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Championing Sustainability & Improving Our Community

Thursday, July 14, 2022

This past year, the City of Cambridge engaged in many initiatives aimed at improving the sustainability of municipal operations. The City introduced a Small Business Compost Pilot and a Textile Recycling program; distributed standardized trash carts to residential households and installed 62 Big Belly stations with recycling and trash compartments; planted a Miyawaki Forest; constructed underground storm water storage systems; and launched a Rodent Control and Mitigation program. Projects are underway to improve the energy performance of municipal and other large buildings in the city and expand the use of renewable energy.

Urban Forest Canopy.
Continued implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP) guides development of Cambridge’s tree assets and enables the City to expand the urban forest canopy and be more resilient to climate change. In FY22, Public Works reached the UFMP recommendation of planting 1,000 trees annually. To increase long-term survival of newly planted trees, Public Works has improved pre-planting soil preparation and post-planting aftercare. In fall 2021, over 10 tons of soil from composted yard waste was used to plant 475 trees.

Miyawaki Microforest. This past year, the City of Cambridge collaborated with Biodiversity for a Livable Climate and the SUGi Project to plant a 4,000 square foot Miyawaki Microforest at Danehy Park with help from community volunteers. Miyawaki Forests offer an opportunity to reestablish healthy forests in urban environments, mitigate urban heat island effect, support biodiversity, buffer against flooding and erosion, and help balance water cycles to fight drought conditions.

Standardized Trash Carts. In June 2022, buildings with curbside City trash collection received free trash carts to replace existing trash barrels. The new carts will help with rodent control efforts; enhance worker safety as these carts can be mechanically lifted and emptied; and, with attached lids, improve sidewalk accessibility.

Big Belly Stations. Public Works installed 62 new Big Belly stations with recycling and trash compartments that store five times the waste of conventional trash cans, need fewer cleanings, and are rodent-resistant.

Curbside Compost. Since the relaunch of curbside compost after COVID-19 interruptions, the City has collected approximately 7 tons of food waste per day.

Small Business Compost Pilot. In November 2021, approximately 64 businesses signed up to receive free curbside compost collection. More than 1,000 pounds of food waste is collected daily through this program. 

Textiles Recycling. In December 2021, the City launched a drop-off and weekly curbside pickup Textiles Recycling Program, Cambridgema.gov/textiles.

Flood Mitigation. To help reduce flooding, the City has constructed 12 underground storm water storage systems in the last 20 years, including most recently in The Port. Collectively, these facilities can hold 2 million gallons of storm water and proved their worth last summer during the second wettest period since 1921. The systems reduced what would have been significant flooding in several Cambridge neighborhoods.   

Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience. Following the issuance of the Resilient Cambridge Plan in June 2021, the City’s efforts to prepare for and be more resilient to climate change focused on increasing flood risks from precipitation, sea level rise, and rising temperatures exacerbated by the urban heat island effect. In FY22, the City worked on various initiatives, including social capital mapping, community microgrids and resilience hubs, and finalizing Climate Resilience Task Force recommendations for revisions to the Zoning Ordinance.

Recommended Updates to The Net Zero Action Plan, Cambridge’s climate action plan for buildings, were submitted to the City Council. Key FY22 activities included advancing GHG performance standards for large buildings through amendments to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO), continued development of decarbonization advising services, addition of embodied carbon accounting into the green building review process, and study of additional off and on-site renewable electricity supply pathways.

Cambridge Building Energy Retrofit Programs.
In partnership with Eversource, the City funds several programs to assist owners of large buildings seeking to implement comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits. In FY22, the Multifamily Retrofit Advisor Program, which helps multifamily buildings access MassSave energy efficiency and solar assessments, assisted 21 properties with 978 units.

Cambridge Community Electricity (CCE) supplies electricity to 34,000 residents and 4,400 businesses   and has saved customers over $20 million dollars since July 2017. The first 243kW Community Electricity Solar project was installed on Graham and Parks School.

Energy Efficiency Services. Cambridge partners with All In Energy to manage outreach for Cambridge Energy Alliance programs with a focus on engaging hard-to-reach populations to address the energy burden and equity gap renters face when accessing energy efficiency improvements. In FY22, over 1,000 energy assessments were completed.

Cambridge Clean Heat program offers no-cost technical advice and support for clean heating and cooling. Since January 2021, the program has assisted 150 households.

Sunny Cambridge. Since 2016, over 700 people have participated in an online solar marketplace offered by EnergySage, resulting in 110 new solar installations. In FY22, Community Shared Solar opportunities were offered to residents who cannot install rooftop solar.

Rodent Control and Mitigation. The City is committed to combating rodent issues and in September 2021, launched a free rodent control program to residential buildings with four units or less. A pilot program was also launched in May 2022 to deploy SMART Box and SMART Pipe technology in locations throughout the city where rodents are active. No poison or bait is used and real-time data on catches is shared for each location.

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