Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools Status Report

It’s no secret that the Boston Public Schools buildings are in a state of disrepair. After decades without major renovations, deferred maintenance, and inequitable investment, our school buildings are not serving our students and teachers well. Of the many repairs necessary, our schools need to be tools for climate action with clean energy, ventilation, green space, and resilience against extreme heat and flooding. That’s why we’ve embarked on our Green and Healthy Schools campaign. You can learn more about it here. >>

Throughout 2022 and 2023, the City of Boston has been working on its Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools. We’ve worked closely with the Wu Administration to make this vision a reality, including by ensuring Bostonians from every neighborhood get to weigh in on the process.

This November, the City and School Department have hosted several public sessions to report on their progress and hear additional community feedback. The most recent set of sessions took place in person. You can view the City’s full presentation here. >>

Here are our big takeaways…

The City’s Long-Term Facilities Plan is nearing completion

The City’s Green New Deal for BPS process has centered on the development of a “Long-Term Facilities Plan.” Despite many wanting a specific timeline for when every building may be renovated or closed, the City is presenting a Decision Making Rubric and model timeline that will be applied to all of their facilities-related decisions moving forward.

Image: City of Boston and Boston Public Schools

Mergers and closures will happen on a two-year timeline

The City anticipates closing some schools or merging multiple schools together if the present schools do not meet the standards they are developing alongside the community. In other words, if the school building cannot, with reasonable renovation, provide the “High-Quality Student Experience,” it may be closed or merged. They anticipate one year between a school being shortlisted for a merger/closure and the merger/closure beginning. The “transition plan” for the merger/closure will run for a year, making the total timeline between announcement and completion two years. They also mentioned that the school’s community will be engaged throughout the process.

Image: City of Boston and Boston Public Schools

BCAN’s advocacy is working

The City shared that “Community priorities defined the High-Quality Student Experience.” This is the framework through which they will make decisions about school renovations, mergers, closures, and new constructions moving forward. Specifically, they identified the following priorities, which are reflective of what our members advocated for:

  • Indoor environmental conditions
  • Maintenance of school facilities
  • Outdoor spaces for learning, play, and sports
  • Involvement of students, families, and staff in BPS decision-making

The City is also posing several building models, which are models for what schools can look like based on the student body size and the grade levels being served. They said each of these building models will offer students “Healthy, resilient & energy-efficient facilities.”

These commitments further extend the BCAN-supported Executive Order requiring all major renovations and new constructions of City-owned buildings, including schools, to be fossil fuel-free.

BERDO Focus Groups: Discussions and Insights

In 2021, BCAN helped pass the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), a Boston-wide law that requires buildings to publicly report and reduce their emissions. Building emissions, caused by fossil fuels used for heating, cooling, and electricity, are responsible for 70% of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions. BERDO aims to reduce building emissions in large buildings, attaining net zero emissions by 2050.  The City is now working on detailed regulations and policies that iron out the details for implementing BERDO.

Getting input from community members who will be impacted by BERDO is a key part of this process. The ordinance applies to different types of large buildings, both residential and non-residential (the full list of covered buildings is available here.) The City suggested holding community conversations to gather input from anyone who might be affected by BERDO, and BCAN chose to specifically invite residents of buildings covered by the ordinance. To this end, we led two community conversations about BERDO this past August. These focus groups had two goals: giving out information to community members who lived in BERDO-covered housing, and gathering their thoughts about the ordinance. We sent our findings to the City, and they will be combined with those from other conversations held by community organizations or by the City itself.

At the focus group which I observed, a few main points came up. The community members in attendance, who lived in different neighborhoods across Boston, felt enthusiastic and had a generally positive impression of BERDO. They anticipated that the ordinance, if correctly implemented, would result in improved air quality and help lessen the impact of climate change. Despite their optimism, many of them were concerned that BERDO regulations would result in increased rent and property taxes. Several in attendance wondered who they could contact for questions about BERDO, and it was unclear to some of them whether their building owners had been effectively notified that they needed to report their emissions.

Community members made it clear that good communication is needed between landlords and renters if BERDO is to be implemented. Some condo owners and board members also raised several potential issues that applied to their situation. Since condos are owned and shared by a number of individuals, sometimes including absentee owners who rent out their units, the residents were wondering if the regulations would clearly spell out who is responsible for reporting and managing building emissions. Some condos are run by a board of owners, by a management company, or by a single owner; some contain both market rate units and subsidized units. These differences also impact how buildings can address BERDO regulations.

Under BERDO, large buildings that do not follow the reporting guidelines and emissions regulations will be fined. This money will be pooled in the Equitable Emissions Investment Fund (EEIF), which will aim to support projects on emission reduction that directly benefit the Boston community. Community members in attendance suggested several requirements that they’d like to see for fund applicants. An attendee wished to see a list of vetted vendors that stick to certain environmental standards, and another suggested compiling a list of women- and minority-owned businesses. Air quality monitoring, preservation of green space, and effective communication with tenants were also brought up.

The City has held several working sessions on the regulations, and you can stay updated with the developments here. If you’d like to get involved with BCAN as the BERDO regulations are developed, sign up to volunteer with us.

Written by Michèle Duguay

Save Money On Energy With Our New Tool!

BCAN’s Housing Justice project is proud to unveil our database of Funding To Make Your Home Green And Healthy. We have compiled information on grants, loans, and tax credits that support repairs, upgrades, and retrofits. You can find what is available—from federal, state, and local governments, as well as private sources—to make it easier to afford insulation and weatherproofing, heat pumps and other efficient appliances, solar panels, and other improvements that make homes cleaner, safer, and more energy-efficient.

The database is aimed at homeowners, renters, owners of small multifamily properties, and nonprofit organizations in Boston. In keeping with BCAN’s core goals, we aim to reach residents of environmental justice communities, where the need for housing improvements is especially great. In fact, many of the programs give preference to these communities.

The information here will be updated as we learn more about these and other programs. In fact, major new programs funded by the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 have yet to come online. We will add information about how to use them as it becomes available through state agencies or elsewhere. We welcome suggestions, additions, corrections, and comments via our Feedback Form.

Please share the database with family, friends, and neighbors. These programs are for all of us to make our homes better and to contribute to a healthier climate for all.

Check out the database now >>

Written By Brian Ladd

Progress towards healthy and affordable homes

The Boston Climate Action Network is thrilled to celebrate another step forward in our ongoing efforts toward green, healthy, and affordable homes. Affordable housing building owners can now apply for up to $10,000 grants supporting deep energy retrofits and decarbonization thanks to a new program announced by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. These funds will enable comprehensive energy assessments, aiding owners in improving building performance and achieving significant energy savings and carbon emission reductions. The program, funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), empowers building owners to conduct comprehensive energy assessments, which serve as the initial step in improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

For over a year, BCAN has been outspoken in our desire to see all homes in Boston eliminate fossil fuels to protect the health of our communities and our planet. However, it is critical we avoid “green gentrification,” or the rapid rise of rents and displacement resulting from clean energy renovations. We are glad to see this program focuses the funds on those who need help the most: our city’s lowest-income residents. BCAN Advocacy Director Hessann Farooqi celebrated the announcement, saying “I’m thrilled to see another step forward in getting funds to those who need it. I applaud Mayor Wu and her administration for funding this program. However, we need more funding to make every single building fossil fuel-free. That’s why we need to pass important state legislation, like the Zero Carbon Renovation Fund.”

Join the fight to make housing green and affordable by signing up to volunteer.

Hearing from community on building regulations

Last week, the Boston Climate Action Network held a series of focus groups to gather input from community members across the city to inform regulations on carbon emissions from buildings, as a part of our work on the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance.

The Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) is a City of Boston law that reduces carbon emissions from the city’s largest buildings. It also requires building owners to report their emissions publicly. The Boston Climate Action Network helped to pass a strengthened version of this ordinance in 2021, ensuring there was real enforcement power by the City, protecting environmental justice communities, and requiring more buildings to be compliant with the law. Now, two BCAN members sit on the City of Boston’s Community Advisory Group on this ordinance to help inform the development of the regulations. These regulations fill in the details to implement the ordinance. These regulations will be finalized by the end of 2023 and will take effect at the start of 2024. To ensure the regulations meet the needs of our community, BCAN held focus groups to gather input from residents of buildings under the jurisdiction of BERDO. Such buildings contain 15 or more apartment units. We heard from residents from a variety of neighborhoods, including East Boston, Allston, Mission Hill, South Boston, and Jamaica Plain. This valuable feedback will be given back to the City of Boston, which will revise its regulations based on it. From there, the City will issue a report on how exactly they used community feedback. We’ll share more information about this once we have it.

If you’re interested in getting more involved with the writing of BERDO regulations, sign up to volunteer with BCAN.

Building a Sustainable Future: Boston Adopts Climate-Friendly Stretch Code

The City of Boston has taken a significant step towards reducing its carbon footprint by opting-in to the stretch code. This decision was made after the Boston City Council voted in favor of adopting the new climate-friendly state building code, which includes the stretch code, on April 5, 2023.

The stretch code is an optional set of energy efficiency standards that municipalities can adopt to exceed the state’s building code requirements. It is designed to encourage energy-efficient building design and construction, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy and money for building owners and occupants. The Boston Climate Action Network and the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, alongside other groups, were instrumental in helping pass this code. Our efforts to raise awareness about the importance of adopting the stretch code helped make this decision possible. Taking this step has allowed the City of Boston to join a growing number of municipalities across the state that have already adopted the code. This decision is expected to have a significant impact on the city’s efforts to combat climate change and meet its carbon reduction goals.

According to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, “Adopting the stretch code is an important step towards meeting our climate goals and ensuring that Boston remains a leader in sustainability. By promoting energy-efficient buildings, we can reduce our carbon footprint and create a healthier, more resilient city for all.” The stretch code includes a range of energy efficiency measures, such as increased insulation, high-performance windows, and efficient heating and cooling systems. It also requires the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to generate a portion of a building’s energy needs. One of the key benefits of the stretch code is that it can help lower energy bills for building owners and occupants. By incorporating energy-efficient design and construction practices, buildings can use less energy and therefore require less money to operate. In addition, the stretch code can help create jobs and support local businesses. The code can stimulate demand for products and services that help buildings meet the new standards. This can help create new jobs and business opportunities for local contractors, architects, and suppliers.

The City of Boston’s decision to opt-in to the stretch code is a significant step forward in its efforts to address climate change and promote sustainability. By adopting these new standards, Boston is demonstrating its commitment to creating a healthier, more resilient city for all.

Overall, the stretch code is an important tool for promoting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector. As more municipalities adopt this code, we can expect to see significant progress towards a more sustainable and resilient future for our city.

BCAN Takes to the Streets: Advocacy Director Speaks at Climate Protest

On March 3, 2023, Boston Common was the site of a powerful demonstration in support of action on climate change. Thousands of activists from across the city and beyond joined together to make their voices heard on this pressing issue. Among the groups participating in the march was the Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN), a local organization that has been working tirelessly to promote sustainability and reduce carbon emissions in the Boston area.

At the protest, BCAN Advocacy Director Hessann Farooqi took to the stage to address the assembled crowd. Farooqi spoke passionately about the urgent need for action on climate change and emphasized the role that local communities can play in driving change. “We need to act now, before it’s too late,” Farooqi said. “But we can’t do it alone. We need to work together, as a community, to make a real difference.”

Farooqi’s message resonated with the crowd, who responded with cheers and applause. Throughout the day, BCAN members marched alongside other activists, carrying signs and banners in support of the environment. Many held signs with messages like “Climate Justice Now” and “Act on Climate Before It’s Too Late”.

Participating in events like the March 3 Climate Protest is just one of the ways that BCAN is working to make a difference.

