A group of people of color standing outside posing for the camera with excitement and their arms in the air.

Boston Businesses Show Art of Possible on Climate Action

At a kickoff for a new cohort of Boston-area businesses embracing the "Challenge for Sustainability," I had the chance to talk about the part they play in creating a more sustainable (and hopeful) world.

I was recently invited to speak at the kickoff for a new cohort of participants in the Challenge for Sustainability.

Run by A Better City, the Challenge works with area businesses to implement sustainability and efficiency measures. Challenge participants join the network to track progress and impacts, and share ideas and learn new strategies. It is a highly motivated and growing network of leaders on climate action in Boston. Now in its fifth year of operation, the Challenge has grown from 18 facilities representing five million square feet to 105 facilities representing 30 million square feet.

Here’s what I said…

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak today. You all are my heroes. Every day you are increasing efficiency, recycling, using more clean energy and getting people out of their cars. Collectively, you are making Boston a national leader in the fight to address climate change. You are saving money and resources while also making your employers leaders in their field. Your investments have ripple effects throughout the economy spurring innovation and entrepreneurship and creating jobs.

The Barr Foundation is guided by a vision for a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children. One of our major focus areas is climate change, where we have been supporting efforts to help Boston and Massachusetts meet or beat their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We chose to focus locally because we saw the potential for Boston and the state to lead by example, and to demonstrate the art of the possible on climate action.

So, we have invested in efforts to accelerate energy efficiency and increase clean transportation choices in major market segments. The Challenge for Sustainability is a critical partner for the commercial real estate sector.

For three years running, Massachusetts has been ranked the most energy efficient state in the country. For the first time this year, cities were ranked too. Boston came out on top, ahead of New York, San Francisco, and even Portlandia.

Programs like the Challenge are a big part of that leadership. So far, these efforts have rolled up to a consistent 3% average annual reduction in CO2; a reduction of 15,000 tons of CO2 since 2009 (equivalent to the energy use for 1250 homes); and in 2013 alone, 19 million kwh in electricity savings (worth $1.7 million in avoided expenses to participants). That is a really big deal.

Now, are you up for an even bigger challenge?

To meet our 2020 goals we need a cumulative reduction from the commercial sector of 600,000 metric tons. That is roughly equivalent to the amount of power used by 30,000 homes.

I know you are all up for the challenge and knowing the team at ABC, they will make it fun as well.

My thanks to each of you for being part of the solution. It helps put the hope in the hopeful future I have for my teenage son, and that we all have for all of our children.

Thank you.

This four-minute video also gives a great glimpse into the Challenge, and how they have engaged with Boston businesses big and small:

Sustainability Making Business Sense: A Better City's Challenge For Sustainability

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