In Boston, Communities of Color Innovate Solutions

Written by: Maritza Martinez, Fellows Program Manager

When it comes to pollution and climate change, all too often people of color shoulder the greatest burden. The recent fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California is just the latest example. We have more residents living near polluting industry. We suffer higher rates of asthma. And our neighborhoods are hit hardest by severe weather caused by climate change. 

It makes sense, then, that more and more solutions to these problems are coming from communities of color.

A new report released this week by the Center for Social Inclusion highlights one of these solutions. The report, Energy Democracy: Community Innovation in Boston features the work of the Boston Workers Alliance, an organization founded by Green For All Fellow Aaron Tanaka.

In 2008, Massachusetts committed to slashing global warming pollution through its Green Communities Act. As a result, in cities like Boston, opportunity in the weatherization and energy efficiency industries expanded. But leaders from Boston’s communities of color quickly realized that their neighborhoods were at risk of being left behind. While there was ample opportunity for work to make Boston buildings energy-efficient, the work wasn’t happening in the neighborhoods where people of color lived, like Dorchester and Roxbury—primarily because the energy services companies responsible for meeting Boston’s new efficiency standards weren’t located in those neighborhoods.

Three groups decided to change that. Boston Workers Alliance joined forces with two other community groups—Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) and the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) to create the Boston Energy Services Cooperative (BESC)—a social enterprise with a goal of weatherizing low-income homes and putting local residents to work.

Today, BESC is seeking start-up capital with hopes of serving as a model for the rest of the nation, and an example of how communities of color can lead the way in solving environmental and economic problems.

You can find out more about BESC by reading the report here.

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