Green Worcester Plan

Collage of Green Initiatives Across Worcester

Help make our city a green and sustainability leader by participating in the Green Worcester Plan!

Worcester is strongly committed to sustainability. The City and many community partners have already been investing in environmental protection, renewable energy and many other green activities.

During 2019-2020 we will develop a comprehensive and holistic Green Worcester Plan to bring sustainability values to all aspects of city life, including social and economic development. The Plan will draw on our city's unique strengths and challenges, identify environmental and sustainability priorities, and include short and longer-term actions. Our goal is to finalize and unveil the plan for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020!

We Need Your Help!

We need to hear from our city's diverse community to make sure that this plan reflects your ideas and priorities. Please sign up for emails to be informed about the planning process and many opportunities to participate in person and online. Also, let us know about your organization's sustainability efforts!

Sign up! Please email GreenWorcester@worcesterma.gov to join the email list. We look forward to hearing from you!

Worcester Sustainability Accomplishments

Learn more about these exciting accomplishments and activities by clicking on each item below.

We want to expand on this list with other initiatives that are going on around the community! Email us about the green, sustainable and resiliency initiatives that you know about in Worcester.

View of Earth with black skyThere are numerous community organizations advocating for climate action and related community health actions in the City and beyond. Here is a small sample of such organizations:
View of a park and pond Worcester created one of the very first designated municipal Lakes and Ponds Management Programs in the country to measure and improve water quality in our blue spaces for both residents and the wildlife. And the city has over five active watershed groups that work independently and with the city to improve the quality of our recreational waters.
Car in flooded road

In 2018-2019, Worcester developed a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan to be used to better prepare the City for natural hazards exacerbated by climate change, such as flooding, head waves, snow and ice storms and more.

Row of utility poles with sunset in backgroundIn 2017, the City initiated Worcester Community Choice (Electric) Aggregation program, which will allow the city to both take a big step forward toward its sustainability goals and to offer its residents and businesses greater control over the price and environmental characteristics of their electricity supply.
Heat sensor device in building

Municipal Facilities:

In 2009, the city initiated a multi-year, multi-million dollar energy efficiency and renewable energy project for municipal buildings. The goal was to modernize municipal facilities and reduce energy use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions. By the time the project is completed (est. 2020), it will consist of 5 separate phases, including building energy efficiency work at 90+ buildings; 11 renewable energy installations (including New England's largest municipal solar farm); replacement of all municipal parking, parks and streetlights with LED fixtures; and more. The total project cost to date is $80 million with life-cycle savings estimated at $164 million - which means that for every dollar we invested we will save more than two dollars! As notable as the financial picture is, the environmental benefits are just as impressive - the city has reduced its electrical use by the same amount that would power about 7% (4,400) of Worcester homes for a year with "brown electricity" (i.e. from burning fossil-fuels).

Community:

Massachusetts leads in the 1st place on the ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard with respect to state energy efficiency policies and programs that save energy and produce environmental and economic benefits. For example, through the MassSave program, numerous Worcester properties received free home energy audits, as well as rebates and interest-free loans for energy efficient work and equipment.

Dismas House and the Commonwealth Green Low Income Housing Coalition have assisted over 40 properties and 19 housing nonprofits in Worcester and surrounding towns with energy upgrades, solar, insulation and heating so as to lower utility costs and reduce carbon output.

The Green Jobs Academy, with a location in Worcester, provides training in building science to individuals to enable them to enter and move up a career ladder in the building/weatherization industry.

A Park PlaygroundA vibrant city cannot exist without accessible and diverse open space. About 17% of the city's area is designated as open space.

The Conservation Commission owns and manages over 500 acres of land for conservation and passive recreation purposes.

The City Parks and Recreation Division manages about a third of the open space, 1,453 acres, including 55 parks, numerous fields and playgrounds, and the 196-acre Hope Cemetery. The city continues to invest in its existing parks (such as beach area improvements and a new Coes Park playground) as well as add to its parks portfolio (such as a recent acquisition of the Blackstone Gateway Park). Parks not only provide recreation areas for residents but also contribute to a wildlife habitat in an urban environment. For eight summers in a row, the Park Stewards Program has provided vital summer jobs for local young people!

The City's strong partners in open space preservation and stewardship are Mass Audubon and Greater Worcester Land Trust.

Mass Audubon owns and manages New England's largest urban wildlife sanctuary in Worcester. The 430 acre Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary operates a year round nature center and offers over 5 miles of well-marked and maintained trails, some that are fully accessible for people of all abilities. The Nature Center and Education Center conducts numerous environmental education programs, advocates for sound environmental policies, and leads by example on many projects and initiatives. Every seventh grader in Worcester public schools comes there for a field trip.

The Greater Worcester Land Trust has worked with the City of Worcester since its founding in 1987 to acquire and preserve hundreds of acres of new conservation and park land in the City, and has helped establish hiking trails linking city green spaces and trails in surrounding towns.

Field of solar panels

Today, Massachusetts has 240 times as much solar capacity compared to 10 years ago and Worcester has been an active contributor to the solar growth. In the last 10 years, more than 1,500 solar systems were installed in our city!

In only 6 years, from 2011 to 2017, the city installed, and now owns and maintains, 15 solar installations on municipal properties, totaling over 10.5 Megawatt-DC in solar capacity, including the largest municipally owned solar farm (8.1MW) in New England, at the time, on the top of the Greenwood Street landfill.

Man with blueprints at building siteIn 2019, participating municipal officials across the country will have the power to determine a better, more efficient code in 2021. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is the model code for new buildings built in the United States and beyond - and it is adopted, with few changes, by Massachusetts every three years. The code has the power to maximize building safety and efficiency, and minimize carbon pollution and energy bills. This year, nine of the Worcester departments have enlisted to vote on the code changes in November, with a goal of voting on code amendments that promote building energy efficiency.
People at a farmer's market

The Regional Environmental Council (REC), a long-standing Worcester non-profit, brings people together to build healthy, sustainable and just communities across the city through a number of programs. For example, its UGROW program (Urban Garden Resources of Worcester) supports a network of 62 community and school gardens and urban farms involving more than 700 gardeners and urban farmers and 2,000 public school students who are given resources and training to grow healthy food in the city.

The Worcester Regional Food Hub works to increase local food access and consumption. It recruits, retains and incubates local food entrepreneurs, collectively building healthy, sustainable and just communities.

In early 2019, following strong community advocacy and internal vetting and research, the City Council approved an amendment to the city zoning ordinance that allowed farming in some residential areas by right and in others by special permit (previously, such use was only allowed in non-residential districts). The amendment allows small community gardens by right in all zoning districts and will promote access to healthy food, food security, job creation, environmental sustainability, as well as community building.

Trees in a neighborhoodThe Worcester Tree Initiative (WTI), in partnership with the City of Worcester's Forestry Section, provides tree care in strategic parks and public spaces. In the last 10 years, since WTI's founding in 2009, more than 30,000 trees have been planted! WTI trains and supervises volunteers to structurally prune young street trees, which improves the health of the trees and decreases the risk of problems as they mature. WTI also runs a Young Adult Foresters Tree Watering Program that focuses on watering newly planted street trees during the year's hottest months.

The Working Group

People at a Community Meeting

In 2018 the City Manager engaged the Green Worcester Working Group to lead the development of the plan. The Working Group will be assisted by consultant Larissa Brown + Associates. View the current members of the Working Group by clicking the button below.

Contact Information

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Worcester, MA 01608

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