From its first project in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the Center has grown to become an internationally recognized resource in developing and piloting more sustainable forms of production and consumption.
When the production facility of Malden Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts was destroyed by fire, the company turned to the Lowell Center to integrate the principles of sustainability into reconstruction of the plant. This project propelled the Lowell Center researchers to establish a definition of sustainable production and a core set of principles. Within a year the center had appointed a new program director, Cathy Crumbley. During this time, the Lowell Center also trained state regulatory officials on ways to integrate pollution prevention concepts into their permit writing and enforcement practices.
The Lowell Center developed indicators of sustainable production for businesses to develop and measure sustainable forms of production. The Lowell Center offered a training program for environmental advocacy organizations on cleaner production, with the Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies at the University of Tennessee. This two-year project eventually led to the development of a new network of environmental activists now called Clean Production Action.
The Lowell Center helped to sponsor a meeting at the Wingspread retreat center in Racine, Wisconsin on the precautionary principle. This retreat, which generated a much-publicized position statement on the precautionary principle, was followed with funding for a project to convene various meetings for scientists and activists. This resulted in an International Summit on Science and the Precautionary Principle in 2001.
The Lowell Center launched a large new project focused on the healthcare sector. The Sustainable Hospital Program faculty and staff used private foundation funds to create an information clearinghouse (www.sustainablehospitals.org) on health care devices and products that reduce hazards to workers, patients, and the environment. A significant federal grant was also obtained to research and develop procedures for integrating occupational and environmental health improvements in hospital management systems.
The Lowell Center staff and faculty helped to convene a special meeting in Washington of representatives from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to explore better ways to integrate occupational and environmental health strategies. This initiative has led to a Lowell Center project to develop a regional approach here in New England. In 1999, the Lowell Center hosted a ten-day training program on cleaner production for environmental leaders from industrializing countries around the world that resulted in the formation of a new international network called the Global Anti-Incineration Alliance/Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
By this period, the Lowell Center had developed a recognized international profile and the concept of sustainable production had achieved a certain amount of acceptance in environmental policy discourse. Lowell Center staff and faculty were publishing papers on sustainable production and being invited to make presentations on sustainable production in meetings and conferences throughout the country as well as in Mexico, Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
The Lowell Center opened a new project on sustainable consumption with a two-day forum that brought together Mexican, Canadian and United States professionals to develop an Alliance for Sustainable Consumption. In addition, Lowell Center faculty and staff helped to plan and sponsor a highly successful conference at the University of Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico on Cleaner Production and Pollution Prevention education and projects at universities.
Just prior to the publication of the European Union REACH proposal, the Lowell Center organized a four-city tour of the United States by a group of European chemicals policy experts to stimulate discussion of chemicals policy in the United States. The experts visited Washington, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston, discussing the details of their chemicals policy initiatives at the European Member State, corporate, and EU levels as well as implications for U.S. companies.
The Lowell Center received a $4M, four-year grant for Project SHARRP to research ways to protect home healthcare practitioners from needlestick injuries and blood exposures. Project SHARRP is a collaborative effort with five leading home healthcare agencies and labor unions: VNA Care Network, which operates within 200 communities in the region; the UMass Memorial Home Health and Hospice in Worcester; Winchester Home Care; the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA); and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2020.
The Environmental Health Initiative (EHI) joined the Lowell Center in September 2004. The EHI seeks to better understand relationships between environmental exposures and human health. Working at the local, state, New England regional and national levels, EHI develops and implements programs and policies aimed at reducing environmental exposures to reverse rates of chronic disease.
To help colleges, universities, public schools and others improve and sustain environmental performance, the Lowell Center created the Environmental Management Systems (EMS) Service Program. The Lowell Center offers trainings on developing and maintaining environmental management systems to reduce operating costs, increase energy savings, and promote healthier facilities.
To initiative the first North American dialogue about sustainable chemicals policy, the Lowell Center hosted a multi-stakeholder forum. The meeting brought together chemical producers, downstream users, representatives of government and non-government organizations, and others for presentations and group discussions on key elements of a more sustainable chemicals policy.
The Lowell Center led an initiative to encourage healthcare payers to finance effective environmental interventions for asthma patients. As a result, three managed care organizations in Massachusetts have decided to pay for and help provide in-home environmental assessments and materials to reduce environmental triggers for asthma.
In collaboration with the Collaborative for Health and Environment, the Lowell Center developed the white paper “Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer” to demonstrate why environmental and occupational cancers should be given serious consideration.
The Lowell Center launched the Toward Tomorrow initiative to develop an agenda for action on health and the environment. By bringing together leaders and scholars from diverse fields, Toward Tomorrow identified goals that will guide the next generation as they address the complex linkages between human and ecosystem health and linkages critical for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of global health threats. One of the elements of this project is the creation of a web site www.towardtomorrow.org where people are encouraged to share their visions of a healthy human population and environment.
The Lowell Center kicked off the project “Clean Tech: An Agenda for a Healthy Economy” to re-focus Massachusetts to build an economy that creates jobs while protecting health and the environment. With its partners, the Lowell Center will be conducting case studies, economic research, and outreach to key experts to make the case for investment in clean technologies in the chemicals, recycling, water infrastructure, and energy sectors.
The Lowell Center sponsored the “Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) Innovators Roundtable: The Role of Tools, Labels, and Retail in Promoting Safer Chemistry." The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) was formed by attendees who participated in “Sustainable Business and Safer Chemistry Through the Supply Chain: An Innovators Roundtable” at the Darden School of Business in 2005. Since then, GC3 participants have continued dialogue, information sharing, and collaboration around safer chemicals and products. The April 2007 meeting built on progress made since Darden and explored new avenues for innovation and collaboration.
Along with GreenBlue, the Lowell Center began Sustainable Children's Products Initiative, a collaborative effort with decision makers in the toy industry and representatives from citizen advocacy groups, government, and academia. We engaged stakeholders throughout the supply chain, including manufacturers, retailers and designers. In December, we held a planning meeting of these stakeholders, including Mattel, Hasbro, Wal-Mart, several small toy manufacturers, toy designers, US EPA, and representatives of citizen advocacy groups including Consumers Union and Clean Production Action.
The Lowell Center began to develop a model for “Sustainable Solutions Science.” This model integrates research and analysis with action aimed at social and technological change. The focus is on how best to act based on what is already known so that knowledge and action advance together. The model is an extension of more than five years’ research and network building on the precautionary principle.
With the Asthma Regional Council, the Lowell Center launched a major New England-wide initiative to advance the delivery and financing of comprehensive asthma management, with particular emphasis on home-based environmental interventions (such as integrated pest management, smoking cessation, and education about environmental triggers). The premise of the initiative is that environmental interventions need to be embedded in traditional delivery systems and financed by those who pay for health care.