City Council's Green Ideas Include Possible Plastic Bag Ban

Other ideas included expanding and subsidizing the bike-sharing Hubway system to requiring the Boston Public Schools to recycle.

Members of City Council told a small audience on Saturday at Boston GreenFest that they planned to turn the city into the least polluting city in the country – and, in some cases, the world.

While talking about his vision for the city, District 4 Councilor Charles Yancey recalled helping the city establish a recycling program in the late 1980s. 

“We’ve come a long way since that time,” he said, “but we’re still grappling with the same issues of sustainability in the city of Boston.”

To put the city’s national standing in perspective, Boston ranked fifth in reusable bottle company Nalgene’s survey of the least wasteful cities in America, behind San Fransisco, Seattle, New York and Portland, Ore., according to Good Magazine.

Here are some of the eco-friendly initiatives the councilors said they are working on or would support:

  • Spell out to prospective tenants the cost of heating an apartment through the winter by having youth survey residents, said District 7 Councilor Tito Jackson. “When we look at this thing called green, people look really high,” he said. “But the real issue is how it saves money at home.”
  • Expand the city’s new and make it cheaper to use. At-large Councilor John Connolly said he wanted to quickly expand Hubway so that it catches on. Meanwhile, Jackson said the city should ensure that people of modest means could afford to buy an annual Hubway membership, which costs a discounted $60 in the system's first year, as well as pay the fees that accrue by the half hour to rent the bicycles. 
  • Persuade businesses to stop giving out plastic bags and shoppers to bring reusable ones. District 5 Councilor Robert Consalvo said members of environmental advocacy groups Bag Free JP and Greening Roslindale have been helping him research how to Boston could ban nonbiodegradable plastic bags, like San Francisco did.
  • Further, require the public schools to recycle. “We need to teach the youngest Bostonians that sustainability is a virtue,” said Connolly, who also suggested that the city build an environmental science academy in Dudley Square.
  • Put a single-stream recycling bin next to every trash can at apartment buildings, businesses and in public spaces, said Connolly.
  • Ban smoking in public parks, said At-large Councilor Felix Arroyo.
  • Widen the ways to eating locally. At-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley said that all farmers markets should allow residents who receive food stamps to use them there. She also praised the work of the Codman Square Health Center, whose clinicians have given patients coupons for food at the markets. “I would love to see more of our community health centers doing just that: writing prescriptions for fruit and vegetables.” In addition, Pressley said she would like the city to expand the number of . “It’s not only about supporting local urban agriculture,” she said, “but it’s also about community fostering.”
  • Greening the entire city. Connolly said that Bostonians would have to adopt a new mindset to carry out the council’s aspirations. “We want sustainability as a civic virtue that runs throughout the whole city,” he said.
Raphael August 23, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Irony alert: Of the three beverages on the table, one is a plastic bottle and one is a paper coffee cup destined for a landfill; only one panelist used a reusable container. That said, I applaud the efforts!
c.madison August 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Good observation!!! Thanks!
Rosa August 23, 2011 at 01:37 PM
I agree with almost everything except banning plastic bags. I personally reuse them for pet poop and bring back to Stop & Shop for the nickel discount for reuse. To ban is way too extreme in my eyes. I think its important to offer incentives (like the discount mentioned) to gain reuse.
Chris Helms August 23, 2011 at 02:39 PM
Hey Rosa, I'm the same way with reusing the plastic bags on dog walks. And thanks for the info about the nickel discount at Stop & Shop. I haven't been taking advantage of that.
Chris Child August 23, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Washington, D.C. charges a nickel for every plastic bag one uses from a store.


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