City, News

Boston seeks to up green reputation

Boston city officials said the city continues to strive to make environmental improvements through increasing green jobs, improving recycling programs and adding bike lanes.

With the upcoming mayoral and city councilor elections in November, city officials said candidates must address environmental issues because they now concern every level of government.

‘Anyone running for public office nowadays has to take notice of the fact that environmental issues are permeating every level of government,’ City of Boston Environment Department Director Bryan Glascock said. ‘It’s not just a federal issue anymore. These issues are having a profound effect on everything.’

Boston has increased its emphasis on green jobs, through training young people for positions in companies promoting energy efficiency, officials said.

‘Green jobs are one of the fastest growing sectors,’ Glascock said. ‘And Boston is very well positioned to take advantage of that.’

Boston legislators acknowledged that one of the city’s weaknesses in environmental efforts is recycling programs.

To encourage citizens to reduce their carbon footprints, the city is implementing a new ‘single-stream recycling’ program in which people aren’t required to separate paper, plastic and glass recycling products.

‘Since implementing the program we’ve already seen over a 50 percent increase [in recycling] in the neighborhoods we have started with,’ City of Boston Environment and Energy Chief James Hunt said. ‘We’re hoping our early results will sustain themselves and we will succeed in our plan for continuous improvements.’

City officials are also continuing efforts to make Boston more biker-friendly in order to reduce pollution and increase safety by adding and expanding bike lanes on major roads, such as Commonwealth Avenue.

‘Mayor Menino is focusing on making Boston a world class bike-friendly city,’ Hunt said. ‘We’re working on implementing a bike share program that would allow anyone to subscribe and have access to a bike when they want it.’

The city is also attempting to reform its taxicabs into fuel-efficient, hybrid vehicles, Glascock said.

‘Most everyone nowadays recognizes that climate change has the potential to be a life-altering, culture-altering development for us,’ he said. ‘The question facing us is, how do you motivate people to do something about a development that’s not happening to them right now from what they can see?’

Hunt said one of the city’s biggest goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by the year of 2050.

‘We are currently working on getting the private sector to establish similar goals,’ he said. ‘It’s a pretty aggressive goal, but we are working on getting both the private and public sectors to move forward on it.’

However, Environmental League of Massachusetts President George Bachrach said Boston still remains a national leader in environmental policy.

‘We are one of a handful of states that passed a climate change bill to control greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the federal government,’ Bachrach, a Boston University journalism professor, said.

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