What is Environment & Energy?
The environment encompasses an area’s natural resources – land, air, fresh and marine water, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and the commercial and recreational uses they support – and their intersection with energy sources for and emissions from transportation, commerce, industry and home heating and cooling systems, along with the local effects of global climate change.
The sector includes businesses focused on environmental health or energy generation, local planning departments, expert consultants in a range of environmental and energy fields, nonprofit groups and foundations, environmental science departments at local colleges and universities, K-12 environmental education and out-of-school programs, and environmental justice organizations.
THE ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY SECTOR IN BOSTON
The 47-square mile City of Boston sits at the confluence of the Charles, Neponset and Mystic Rivers, whose combined watersheds include 57 cities and towns and drain an area of more than 400 square miles. Boston’s largely urbanized environment also boasts the deep water Boston Harbor and thousands of acres of forested and landscaped parks, active wetlands, community gardens and urban farms.
Boston’s formal open space system includes more than 7,000 acres of protected land, with more than 215 parks and playgrounds owned and managed by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, 2,200 acres managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. In addition, the nonprofit Boston Natural Areas Network owns, manages and protects more than 175 community gardens and 1,400 acres of urban wilds within the Boston City limits.
The Boston Environment Department, with encouragement and support from Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is making Boston a leader in green policies, standards and initiatives among its counterparts nationally and globally – from setting goals for the greenhouse emissions of municipal buildings and fleets to the nation’s first green building code.
The state’s environmental health and policies are under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Its responsibilities range from Department of Agricultural Resources, Coastal Zone Management and Division of Conservation Services to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Energy Resources, Department of Fish and Game, Energy Facilities Siting Board and Board of Registration of Hazardous Waste Site Cleanup Professionals.
These statewide resources are complemented by local offices of federal environmental agencies such as the New England regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Regional resources Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and its MetroFuture plan for the year 2030, local planning departments, foundations and nonprofit groups.
The Barr Foundation and Kendall Foundation, in particular are focusing their resources on developing policies and programs for a greener, more sustainable and more environmentally equitable future in Boston and New England.
Boston Harbor represents an environmental success story. The Boston Harbor clean-up, which began in the mid-1980s in response to a law suit brought by the Conservation Law Foundation, took more than a decade and almost $4 billion to complete. Since then, the region’s coast has experienced a renaissance. Today, just 45 minutes by ferry from downtown Boston is Boston Harbor Islands National Park, which includes more than 30 islands, and Boston’s urban waterways area among the cleanest in the nation.
The renewed health of the Charles River and the Boston Harbor marine environment and revitalization of Greater Boston’s shore land owes much to the tireless commitment of three dedicated nonprofit organizations. The Charles River Watershed Association, founded in 1965 and one of the nation’s oldest watershed organizations, uses all tools at its disposal, including science, advocacy and the law, to protect, preserve and enhance the Charles River and its watershed, working with 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Save the Harbor/Save the Bay is an organization of thousands of citizens, scientists, and civic, corporate, cultural and community leaders working to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment for the enjoyment of the public. The Boston Harbor Association, formed when the League of Women Voters joined the Boston Shipping Association to create a new non-profit organization to clean one of the dirtiest US harbors in the 70’s, is now focused on completion of Boston’s HarborWalk along the edge of six waterfront neighborhoods, and on the potential effects of climate change-related storm surges that threaten Boston’s waterfront.
These bulwarks of Boston’s environmental activism have been joined by neighborhood groups from Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) in Roxbury, focused on environmental justice and on the engagement and mobilization of young people to the Boston Tree Party, dedicated to planting food-bearing trees throughout the City.
Boston is also home to or the beneficiary of statewide environmental organizations, from the venerable Trustees of Reservations, Appalachian Mountain Club to the Environmental League of Massachusetts and Conservation Law Foundation.
Newer organizations are also tackling new environmental threats and opportunities. These include the Massachusetts Business Leadership Council, A Better City (ABC), working to strengthen the region’s mass transit systems, Second Nature and its American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, CERES, which works with business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change, and E2, a powerful business voice for green jobs and policies affiliated with the National Resource Defense Council.