Civic Participation, not Clicktivism

Founded in October, 2015, the Mass Green Network is a peer-to-peer collective linking grassroots activists and local groups across Massachusetts.  Our mission is to protect the earth, its resources, and its inhabitants by connecting community groups, fostering grassroots civic capacity, catalyzing volunteer activism, and bridging demographic divides. We have over 400 active members to date, with over 1200 affiliates, from every corner of the state, and an extraordinary record of achievement. Since October 2015, we have passed more than 60 bylaws, ordinances, and regulations to reduce plastic waste.  And there's much more to come!

Through this website, we offer resources for reducing plastic bags and polystyrene. Soon we hope to have resources for other issues such as pesticides and bottled water.  We have a lively listserv for discussing local approaches to global problems.Our partnerships with other nonprofits help mobilize voters. And we host conferences to promote emerging innovations and best practices.

Here are our principles.

Over the past 30 or 40 years, the environmental movement has shifted from direct democracy to political surrogation as the nonprofit sphere has become increasingly professionalized. 

Mass Green Network supports the capacity of people who want to be more directly involved in finding solutions to the social and environmental challenges of today, and helps them increase their collective impact.

A Network of Equals

The Mass Green Network is peer-to-peer. Issues with local impact bridge traditional divides, bringing conservationists, environmental justice advocates, and youth activists literally to the same table.

The listserv allows veterans of local campaigns to help new recruits in different parts of the state.  People in the Berkshires help their counterparts in Cape Cod, who go on to advise their neighbors on the South Shore.  The Network cultivates an ethos of sharing and mutual aid.

The result is a growing, enthusiastic population of grassroots activists excited not only to better their own communities but also to help others do the same.

Local Tools for Coordinated Action

It’s hard to gauge success if your target is global warming. So we focus on smaller scale problems, like plastic bags.  Here, success is visible, tangible, invigorating, and infectious. Once we establish a toolkit for passing local legislation on an issue, we repeat it from town to town, scaling the impact of local victories.

Although our focus is nominally local, the ultimate effect is much larger.  By passing similar legislation in many municipalities, we build the critical mass that drives legislators to pass statewide laws.

Community, not Combat

The Mass Green Network Model

Mass Green Network members meeting with Boston City Councilors, July 2016

Finally, the Mass Green Network allows for the efficient emergence and distribution of innovative ideas.

Rather than repeating from a canon of proprietary practices, Mass Green Network members continuously build on each other’s success.  They come up with better legislative language or develop new materials. 

For example, in May 2016, activists in Framingham solicited data from the Network to design a compelling Powerpoint presentation that has used as a template for almost every bag campaign since. In November the citizens of Brookline, whose 2012 bag law inspired so many other communities, revised their bylaw to match the higher standards set by their successors. This collective feedback and collaborative innovation is what the Mass Green Network is all about.

Our focus is on positive vectors of change.  There are other environmental organizations that are doing great work to combat the companies and facilities that contribute to pollution and global warming. Our approach is centered not on protest and dissent but on the local adoption of standards for environmentally and economically sustainable living.

Passing a bylaw to reduce plastic waste represents not an attack on a corporate enemy, but an embrace of a vision for a more verdant future.

Ipswich High School students under the guidance of Mass Green Network member Lori LaFrance receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award, May 2016

Cooperative innovation