2022 recap, and support BCAN going into 2023!

Please join us in supporting Boston Climate Action Network in 2023 as we ramp up our campaigns for more sustainable schools and homes.

While 2022 was another challenging year for many of us, it also brought reasons to hope for a better climate future. This was the year Congress passed historic climate change legislation and Mayor Michelle Wu began laying the foundation for a Green New Deal for Boston. Now is the time, and Boston is the place, to win ambitious and pragmatic policies that set precedents that can be replicated throughout our state, region, and worldwide. 

We are a small and dedicated organization and we can win strong policies only with your help! Here are five reasons to get involved or DONATE NOW:

  1. We’re fighting for climate justice in Boston. In two new campaigns, we’re:
  1. We’re growing the movement and developing new climate leaders! This year, BCAN tripled our intern capacity and welcomed new board members, introducing new growth opportunities in campaign leadership, strategy, social media, and outreach. Looking to the future, we’re hoping to eventually build our staff capacity as well, but need all hands on deck to make that happen.
  1. Our network is expanding! For the first time, climate, housing, and schools activists are in the same rooms, breaking down thought barriers and opening up opportunities for systemic change. 
  1. We’re in it for the long haul. For over 20 years we’ve been building the climate justice movement in Boston, training activists, educating the public, and forming coalitions to achieve our goals. Our efforts have helped Boston become a nationwide climate leader with BERDO 2.0 and Community Choice Electricity providing blueprints for the country.
  1. We need you! We’re almost completely volunteer-based, and we rely heavily on donations to fund our campaigns. Anything that you can give us, whether it’s time or money, will make a big difference – every dollar and every hour counts.

Our climate is changing much faster than predicted. A dollar toward activism now can save hundreds of dollars of climate adaptation measures in the decades to come. We urge you to become a sustaining monthly donor to BCAN this year, or make the most generous annual donation your budget permits. Can we count on you?

2022 in pictures…

See all the highlights from 2022 below!

Global Climate Strike Boston 2022

Written by Stefan Geller

Over 100 climate activists gathered in front of the State House on Friday to take part in the “People, Not Profit” climate strike with Fridays For Future Massachusetts, demanding Gov. Charlie Baker and the Boston City Council take urgent action to combat the intersecting crises of racism, economic and energy injustice, housing and climate changes. 

The strike – cosponsored by BCAN, Boston University’s Environmental Student Organization (BU ESO), Extinction Rebellion Boston, Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center and 350 Massachusetts – joined countless others across the globe in support of Fridays For Future, the youth-led climate action group started by Greta Thunberg. 

“Friday’s Climate Strike rally was one of the most moving I have been a part of. The multi-generational participation—with lots of young people, from high school through college and beyond—was simply thrilling,” said BCAN volunteer Terry Mason. “We inspire one another and we need one another, it was clear. Racial diversity among participants was also great to see. The speakers were, to a person, concrete and passionate and even spiritual. I actually welled up with tears at one point. I can’t say enough about how moving that afternoon was to me. It felt like a true community of souls.”

Atop their list of demands, activists called on the Boston City Council to include in its budget a line item to acquire green space infrastructure and reduce urban heat island effect in the city.

Activists also called on Baker and his administration to mitigate further climate change by pressuring ISO-New England, which manages New England’s power grid, to stop obstructing the transition to clean energy use.

“As a young person, being constantly told that our future is doomed can feel incredibly hopeless. However, I am honored to be fighting this fight alongside so many talented activists,” said Maya Nelson of the Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network. “The only option is to tackle climate change with everything we have, on a personal and systemic level, while making sure we listen to all impacted groups.” 

The day after the climate strike, another 100+ climate activists held a rally along American Legion Highway to save Crane Ledge Woods by purchasing the 24-acre urban woodland and tree canopy bordered by Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roslindale. 

