Improving Indoor Air Quality—Community Spotlight


GreenRoots is a resident-led, grassroots organization with 30 years of achieving environmental justice and public health victories in Chelsea and East Boston, Massachusetts. GreenRoots’ mission is to achieve environmental justice and greater quality of life through collective action, unity, and youth leadership. GreenRoots’ vision is shaped by our collective lived experiences. GreenRoots’ multiprong, resident-led approach for environmental justice and public health includes the following programs: Environmental Justice, Waterfront Access, Anti-Displacement, Food Justice and Urban Agriculture, Youth Leadership, Transit Justice, Energy Democracy, Climate Justice and Resiliency, Greater Open and Green Space, Improved Public Health, and Air and Water Quality.

What are some unique and innovative programs or services offered by your organization? Or: Tell us about a current project that excites you. Or: What has been a win/top accomplishment that makes you proud?
A recent unique and innovative approach we are excited to share more about is how we used graphics and comics as a unique and innovative method to inform community members and legislators about air quality in Chelsea and East Boston. We developed two bilingual comics and brief graphics to disseminate air quality information and quick strategies for immediately improving indoor air quality such as venting while cooking, eliminating chemical cleaners and sprays, and using fans. In addition to the comics, we have complemented our community organizing strategies with advocacy through drafting air quality legislation, which we are working to get passed statewide.

What is the most important thing people should know about your organization or your work?
As a resident-led organization, GreenRoots centers residents in decision-making. We believe that the solutions to the climate crisis, environmental injustices, and public health issues must come from the ground up, and we put that into practice every day. Our residents, in particular low-income residents and people of color, are directly involved in every step of our work. Our community health ambassadors consist of multilingual community leaders who conduct intensive engagement and outreach to address health disparities. GreenRoots’ staff speak 10 different languages and are working to address the intersecting environmental justice and health disparities related to poor air quality like asthma, COPD, and cardiac illness.

What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing your organization and/or the community you serve?
Air quality and old housing stock are some of the most pressing challenges in Chelsea. Due to the high density of environmentally hazardous industrial facilities and sites, Chelsea ranks third in Massachusetts as the most intensively overburdened community for potential hazardous exposures. Chelsea Creek houses fuel storage terminals that provide 100% of Logan International Airport’s jet fuel, as well as 80% of New England’s home heating fuel and 70% of the region’s gasoline and diesel fuel. It also houses one of the nation’s largest privately owned produce distribution hubs. Our community provides much of the mid-Atlantic region with necessary resources, while we pay the price in environmental and public health injustices. Though poor outdoor air quality is a huge concern in Chelsea, so is poor indoor air quality. One half of Chelsea’s units were constructed prior to 1939. The old housing stock is also responsible for other substandard housing factors, such as high rates of mold, lead, and asbestos and inadequate sanitary facilities due to overcrowding, in addition to poor air quality. In Chelsea, more than half (54%) of the properties had a housing code violation; of these, 85% were categorized as “high risk.”

What is the most important lesson or piece of advice you would share with others doing this kind of work?
Provide meaningful ways for community members to get involved and engaged. Believe in and uplift the resilience of frontline, environmental justice communities. Let community members lead, as they are the experts who have lived experience and know what their neighborhoods need most. Be persistent!

To learn more about GreenRoots’ work, visit their website and/or contact Barbara Espinosa at


Latest page update: June 7, 2024.