Turning the Spotlight on Environmental Leaders

Greenovate Boston is Mayor Menino’s initiative to reduce Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020. | Photo courtesy of Benita Hussain

Mayor Menino wants to reduce Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020, but he can’t do it on his own.

On April 25, the same day Mayor Menino will officially unveil the Greenovate Boston campaign, he will present more than a dozen awards to so-called “Greenovators.” The awards exemplify the importance of community members’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprints in reaching the mayor’s emissions goals, which are the focal point of the Greenovate campaign.

“We get particularly excited about people who are inspiring their own communities,” says Benita Hussain, one of two fellows Mayor Menino selected in January to expand Greenovate Boston. “That could be anything from building a garden in your front yard for other people to enjoy,” to completely redesigning your house to be ultra energy efficient.

Like any government initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, regulation can only do so much. A big part of the mayor’s campaign is getting the public to do their part. In 2007, Mayor Menino created the Boston Green Awards “to highlight the Bostonians who have been leaders in greening the city,” Hussain explains. This year, the awards are being presented as the Greenovate Boston Awards in order to raise awareness of the campaign.

Candidates, who can be self-nominated or nominated by a member of the community, are judged by people like Hussain, who are familiar with Boston’s environmental community.

When choosing award winners, Hussain said they look for people who are not only making an effort to live sustainably, but who are doing it in such a way that it’s exciting others. They hope the awards will get people even more excited and inspire them to live more environmentally.

Last year, Boston University Dining Services won a Boston Green Award for the scope of its efforts at sustainability. The mayor’s office pointed to the environmentally friendly meals it serves daily to the thousands of students and staff participating as a major reason why it won an award.

According to BU Dining Services’ 2011 sustainability report, it serves 5.8 million meals a year. That makes the quarter of its food budget spent on local food, the choice to use only sustainable seafood, and waste diversion system in 90% of dining locations all the more impactful. Any time one of BU’s over 33,000 students gets something to eat on campus, they are reducing their carbon footprint, even if they normally wouldn’t give a second thought to sustainability on their own.

Harpoon Brewery won an award last year for its combination of donating spent grain for farmers to use as feed, using outside air as a source of refrigeration, and typical environmental practices like recycling and encouraging employees to bike to work.

But Liz Melby, Director of Communications for Harpoon, said it’s hard to quantify any impact winning the award has had on business. She said sustainability is generally important to their customers, so she hopes it will leave an impression on them.

“What we’ve found is sustainability is a cause that a lot of people who drink Harpoon are passionate about,” she says. “I would hope that getting this kind of acknowledgement builds some loyalty, builds some respect.”

That attitude is consistent with what Hussain says the awards are all about. They may not bring world-class prestige or bring in tons of customers, but they’re a way of patting people on the back who have been diligently, thanklessly working to make Boston, and the world, a more sustainable place.

Thanklessly, that is, until now.

About Jake Lucas

Hi there I'm Jake. I'm a journalism major/environmental policy and analysis minor originally from the suburbs of Chicago. I'm interested in all kinds of science, politics and economics. I also like bears, singing and podcasts. If you have any questions, tips or just want to shoot the breeze, email me at jlucas@buquad.com. Or, find me on Twitter @JakeDLucas.

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