“We are all connected. Anything that happens in one part of the world, or in our city impacts all of us,” said Jose Masso of the Crane Ledge Woods Coalition (CLWC). “Our decisions and actions regarding the climate will impact our children’s children and future generations. The time to act is now!”
​​The day after the Climate Strike, March 26, over 100 members and allies of the coalition to Save Crane Ledge Woods called for the city to purchase the 24-acre urban woodland and tree canopy bordered by Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roslindale. The spirited rally drew support from scores of honking cars along American Legion Highway. Full conservation of Crane Ledge Woods is a once-in-a- generation’s opportunity to preserve rich urban tree canopy and invaluable carbon sink for inland neighborhoods. Preserving urban trees is a critical part of mitigating climate change while promoting climate resilience and environmental justice. Contact Mayor Wu and your city councilor by email, telephone, and US mail. To join the fight, sign the CLWC petition now.

Boston Climate Activists Join Fridays For Future Global Climate Strike

March 23, 2022

Activists of Boston and beyond will come together this Friday to demand urgent action needed to combat the intersecting crises of racism, economic and energy injustice, housing, and climate change. The strike will be on March 25, 2022, at 3 PM at the Boston Commons, where the park meets the Statehouse. The Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN), Boston University’s Environmental Student Organization (BU ESO), Extinction Rebellion Boston, Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center, and 350 Massachusetts are co-sponsoring this year’s Fridays For Future Massachusetts Global Climate Strike.

This year’s Global Climate Strike centers on People, Not Profit. We come together on this day to demand that our local and state policymakers take decisive actions to align with this message. We stand in solidarity with the Crane Ledge Woods Coalition to urge Boston City Council to include in its budget a line item to acquire green space infrastructure and reduce urban heat island effect in the city, starting with the Crane Ledge Woods property. To mitigate further climate change, we demand that Governor Baker and his administration heed our call for a just transition to clean energy and call on ISO-New England to stop obstructing this transition. Our full solidarity action toolkit can be found here.

Our speakers for the event are listed below:

Saahithi Achanta, BCAN: “We are all a part of a larger fight and movement against climate change when we make community efforts towards sustainability. Policymakers must understand that change starts locally, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of community efforts to promote sustainability in Boston’s public policy.”

Jose Masso, Crane Ledge Woods Coalition: “We are all connected. Anything that happens in one part of the world, or in our city impacts all of us. Our decisions and actions regarding the climate will impact our children’s children and future generations. The time to act is now!”

Judith Foster, H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center: “Environmental justice is Social justice. We can no longer ignore the science and the obvious. Our toxic environment is affecting our overall health and wellness. We know the solutions, let’s put them into sustainable practices.”

Keeley Bombard, BU ESO: “As the president of BU’s Environmental Student Organization, I sometimes feel like our passion for environmental topics is siloed on campus. With this event, we’re getting the chance to expand our reach and connect to the greater Boston community.” 

Curt Newton, 350 Mass: “In taking on our interlinked ecological and social justice crises, it really matters how we show up for each other and keep growing our capacity to work together. From repairing our relationship with nature to accelerating the clean energy transformation, 350 Mass enthusiastically supports the 2022 Boston Global Climate Strike, and stands in solidarity with BIPOC and youth leadership to create a more equitable and thriving future for all.”

Maya Nelson, Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network: “As a young person, being constantly told that our future is doomed can feel incredibly hopeless. However, I am honored to be fighting this fight alongside so many talented activists. The only option is to tackle climate change with everything we have, on a personal and systemic level, while making sure we listen to all impacted groups.” 

Claire Müller, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network: “Climate change is one more inevitable outcome of racial capitalism. We must heal and transform this entire system with a just transition. With affordable housing, indigenous justice, clean local renewable energy,  and so much more. All with loving cooperation at the heart. We made these systems, we can heal them. That does not mean we all must do everything, but each part of the movement must aim for the same vision. “

About Us

The BCAN’s mission is to organize Boston residents and collaborate with other social justice allies to advocate for climate justice and urgent action on climate emergency by the City of Boston and other policymakers.

Hailey Moll

Communications Lead, Boston Climate Action Network