Cambridge Environment Committee Preparing New Environmental Goals

The Cambridge City Council’s Environment Committee held a meeting on Tuesday, November 22, to announce recent accomplishments in the city’s efforts to operate more sustainably and to discuss goal setting for the next fiscal year (FY 2013).

Since the city’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2010 (over 1990 levels) expired, the committee has been charged with setting new targets for the community, municipal buildings, and public schools within Cambridge. Suzanne Rasmussen, Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning, led the meeting, presenting the status of existing goals and approved measures for the upcoming year. The initiatives completed by the city and school district point to significant successes in reducing municipal building energy use and solid waste. Since FY 2009, the city has invested over $900,000 of public funds in building energy projects (leveraging a total investment of $2.4 million). In the current fiscal year, the city expects to spend an equal amount ($900,000) on similar capital projects.

The committee addressed goals and initiatives in seven key areas: climate protection, building energy use, renewable energy sourcing, transportation, land use, water management (storm and drinking water), and urban forestry. Notable projects and initiatives include:

  • The City completed 7 LEED certified projects, including the LEED Silver Central Library and the recently-renovated Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
  • Cambridge met its goal of sourcing 20% of municipal energy from renewable sources by 2010, primarily by purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs). The city hopes to reduce the purchase of RECs and increase renewable generation within the city within the next few years.
  • To encourage alternative means of transportation, the city partnered with Hubway to bring 22 stations to Cambridge in Spring of 2012, and will be installing electric vehicle charging stations in municipal lots through December 2011.
  • The planning commission adopted a new series of Green Building Zoning Amendments (pdf), which require new buildings in Cambridge to meet certain environmental performance standards (e.g. LEED certification, the incorporation of green roofs, and responsible material disposal).
  • The city continues to grow recycling capacity and is implementing single stream recycling citywide; Cambridge has also received a DEP grant to complete a feasibility study and pilot of curbside composting.

The Environment Committee and the city are making promising progress moving Cambridge toward greater sustainability in urban living. Like many cities, Cambridge recognizes the role it plays in protecting the environment and slowing the depletion of resources. However, the next step for the Environment Committee is to move beyond the role municipal property plays and, following the lead of cities like San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Boston, to move the whole community toward stronger goals for environmental protection. As Cantabridgeans, it is our responsibility first and foremost to reduce the impact that our daily lives have on the environment. Thankfully, because we live in a place like Cambridge, that can be pretty easily done—by avoiding the car for short trips, using reusable containers and bags when we go shopping, and trying to limit the energy we use daily. There is still a long way to go, but it is encouraging to see that Cambridge is thinking progressively about setting strong goals. How can the Environment Committee and the City of Cambridge go even further? What is the biggest step you think the city can take to help you and fellow residents to live, work and play more sustainably? Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.

(Image courtesy City of Cambridge)