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University, city mark Earth Day with grants for ‘green’ projects

LOWELL, Mass. – In honor of Earth Day, UMass Lowell and the city of Lowell today awarded the first round of $50,000 in sustainability grants to five projects.

The grants are the latest initiative by the leaders of the Green Community Partnership to support efforts to implement and grow sustainable operations around the region.

The alliance to provide leadership, resources and expertise for sustainability initiatives throughout greater Lowell was launched in January 2020. Led by UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney and Lowell City Manager Eileen Donoghue, the partnership includes the Green Community Commission, which is co-chaired by philanthropist Nancy Donahue and includes leaders from business, community and environmental organizations. The founding of the partnership included the launch of a sustainability grant program for university-community initiatives funded by a generous donation by Donahue to the university and matched by community partners for a total of $50,000 in available funding.

The criteria for grant funding includes aligning with the sustainability goals in UMass Lowell’s 2020 Strategic Plan and the city of Lowell’s Sustainable Lowell 2025 Master Plan.

“As a leader in sustainability efforts in higher education, UMass Lowell is proud to partner with the city to increase sustainability in our region,” said Moloney. “The awarding of the first round of grants in our community is an important step toward achieving our shared goal.”

“Confronting the challenges that we face related to climate change calls for bold action and creative solutions,” said Donoghue. “The proposals put forward by the recipients of the Green Community Partnership’s first round of grant funding reflect the innovative thinking that is necessary to advance the community’s sustainability objectives.”

The projects receiving funding are:

  • Composting Pilot Program, $10,000 – The project by Mill City Grows and UMass Lowell will create an urban farm compost hub at their farm site in the Pawtucketville neighborhood. The site will source organic waste from MCG urban farm sites and community/school gardens to produce high-quality compost. The compost hub will offer hands-on education opportunities and volunteerism integrated into the operations of a demonstration composting facility.
  • Lowell Energy Efficiency Acceleration Program (LEAP), $10,000 – Led by partners Community Teamwork Inc. and UMass Lowell, the project aims to reduce energy consumption and promote the financial stability and health of homeowners in the city of Lowell. The program will provide hands-on training and employment opportunities for UMass Lowell students to develop a “green-collar” workforce in Lowell.
  • Northern Canal Overlook Battery Solar Street Lighting, $10,000 – The joint effort of the city of Lowell, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and UMass Lowell will install a series of battery solar streetlights at the recently constructed Northern Canal Overlook at the corner of Pawtucket Street and University Avenue.
  • Sustainability Pathway at Lowell High School, $10,000 – Lowell High School and UMass Lowell will work together to evolve a pathway focused on the environment into the Sustainability Pathway at Lowell High School to offer students a range of educational opportunities to develop them into citizens engaged in creating a sustainable city of Lowell.
  • UMass Lowell Green Schools Program, $10,000 – Lowell Public Schools and UMass Lowell will work together to identify a partner K-8 school in Lowell and develop a unique set of programs and projects that will serve as the pilot location for a city-wide Green School program.

UMass Lowell is recognized as a national leader for its commitment to sustainability and climate-change awareness. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) rates UMass Lowell the No. 1 sustainable university or college in Massachusetts and among the top 2 percent globally for its sustainability efforts.

Since signing on to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, UMass Lowell has committed itself to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through its aggressive Climate Action Plan. The university completed a $23.1 million Accelerated Energy Program resulting in more than $1 million in yearly savings and annual reductions of 1.7 million gallons of water and 9 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2010, the city of Lowell became one of the first communities in the Commonwealth to be designated as a Green Community, reflecting the city’s longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability and its leadership among Massachusetts gateway cities in implementing ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.

Since earning that designation, the city has continually made substantial investments to enhance the efficiency of municipal buildings and vehicles, resulting in a 30.77 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Lowell has also prioritized and invested in the development of renewable energy, which has led to the construction of a vast network of solar installations serving the municipality, including out-of-city solar facilities that generate net metering credits for the city of Lowell. Effective policies have been adopted by the city that have incentivized significant residential and commercial solar installations citywide.

The Lowell City Council has made sustainability a priority, consistently offering its full support of initiatives aimed at enhancing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. In 2017, the council adopted a resolution supporting the goal of transitioning Lowell to the use of 100 percent clean and renewable energy, prompting concrete steps that have reduced the city’s fossil fuel usage. Lowell’s sustainability efforts are also guided by an active Sustainability Council, formed in 2016.


UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.

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