Economic Development Portsmouth

Being an Eco-Municipality

Being an Eco-Municipality

With the completion of the 2005 master plan the community expressed a strong desire to become more sustainable and ecologically friendly in order to safeguard the future. As a result Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Sustainable Practices advised the City Council to declare Portsmouth an eco-municipality. The city council voted unanimously to declare Portsmouth an eco-municipality in 2007 and signed a resolution which fully acknowledges Portsmouth's commitment and desire to become more sustainable using the four sustainability principles from The Natural Step by making thoughtful, insightful decisions that will benefit the community as a whole. The four steps are summarized below. 

  • Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels and extracted underground metals and minerals;
  • Reduce dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in nature;
  • Reduce dependence on activities that harm life-sustaining eco-systems; and
  • Meet the hierarchy of present and future human needs fairly and efficiently.

Similar to 2005, the City has begun a new master plan and is continuing to look at issues regarding sustainability so that Portsmouth can become the best place to live and work. The Master Plan is currently taking public comment in the form of study Circles. For more information about the ongoing study circle process go to:

As a member of ICLEI (International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives) Portsmouth is part of an association of "cities and countries committed to climate action, clean energy and sustainability." The membership gives the City the opportunity to be helped by ICLEI, and is also recognized on a global scale.


Why Should Portsmouth Be Sustainable?
As a coastal city, Portsmouth is likely to experience climate change first hand. Neighborhoods such as the South End are likely to be hit hard, with sea levels possibly rising up to 6.3 ft. by 2100. Greenhouse gas emissions are also likely to alter the average temperature, and may increase the potential for extreme weather. However, if we commit to minimizing our impact on the environment, for instance reducing greenhouse gas emissions we can in turn minimize how much the environment impacts us.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A significant step the City has taken towards achieving sustainability is its tracking of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the operation of the City government and by the community as a whole. A greenhouse gas emissions study was completed looking at carbon emission in 2006 and that study was done again for 2012.  One of the findings in comparing the two studies was that the City government emissions were reduced by 15% between 2006 and 2012.  In order to pursue another reduction of 15%, the community could take simple everyday steps in order to help reduce emissions. For instance citizens could turn thermostats down during the winter, install energy efficient windows or even just choose to walk or bike instead of drive. If every person chose to do one of those three things, the city would see changes in the emissions produced, and in turn would help the city as a whole become more sustainable.


Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. Stormwater in a forest, meadow, or other natural environment usually soaks into the ground, i.e., infiltrates, or is filtered as it flows along the ground and over native vegetation. When water falls on roads and parking lots it often makes its way into nearby streams and waterbodies untreated. The pollutants carried with this stormwater said to be the most pressing pollutant problem we are facing today and are being addressed through the Clean Water Act. The City of Portsmouth is working to reduce the pollution caused by stormwater through the use of innovative stormwater treatment. At a number of locations throughout the City there are treebox filters which utilize soil and root structure of trees to reduce pollutants entering waterbodies. In addition the City has installed rain gardens, bio-swales and advanced catch basins engineered to swirl the contaminants ¬†out of the water.  More information about the City's Stormwater treatment can be found here.



The Portsmouth School Board has recently completed a first reading of a sustainability policy which will help to further the school system's support for sustainable beliefs and practices.

Clipper Farm to School Grant
The Clippers Farm to School Grant is a USDA grant which wishes "to cultivate a strong farm to school program in the Portsmouth School district by focusing on personal, community, an environmental wellness, through education, as well as growing and procuring healthy, fresh, and local foods for our classrooms, cafes, and consciousness. The School Department currently has the planning grant.

Open Spaces
The City's Conservation Commission has completed a number of inventory efforts looking at wetlands, important upland areas, and conservation opportunities. In addition the Commission has increased the protection of wetlands, and is working on improving its stewardship efforts.  A number of studies highlight the work that has been done: