Earth Day 2020 | A Message from the Greenway Conservancy

22, Apr, 2020

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the Greenway Conservancy is ready to celebrate! Earth Day is an opportunity to step back and think about the environment, to educate yourself and others on the health of the planet, and to take action. Typically, Earth Day on The Greenway has been a time to connect our staff with over 100 volunteer partners, working together to clean our park. In many ways this year will look different as we focus on the health and safety of our Greenway community. What hasn’t changed is the Conservancy’s commitment to sustainability and our desire to celebrate this day with you and our connection to the planet.

The Greenway Conservancy’s innovative sustainability practices and commitment to being green factor into every aspect of our care and management of The Greenway. From the lawn you walk across to the vehicles that shuttle staff and equipment around the park, the environment is on the forefront of our business practices.

The 17-acre, 1.5-mile-long Greenway was one of the first public parks in the country with lawns and gardens that are cared for organically, without chemical pesticides and herbicides. Visitors can play safely on our lawns, and run-off from the park will not pollute Boston Harbor. 

All organic debris generated on The Greenway is collected for off-site composting. A portion of that compost is later returned to the park to be brewed in the Conservancy’s compost tea. In addition, we have three vermicompost bins that house our red wiggler worms. Appropriate food waste from the Conservancy office is fed to the worms regularly, averaging around 10lbs per week. The vermicompost and compost is then mixed together and brewed as the base of our compost tea recipe. The Conservancy brews and applies around 10,000 gallons of compost tea annually to all of the lawns and gardens in the park. This process fosters healthy soil which improves nutrient and water retention and availability to our plants, allowing them to develop strong, healthy root systems and a natural fortification against pests and weed pressures.

Conservancy horticulturalists work to select low-maintenance, native perennials and plants with a proven record of adapting to the existing environmental conditions and urban stresses of the park. This enables us to minimize the natural and financial resources we allocate to horticultural upkeep. Our vigilant water conservation practices ensure the most efficient use and distribution of water to our plants, and high efficiency operations equipment help us minimize our carbon footprint.

Sustainable horticulture depends on a partnership with nature, and to that end the Conservancy has introduced a series of new garden spaces comprising plants that attract and support a broad range of beneficial birds and insects called the Pollinator Ribbon. The designs mimic the natural habits and groupings of plants, and create natural communities that are dense, lush, and mutually supportive.

In celebration of the Conservancy’s 10th Anniversary, we expanded these efforts in 2019 with the addition of two new features: a native wildflower meadow and productive beehives. The wildflower meadow was seeded in an undeveloped portion of The Greenway near Faneuil Hall. The native plants that will grow over the next few years in the 7,200 square foot meadow were selected to thrive despite the poor soils and the absence of irrigation. Our three hives are home to colonies of Italian honey bees, Apis mellifera liqustica, known to be especially docile and prolific honey producers. Our hives are cared for and maintained in partnership with Best Bees Beekeeping.

Over the past few years the Conservancy has been systematically replacing our gas powered vehicles with electric vehicles (EV’s). These EV’s cut back on our usage of fossil fuels, help minimize tailpipe emissions and cut back on well to wheel emissions. So far we have a fleet of 5 EV’s and have plans to add several more in the future.

To further conserve energy, we successfully converted 90% of the almost 500 lightbulbs in the park to more energy efficient LEDs. This has resulted in a 75% reduction in energy usage and the increase of the bulb life up to 75%, all without sacrificing the quality and effectiveness of the park lighting! Beyond energy conservation, LED lighting is preferred due to the many harmful elements found in traditional fluorescent lights such as precious metals, mercury, and several hazardous gasses.

As we look to the future of The Greenway, we have exciting plans to further our commitment to sustainability through a carbon footprint analysis and climate change resiliency plan. Part of this analysis includes identifying high-priority areas where the Conservancy can make improvements in reducing our carbon footprint and planning for the future. 

From the bees to the trees, we remain committed to environmental sustainability. Throughout the day, we will be sharing information on the Conservancy’s sustainability efforts and what you can do to help. Stay tuned across our social media channels to learn more! 

Ways to Celebrate Earth Day at Home: 

  1. Protect pollinators in your backyard, learn how today in one of our blog posts!
  2. Create your own “Go Green” window sign and share your photos online, tagging #BringTheGreenwayHome and #EarthDay50
  3. Participate in Earth Day’s Citizen Science project, EarthChallenge through this free app
  4. Tune into Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment Live Stream 
  5. Watch some of EarthX’s free film festival with National Geographic 
  6. For those who can safely enjoy a walk outside, help clean up your neighborhood by keeping an eye out for litter
  7. Support the Greenway Conservancy and our sustainability efforts