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Environment Massachusetts holds press conference under West Garage solar panels

Ashanti Mclean speaks at the Environment Massachusetts press conference. Photos by Tim O’Connor.

On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Environment Massachusetts—a sister organization to MASSPIRG—held a press conference underneath UMass Boston’s solar panels on the eighth floor of the West Garage. The goals of the press conference were to share and celebrate newfound information on environmental progress in Massachusetts and welcome four different speakers, including a UMass Boston student, to discuss various aspects and findings of renewable energy.

The environmental progress discussed at the press conference came from a recent online dashboard released by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center titled, “Renewables on the Rise 2023,” which outlines increased renewable energy use in Massachusetts since the year 2013. As stated in the conference’s press release, the topline findings from the dashboard include notable increases in solar panels, wind power, energy efficiency measures, electric vehicles and the charging ports that power those vehicles. [1] Those interested in reading the exact statistics can do so on the Environment Massachusetts website.

Lydia Churchill, Clean Energy Campaign Associate for Environment Massachusetts, described this energy growth as “dramatic” and stated the conference also wanted to “highlight institutions like UMass Boston leading the way by hosting energy projects on their campuses.”

State Representative Marjorie Decker was unable to attend the press conference in-person, but provided a quote discussing the state legislature’s role—and her role—in the transition to clean energy in Massachusetts. The 100% Renewable Energy Act, which was filed by Rep. Decker and state Representative Sean Garballey, promises to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide—including heating and transportation—by 2045. [2] Rep. Decker stated that she looked forward to passing “environmental legislation that will set our Commonwealth on a more sustainable and green path.”

The student speaker at the event was Ashanti Mclean, who is a second-year at UMass Boston majoring in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. Mclean works for the UMass Boston chapter of MASSPIRG as the Statewide Coordinator for the 100% Renewable Campaign, and was asked to speak at the conference about her personal experience in gaining passion and interest for renewable energy. 

In a brief synopsis of her speech, Mclean stated she was not always acutely aware of her developing passion for renewable energy. She recalled creating a blueprint for a hydro-powered lawn mower in her childhood, and though she didn’t yet know what fossil fuels were, she recalled thinking this idea was a “good solution.”

“The interest was there whether or not I would label it as an interest in renewables or an interest in reducing climate change,” Mclean said. “There was something there; I just didn’t have a name for it yet.” 

Mclean went on to explain that she’s “proud to be part of a community” that wants to be a part of the transition to renewable energy. Hence, the location of the press conference. The eighth floor of the West Garage does not house a multi-purpose or recreation room fit for a traditional press conference. Instead, the speakers talked at a podium placed right on the concrete floor in symbolic acknowledgement of the solar canopy located directly above them. After the conference was over, participants also made note of the charging ports for electric scooters on the first floor of the garage. 

“It was a celebratory kind of meeting to let people know that we are stepping up in the process [of renewable energy],” Mclean said. “We’re only hearing this apocalyptic view: ‘Oh no, the water’s rising; there’s no hope!’ We need to include balance…and the bright side of things to show there’s things that can be done. It’s not like all hope is lost.”

Mclean also highlighted the importance of events like this to spread awareness and visibility of environmental concerns to all—but especially to younger generations. 

“They’ll be alive to see what is to come in terms of renewable energy and the effects of it,” Mclean said. “Having that visibility and awareness of [renewable energy] is only going to lead to more awareness and more visibility, which hopefully—in time—will lead to more solutions being made.” 

For those who don’t know, MASSPIRG is an on-campus activism group and is always open to students who are interested in joining. Currently, they are working to support the 100% Renewable Campaign, the protection of a biodiversity hub called Cache’s Ledge off the coast of Maine, the fight to limit on-school hunger, and the lowering of textbooks costs. In partnership with Environment Massachusetts, MASSPIRG will also be holding a Lobby Day at the Massachusetts State House on Nov. 1 to advocate for the 100% Clean Act.

For those who may be interested in joining MASSPIRG or staying up to date with their events, they are active on their Instagram @masspirg_umb and can be emailed at [email protected] or [email protected]


[1] Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center. Renewables on the rise in Massachusetts: solar grew nine-fold over past decade. https://environmentamerica.org/massachusetts/center/media-center/renewables-on-the-rise-in-massachusetts-solar-grew-nine-fold-over-past-decade/

[2] Public Interest Network. The 100% Renewable Energy Act. https://publicinterestnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/100-Renewable-Energy-Act-fact-sheet-Environment-Massachusetts.pdf

About the Contributor
Skylar Bowman, Managing Editor