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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

America’s Greenest Cities

Air Date: Week of

Boston has been ranked the greenest city on the Eastern Seaboard. (Photo: Boston University)

Popular Science magazine released their rankings for this year’s greenest cities. Host Steve Curwood talks with Jim Hunt, chief of Environmental and Energy Services for the City of Boston, about the city’s number three rating.


CURWOOD: Popular Science Magazine says Portland, Oregon is the greenest city in America, with San Francisco close behind. And given Portland’s greenbelt and great public transportation, and the Fog City’s dedication to just about all things green, that’s no surprise. But when you look down Pop Sci’s list of the 50 greenest cities in America, guess who comes in at number three: Boston, Massachusetts. Now some disclosure here: Boston is my hometown, so there’s some pride. But let’s face it: not so long ago Boston Harbor reeked of pollution and the main drag through downtown was a rusting elevated disaster zone – less a road and more a monument to mindless sprawl and congestion. But now, according to Popular Science, Boston is the greenest city on the eastern seaboard. Joining me from City Hall is Jim Hunt, Boston’s Chief of Environmental and Energy Services. So Jim, Bean Town is a green town?

Rendering of a roof mounted with a wind turbine, which the city of Boston plans to put on top of City Hall. (Photo: the City of Boston)

HUNT: Well, we’ve been undertaking a number of green strategies throughout the years under Mayor Menino’s leadership, most particularly we became the first major city in the nation to incorporate green building standards as part of our zoning process. But from renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, we are implementing strategies to green Boston.

CURWOOD: Now there was one very green project in Boston that the world knows about, green in terms of a lot of money. And that’s the Big Dig, what some 14 and a half billion dollars. How green was that deal?

HUNT: Well one of the outcomes of the Big Dig project was to improve transportation infrastructure, but also to reconnect our city to our waterfront and adding over 20 acres of green space through the Rose Kennedy Greenway, so it’s a great connection between our Boston Common and the Emerald Necklace park system down to our waterfront, which we’ve made great strides in cleaning up, the Boston Harbor.

Jim Hunt (center), Boston’s chief of environment and energy, receives Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s “Leading by Example Award” for innovation in clean energy and sustainability. (Photo: the City of Boston)

CURWOOD: Now, as I understand it, Boston has some preliminary plans that would turn thousands of tons of leaves into energy. How would that work?

HUNT: Well, we have an aggressive composting program, a leaf and yard waste collection program, as part of our recycling initiative to divert waste from being landfilled or incinerated, and put it back to productive use in our community gardens and our park spaces. But that composting process also off-gases greenhouse gases, both methane gas and carbon dioxide. So with the price of oil at over 100 dollars a barrel, gasoline over three dollars a gallon, and electricity here in the Northeast at very high costs, now seemed the right time to try to capture some of those biogases that come off of our compost and put it back to domestically-produced green energy.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gets into one of Boston’s clean air hybrid cabs. (Photo: City of Boston)

CURWOOD: So Boston in this ranks above such green places as Oakland, California, Berkeley, California, Seattle – these are cities with great green reputations – how did Boston get on this list?

HUNT: Well, I think because of our dense development here in the city and our efficient use of energy and materials, as well as the new strategies that we’ve been implementing, from renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling, and innovative programs like our composting to biogas generator.

CURWOOD: Jim Hunt, what would you have Boston do to move up the scale next year, perhaps be number two or even number one on the scale of the greenest city in America?

HUNT: Well, there are different shades of green, and Boston has a long way to go frankly, and we have ambitious plans, particularly in the area of energy efficiency. We need to bring the leadership that the city has been able to do on our own buildings, out to our private residential folks. Also in the area of waste management, we can always do better and recycle more, and we have programs geared doing that. Lastly, any city can improve on transportation. We have to address single-occupancy vehicle use into our cities that not only contribute to global warming but can exacerbate respiratory ailments like asthma. And so to the extent that we can make investments in mass transit, in intermodal, connections to biking and pedestrian connections – those are things that we’re working on to become even greener.

CURWOOD: Jim Hunt is the chief of environmental and energy services for the city of Boston. Thanks, Jim.

HUNT: Alright. Take care.

CURWOOD: Boston comes in number three on Popular Science’s list of America’s greenest cities. At the top, Portland, Oregon, then San Francisco. For the rest of the list, go to our website L-O-E dot O-R-G.



Popular Science’s list of the country’s 50 greenest cities

The city of Boston’s Department of Environmental & Energy Services webpage


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