Why take action
In Boston, a changing climate means extreme heat, stormwater flooding, coastal and riverine flooding and sea level rise. This warming and changing of our climate is a result of people all over the world releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the use of fossil fuels. Every country, city, and person has a critical role to play in reducing global emissions that cause climate change. International agreements like the Paris Accord are meant to make sure everyone does their part in reducing emissions globally. But cities make up approximately 70% of the world’s total emissions which is why the hard work and big changes needs to happen at the local and individual level.
Here’s the thing: We can’t wait. Recent studies have proven that if we don’t accelerate our actions now, we won’t successfully curb global warming's most dangerous, and potentially fatal, impacts.
Here’s the good news: You have the power to make a change. Like many cities, in Boston, our greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, transportation, and waste. This means that the homes we live in, the places we work, and how we move between them hold great opportunity for all of us to take action on climate change.
Reducing our contribution to climate change while also preparing for the impacts is vital to the health and safety of Boston residents, particularly communities of color, people with limited English proficiency, and people with low to no income. We encourage you to find something in this guide that you haven’t done before because every new action makes a difference. If you already recycle, great. Start biking. If you already recycle and bike, great. Weatherize your home. This guide is designed to help you make informed choices about which actions you can, and should, take next.
About the Guide
This guide is made for individuals in Boston who can play a critical role in helping the City meet its goals of carbon neutrality, zero waste, and climate resiliency. It is meant to get you started with resources that the city provides, but it's by no means comprehensive. Feel free to supplement with your own research or prior knowledge. Many of the energy efficiency, waste reduction, and sustainable transportation actions laid out in this resource can be taken taken at home, at school, at work, and around town.
If at any point you have questions about the information in this guide, what the city is doing to address climate climate or you just have recommendations for improving this resource, please email Peyton Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your energy choices at home matter
To be carbon neutral, all Boston buildings and homes must do three things: increase efficiency, electrify everything, and use clean energy. About 20 percent of Boston’s emissions come from small residential homes. This means that as a homeowner or renter, you have a unique opportunity to have an incredible impact our city’s carbon footprint by reducing energy use and increasing efficiency at your house.
Sign up for a no-cost consultation on your energy use
This program is available to everyone can help you save energy and money on your monthly bills.
Renters, ask your landlord about Mass Save.
Email Greenovate if you need help thinking through how best to approach this topic.
Insulate and weatherize your home.
Massive amounts of energy are lost in your home daily through cracks and poor insulation. Mass Save provides 75-90 percent discounts on insulation for your home.
Install LED Light Bulbs
You can significantly reduce your monthly energy bill by buying LED light bulbs. Bonus, they will last much longer!
Wash Clothes in Cold Water and Line Dry
Washing your clothes in cold water is just as effective as cleaning them in hot water. Plus, it’s one of the easiest energy efficiency measures.
Use a Programmable Thermostat
You can set a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature in your home while you’re at work or asleep.
Electrification & Energy
INSTALL AN AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP
USE CLEAN ENERGY
INSTALL SOLAR PANELS
Climate Ready Home
Here are climate ready actions you can take at home:
- Elevate your mechanicals and install a backflow preventer. This helps ensure your home is prepared for flooding and sea-level rise. While you’re at it, clean out your basement so that harmful chemicals don’t enter the ecosystems during a flooding event. It’s also important to make sure important documents and irreplaceable items are kept secure or clear from water damage. Remember, adapting buildings is one of the many ways that we are building a climate ready city.
- Create an emergency preparedness kit. This kit would be used during a serious flooding event if the City were to order shelter in place. Learn what needs to be in your kit by visiting boston.gov/natural-disasters.
- Talk to your neighbors about climate change. Part of preparing for climate changes means making sure that everyone knows what these changes mean for them, their family, and their home.
Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines
Coastal Flood Resilience Design Guidelines serve as a reference for residents, business owners and developers to translate flood resiliency strategies into best practices.
Zero Waste Boston
The City has already begun implementing our Zero Waste Boston plan, but we can’t do it without you.
Don't Buy It
The number one best thing we can do to build a zero waste city is to reduce buying excess stuff.
Bring Your Own - Bag, Mug, Cup, Etc
Bringing your own mug, cups, silverware, and more will reduce your overall consumption and therefore waste in the city as a whole.
Attend a fix-it clinic
Attending a “fix-it clinic” is a fantastic way to learn new Do-It-Yourself tips and tricks to reuse items and borrow tools.
Attend a Hazardous and Electronic Waste Pickup
The Public Works Dept. holds drop-off days for household hazardous waste throughout the year.
Learn what you can and can’t recycle below, or by using the City’s trash app.
