The year 2016 marks the 10th annual Greenovate Boston Awards - a decade of climate action leadership in the City of Boston! Check out our latest featured blog series Where Are They Now? to catch up with some of the winners since they were recognized.

On Friday, April 22, Mayor Walsh will honor this year’s Greenovate Award Winners at Fenway Park. It marks a DECADE of Greenovate Awards, and leading up to this year’s ceremony, we’re taking a look back at the amazing individuals and organizations who have won the award over the years. These individuals and organizations have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and exemplify the type of creativity it will take for Boston to achieve its climate goals.

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The Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) pursues affordable housing strategies, community planning, and environmental justice for the communities of East Boston. NOAH works to engage all community members in its initiatives, and some of its most innovative participants have been its youngest!

In 2008, Greenovate honored a team of teens from East Boston who worked with NOAH throughout the school year as a part of the Environmental Chelsea Creek Youth Crew to promote environmental justice and responsible stewardship. They focused on the connection between the ecological issues of the Chelsea Creek and the environmental health issues affecting their communities. They helped to develop an ultimately successful campaign opposing the construction of a diesel oil-fired power plant in Chelsea and even visited the State Legislature to voice the concerns of their neighborhood and to fight for environmental justice.

We caught up with Kelly Rusch, AmeriCorps LISC Member at NOAH, to find out what the 2008 Youth Crew’s legacy meant and how today’s Youth Crew carries on the fight for environmental justice.

What is the NOAH Youth program’s focus in 2016?

The NOAH Youth Community Builders’ mission is to educate the community about environmental justice issues, and to work with the community to create solutions that make East Boston a cleaner, healthier, and better place to live. They conduct research and perform direct actions to improve public health, increase access to green space, and make positive change in the community. They attend community meetings and educate the community about environmental justice issues. They follow a model of participatory research by conducting surveys with residents on the streets receiving firsthand knowledge about people’s opinions and experiences who live in the community. They also do a lot of outdoor work including cleaning gardens and parks in East Boston, and support NOAH programs such as our learn to kayak events.

How would you characterize NOAH’s environmental philosophy?

NOAH recognizes the fact that East Boston is an environmental justice community. We help advocate for healthier, cleaner, and safer living conditions. We do this by engaging with people in a positive way. We take the time to understand people’s backgrounds and where they are coming from, in order for us to recognize their needs. We strive to help people solve their own problems through our model of direct benefit; providing people with education, insight, or tools to help solve their own problems. Solutions are aimed to be more environmentally sound than conventional ways.  The NOAH Youth program plays a huge role in understanding community needs and providing education to the residents.  

What do the youth of Boston need to understand about environmental stewardship?

It is very important to understand the needs of your community. You may see an issue and have your own idea how to solve it - but it is vital that you gain community input. Working with residents to solve an issue by educating and empowering them will set the stage for a meaningful, more sustainable outcome.


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