Whether you hail from the Commonwealth originally, or have come to call it home only since coming to BC, we all like to think of ourselves as Bostonians. And as such, we take pride in our city and state’s accomplishments.
In the wake of Earth Day, some might wonder whether we can be proud of our home's (or home-away-from-home's) standing in the environmental realm. The answer is a resounding yes; Massachusetts is impressively sustainable, and boasts an enthusiasm and deep consideration for the needs of our planet.
Since 2011, Massachusetts has held the title as most the most sustainable state in the US. The position is determined by the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which in 2015 granted Massachusetts 44 out of 50 points for its sustainability.
The system assesses six standards—transportation, utilities, building codes, combined heat and power (CHP), state-led initiatives, and appliance standards—to determine a state’s sustainability and environmental practices. Massachusetts gained significantly high scores in every category (except appliance standards, in which they received zero out of a possible two points), including a perfect score for utilities and CHP.
Massachusetts is also a national leader when it comes to the divestment movement. Divestment is a political and social movement in which institutions and individuals choose to divest—get rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds—in the fossil fuel industry, in order to send a message that the fossil fuel industry is responsible for climate change and that it does not have the support of those who divest.
Various institutions, towns, and organizations in Massachusetts have divested either partially or completely from fossil fuels: notably all the Universities of Massachusetts (only from coal so far), towns such as Cambridge, Somerville, Truro, and a dozen more, dozens of churches and faith organizations, Hampshire College, and Harvard University. Furthermore, legislation that would divest the Massachusetts Pension Reserve—which handles pensions for all teachers and public employees—has been proposed and filed on several occasions, and if passed would have a very significant outcome.
This wouldn’t be the only environmentally-minded legislation at works in Massachusetts; laws including the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act and the Green Communities Act focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making the state more energy efficient than it is at present. The Global Warming Solutions Act established a goal of reducing Massachusetts greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 levels, and offers both a reasonable plan and a publicly accessible record of improvements being made. Green Communities has set up funds to help towns and counties to assert more energy efficient goals and agendas.
Another legislative initiative, Imagine Boston 2030, hits closer to home. Mayor Walsh is using the inputs of Bostonians to “preserve and enhance what we love about Boston, while… address[ing] our challenges.” Although this initiative is not necessarily based on an environmentally-minded agenda, it does include some proposals that would make Boston a leader in sustainability. A focus on sustainable building, growing the amount of “green collar” work, and more renewable energy initiatives are all highlighted in Walsh’s proposed improvements.
In one way, Boston is already leading the nation in sustainable action; Boston Public Schools (BPS) have been in the process of “greening,” as part of the Greenovate Boston initiative. The goal is to educate students about the environment and climate change, get them active in environmental efforts, and use sustainable practices to create a better learning environment.
Although Massachusetts is a leader in sustainability and environmentalism, there is always more to be done. Social movements in Boston and across the state strive to make it more accountable and active than it currently is. The environmental group 350 Mass, for example, advocates for divestment, efficiency, and a carbon-free economy, joining together movements and groups across the state.
Here at BC, Climate Justice Boston College is actively involved in advocating for divestment, and schools like BU, MIT, and Northeastern have similar groups. No wonder we have been named the most sustainable state for the past five years; when it comes to our passion for the environment, we are never done improving.