Reduce Unwanted Mail
While there is no “do not mail” equivalent to the “do not call” list, here are two tips for reducing unwanted mail, and in so doing, reducing your carbon footprint and helping the city meet it’s zero waste goals:
- Switch magazine subscriptions and bills to electronic delivery: On most magazine or bank websites, you’ll be able to login and change your account preferences to paperless. This will allow you receive notices by email instead of snail mail.
- Unsubscribe from catalogs, credit offers and other unsolicited mail: There are several useful tools that allow you to remove your name and address from a number of mail category lists - like catalogs and advertisements. Google search “unsubscribe from unsolicited mail” and you can research the option that is best for you.
Sustainable Commuting in Boston
Almost 30 percent of Boston’s emissions come from people getting around Boston. One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to avoid using fossil fuels when getting around Boston, especially to and from work. Below are low (and no) carbon commuting options.
Take the Bus or the T
Driving in Boston
- If you need to take a car, share you ride by carpooling. Sharing your ride is a great way to save money and gas.
- Rather than own a car, there are short-term rental options all over the City for you to use when needed.
- If you’re buying a car, check out fuel-efficient and electric vehicles. Once you have an electric vehicle, you’ll need to know where to charge it. (plugshare.com)
- Turn off the motor when you pull over. Idling your car not only negatively impacts the air around you, but it’s also against the law. So remember to turn the key, and be idle free! Learn more by visiting the Air Pollution Control Commission's website on boston.gov.
Workplace tips & tricks
Request to sign a green lease
Green Leases are an agreement between landlords and tenants to increase efficiency and reduce demands in buildings.
Turn it off
When you leave work for the night, make sure your computer, lights, and other electronics are turned off.
Adapting a digital application system, reading documents online, and paperless payroll are all great ways to reduce waste in the workplace.
On your lunch break? Eat more vegetables and less meat.
Local vegetables have the lowest carbon footprint of all food types, and they’re healthy for you.
Does your office have a recycling program? Talk with your manager about options for your office if you don’t.
About one third of Boston’s waste can be composted instead of going into the trash. Most of that waste comes from the commercial sector. Talk with your manager about subscribing to a curbside composting service.
Climate Actions at School
- Create a Green Team: Recruit interested and supportive school community members to form a school Green Team. Agree to a shared purpose, develop goals, and create a climate action plan for your school. Once you start the team, register your school as a Green Team school, sponsored by MassDEP. Green Team schools receive educational tools, such as classroom and campaign posters, lesson plans, and recycling equipment. They are also eligible for grants and prizes. Check out thegreenteam.org for more information.
- Climate Education: Improve sustainability literacy by incorporating climate change into your curriculum. Climate Curriculum: K-12 Science Lessons on Climate Change (Climatecurriculum.com) was developed by a Boston Public Schools teacher and the Boston Student Advisory Council. Learning Lab (learninglab.usgbc.org/home) is USGBC’s online education platform for K-12 teachers.
- Plant a Garden: Plant or adopt a street tree near your school. You can also use your school’s outdoor classroom or garden for outdoor teaching, learning, and play. Don’t have one? Connect with Friends of the Boston Schoolyards, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative legacy nonprofit. Visit friendsofthebostonschoolyards.org for more information.
- Turn it off: When you leave school for the day, make sure your computer, lights, and other electronics are turned off. You’ll save a lot of energy by not having electronics running at night. Turning off lights and using natural daylight is also a great way to reduce building energy consumption.
- Recycle: Does your school have a recycling program? Talk with your teacher about options for your class if you don’t. If you do, make sure you and your peers are recycling right. Visit boston.gov/recycling for tips.
Volunteer with Greenovate
Sometimes sustainable actions can feel isolating because they are things you need to do at your house, or on your commute. That’s why getting out and volunteering with Greenovate, or with a local climate organization of your choosing, is a great way to take collective action on climate. To the right are some of the ways that you can get involved >>
- Joining an urban wild cleanup is one way to get involved and volunteer with the City of Boston. It's a great way to clean up our conservation areas while also connecting with your neighbors! boston.gov/urban-wild-cleanups
- Greenovate street cleanups unite neighbors and communities through physical service, engagement, and youth development. These cleanups are hosted by the City’s Office of Neighborhood Services.
- Do you have an idea for a sustainability project in your neighborhood? Love Your Block Mini-grants are available to all residents who want to initiative project to improve public community spaces. boston.gov/love-your-block
- Become a Greenovate Leader. Are you passionate about your community and concerned about climate change? We have exciting opportunities coming up through the Greenovate Boston Community Leaders program for you to learn about how climate change is impacting Boston, and what actions you can take to prepare for it. boston.gov/greenovate-leaders
We need more climate leaders who will work with Mayor Walsh to make our city, our state, and our country, carbon-neutral and climate-ready. We encourage every Bostonian to register to vote and show up on election day.