Special Events and Stories of Note

Past CLT Staff Member Analyzes Energy Data for Massachusetts

Turkey Trot
Maria Andrea Hessenius

A member of the Green Communities Division since 2011, Maria Andrea Hessenius says the best part of her job is keeping pace with the dynamic changes in the clean energy world. In particular, she's enthusiastic about the innovations state agencies and campuses have employed since Governor Patrick signed his "Leading by Example" Executive Order calling on state government to trim its environmental impact and carbon footprint. For example, the 19 percent drop in state government greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2004 is impressive not just due to the size of the reduction, she says, but also because state agencies and campuses are using so many different strategies to achieve the goal. "I like that it's out-of-the-box thinking for some of these projects," she says. Hessenius' penchant for solutions that challenge the status quo isn't restricted to the energy arena - far from it. Since high school, she has sought ways to stretch her comfort zone.

Raised in near the Mexican border by two native Spanish speakers (her mother is Mexican and her father from Spain), Hessenius moved from the Lower 48's largest state to its smallest to earn a double Bachelor's degree (Biology and Spanish) at Providence College and a Master's in Environmental Science and Management at the University of Rhode Island. Enamored with the Ocean State, she took a job as associate director of a coastal conservation group, the Charlestown Land Trust, where, in addition to securing funds for land preservation, she ran several farmers' markets. She was tapped to assist some Narragansett fishermen interested in bringing their catch to local consumers, and soon wasn't just helping members of The Local Catch sell their fish and lobsters at farmers' markets. She was accompanying them on pre-dawn forays, hauling nets and bringing in the catch - then getting to her desk at the land trust office well before 9.

"I was really intrigued because I took a lot of courses in marine biology and ecology, and you always hear about how tough a life fishing is, but you never get to see it," Hessenius said. "I was interested in connecting to how we get our food - still am." Newlyweds, Hessenius and her husband, who live in Boston's North End, have shares in a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in western Massachusetts. "It's always an adventure to figure out what to do with three pounds of sweet potatoes," she says, noting the large quantities of seasonal crops that land in weekly CSA shares. "Once a year, you can go to the farm and pick your own veggies...there was one weekend we made 75 pounds of tomatoes into sauce." Picture the organizational skill involved in putting up that much marinara, and it's no wonder Hessenius takes in stride the vast volumes of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and GHG emissions data she manages, evaluates, and analyzes for the Green Communities Division. First joining DOER as an intern (jointly with the Department of Environmental Protection) to track energy use data from public drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, she likes "working with data because it tells the story of what we are doing." For example, Hessenius said she knew state government's oil usage was dropping due to natural gas conversions and greater efficiency, but recent data revealed a level of reduction that was "mind blowing." "That in six years you're able to reduce your oil use by 60 percent - that's just amazing," she said.

"While she remains a key data resource for the Green Communities Division, Hessenius recently assumed the job of keeping conversations and postings current and lively on the Massachusetts Municipal Energy Group (MMEG) website. It's a wholly new adventure ..."I'm excited!" she said.