Burke on Back Bay EcoDistrict Panel

Steven Burke Speaks Back Bay EcoDistrict Panel

Most everyone, by now, has at least a passing familiarity with green building and the notions of sustainability, energy efficiency, and environmental stewardship. Less known is the fact that many communities—both in the U.S. and abroad—are applying these concepts and principles at the neighborhood level, forming what are called “EcoDistricts.” Proponents hope that, by addressing city sustainability efforts on a micro scale, transformative, macro-level results can be achieved.

On Tuesday, Steven Burke, SMMA’s Sustainability Manager, took part in a panel discussion regarding a potential pursuit of EcoDistrict certification by one of Boston’s most well-known neighborhoods: Back Bay. The Greater Boston Area is home to two of 11 domestic EcoDistricts—Cambridge’s Kendall Square and Dorchester’s Talbot-Norfolk Triangle—and the forum explored the feasibility of making Back Bay the third.

Steven focused on outlining the differences between EcoDistricts and 2030 Districts, which are similar, yet distinct, urban areas that strive to meet energy, water, and emissions-reduction criteria. The discussion was presented by the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay, and also featured Carl Spector, Commissioner of the Boston Environment Department; Travis Sheehan, EcoDistrict Fellow of the Boston Redevelopment Authority; and Mike Davis, Program Manager at the Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

“The fact that we are having this conversation is a testament to Boston being a leader in so many ways,” says Steven. “This is an interesting moment: A community is realizing that it has access to a framework that allows it to show the world a dedication to enriching its identity. I’m encouraged and look forward to seeing where this discussion leads."


Boston’s commitment to improving livability and reducing environmental impact is evident in recent initiatives like Hubway and mandates regarding LEED-certified new construction. Grassroots sustainability endeavors like EcoDistricts may be the next logical step for a city that continues to position itself at the forefront of innovation and development, and serves as a model for responsible growth.