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

The Little Cities that Could (and Did and Are...)

A new approach in greater Boston is showing early promise accelerating efforts to save money and reduce our carbon footprint.

Without a national climate and energy policy, leadership on climate action has been coming from the states and especially from cities. The stories most often in the spotlight are of bigger cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, or Boston. But what about smaller cities and towns, where residents and municipal leaders are every bit as interested in saving money on their energy bills, reducing their carbon footprint, and doing their part to mitigate the risks of climate change?

In 2011, Barr made a grant focused on trying to coordinate and accelerate such efforts. The grantee was the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), which is the regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of metro Boston. Where individual towns often lack the resources or skills to make large-scale changes on their own, MAPC’s Clean Energy Division coordinated efforts of over 60 different communities on energy planning and regional energy projects. It brought technical expertise and targeted staffing support, and it managed joint purchasing on behalf of participating communities. By aggregating demand, MAPC helped municipalities negotiate significant discounts on LED street lights and joint procurement of other efficiency measures.

To assess 1) how implementation was going and 2) how significant potential emissions savings really were, Barr commissioned an independent formative evaluation. The evaluator shared the first-year results with us and with MAPC in June, 2012. In short, she found that MAPC had identified significant potential energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions. The full evaluation is available here:

MAPC Energy Initiative Evaluation Report

In 2012, Barr made an additional two-year commitment for MAPC to continue expanding its efforts. This is a model to watch.

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