I went to college in Boston, and the city still holds a special place in my heart. From biking along the Charles River to wandering through Beacon Hill, going back always feels a bit like going home. So I was excited to hear that since I’ve left town, the city has been upping its eco-cred. In February, Popular Science ranked Boston the third greenest city in the country, thanks to its widespread recycling programs, public transportation (who doesn’t love the “T”?) and a proposed energy project that would capture methane gas from composted yard clippings and restaurant food scraps (watch a slide show explaining how it works here). The rankings compelled Mayor Menino to boast that “Beantown truly is Greentown,” and the moniker now manifests itself in a variety of ways.
Last year, Boston became the first major city in the country to mandate that developers adhere to LEED green building standards as part of the review process. Now, the city’s Green Building Task Force is working to allocate grants to help foster more green projects, and the mayor has announced plans to try to have all city properties achieve LEED silver status.
In April of this year, the city held its second annual “Boston Green Awards,” which recognized the work of area businesses and residents who are doing their part to help the Earth. Making their list was one of my favorite spots to visit (and as a camp counselor in Boston you visit it often)—the excellent Children’s Museum, whose recent expansion included a new green roof and an education program to teach kids about how green buildings can impact the environment.
The Green Awards also cited a list of bike-friendly businesses, one of which is Urban AdvenTours, a five-year-old admittedly “crunchy” operation that offers bike tours through the city’s eclectic neighborhoods. But what distinguishes them is that they have a truck (which runs on grease) that will deliver bikes to your hotel so you can explore without needing to rent a car (cost for delivery, bike, and helmet rental are $50). Some hotels offer the service through their valet (apparently, Leonardo DiCaprio was a recent customer), but the company will deliver bikes 24/7 to wherever you need and can also create private family or group tours. And, they now offer a Fenway Valet for riders looking to park their wheels while watching the Sawx. Company founder Andrew Prescott tells us that with high gas prices, they’ve seen a surge in interest this season, so it’s best to book your tour a few weeks in advance.
Anyone familiar with Boston’s labyrinthine roads (and the nutty drivers that navigate them) knows that biking in the city can be cause for a stress test. Fortunately the folks at Urban AdvenTours partnered with other local bike-awareness groups and the city government to host Hub on Wheels, an annual ride through the city to promote cycling and raise money for public schools. Over 3,000 people (including Senator John Kerry and Mayor Menino) participated last year; this year’s event will be on September 21. The city has also hired a bike czar
(note: I want a title with czar in it) who is working to create new bike lanes on major thoroughfares like Commonwealth Avenue, and in hubs like Kenmore Square.
And now a new business collective
has sprouted up to take advantage of the buzz. Using the mayor’s “Beantown is Greentown” slang, a handful of sustainable restaurants, shops, and transportation options are working to introduce visitors to the greener side of the city through their “green guide.” (I’m particularly attracted to Envi, a cute, eco-conscious clothing store on Newbury Street with a enticing selection of dresses, none of which look like they’re made from hemp.) Their map of participating businesses is ever-expanding, says Colleen Oteri, spokesperson for the group. “By exploring these sustainable tourist attractions, eco-savvy visitors can feel good about their vacation and learn more about how they can easily apply green ideas to their own lives.”
All of which makes me a little bit homesick for my old college town.
Summer in Boston is lovely, so it might be time to plan a visit.
Photos: Biking through Boston’s Historic Neighborhoods, courtesy Urban AdvenTours