s Innovation District, from startups like FastCAP Systems, Oasis Water, and Next Step Living to the headquarters if Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Complete Streets

Boston Complete Streets launched in 2009 aims to put pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users on equal footing with drivers, and promote a vision of streets that are safe, attractive, and conducive to healthy, active transportation. By ensuring that “the car is no longer the king in Boston,” the program has installed 50 miles of bicycle lanes, reduced storm water runoff through “green” infrasctructure, 15,000 smart LED streetlight fixtures and installe more than 40 electric vehicle charging stations

Hubway Bike Share

Boston launched the New Balance Hubway last summer, the new bicycling sharing to immediate success.  In just four months the 61-station, 600-bike Hubway system recorded 140,000 trips.  The New Balance Hubway is open for the season in 2012 and is expected to add more stations in Boston and expand into neighboring towns of Cambridge and Somerville.

Grow Boston Greener

The Grow Boston Greener program is underway with the goal of planting 100,000 new trees in Boston by 2020 . Over 4,000 new trees, public and private, have been planted in Boston in the past few years in partnership with corporate support and NGOs like the Boston Natural Areas Network..

BCLC will be showcasing Boston as well as the other finalists for the 2012 Siemens Sustainable Community Awards at our National Conference, which takes place from April 16 – 18 in Atlanta, GA. For more information on Boston’s sustainability program, visit City of Boston Environmental and Energy Services.