Which Boston Philanthropy Wants You to Live Green?

The city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts have ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce emissions by 25% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050, each and every Bostonian is going to need to get involved. As Boston’s former Mayor Thomas Menino used to say, reaching those kinds of targets will mean bringing environmental conservation to a more personal level, and “turning science talk into sidewalk talk.” That means getting Bostonians to take small steps to reduce the city's carbon footprint, things like switching out lightbulbs or giving up meat one day a week. (Read Barr Foundation: Boston Area Grants).

A citywide campaign known as Greenovate Boston, funded in part by Barr, is inspiring ordinary residents to sign a pledge and live a little greener. Not only did Barr provide a generous grant to propel the program, but its staff members are leading by example. Knowledge officer, Stefan Lanfer, takes a bike trailer to work, climate change program officer, Mariella Puerto, harvests rainwater, and early education senior program officer, Kimberly Haskins, grocery shops on foot with reusable bags. Here's a few other lifestyles changes that Greenovate suggests:

  • Take public transportation to work
  • Donate garbage to a farmer's market composting program
  • “Adopt” and care for a young tree on the city streets
  • Unplug electronics before going to bed

Barr is betting big that these small changes will lead to big results. There's a certain psychology behind this “foot in the door” approach that depends upon human behavior to build on good habits and make them new rituals. According to a Boston Globe report, around 400 people have signed the pledge so far and most of them have stuck to it. Considering that Boston has a population of over 636,000, the campaign sure has a long way to go.

Making Boston greener is such a big deal to the Barr Foundation that its assigned two senior program officers to tackle the challenge. Mariella Puerto and Mary Skelton Roberts share the responsibility of boosting the number of program participants into the hundreds of thousands. In a recent blog post, Puerto compared Barr's local climate change goals to reaching the summit of the world's tallest mountains. “We have a long way to go. Yet we are determined to make the climb, and to do what we can–even while slogging our way up Mount Washington–to help bring about the new ways of thinking and doing required to reach that loftier peak,” Puerto explained.