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Green shoots of conservation, all over Annapolis

Soft-spoken Maria Broadbent didn't want to wear a badge and be a cop when she became Annapolis' director of the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs. She wondered if there was a way to make her job easier and get residents to become environmental stewards.

She put together a program of green initiatives — the Certified Green Environmental Steward Award — for lodgings, offices, retail, restaurants and other venues. To earn the certificate, businesses need to incorporate environmental practices from a comprehensive checklist and be rated on a point system.

Other cities in the Mid-Atlantic are pursuing similar initiatives. All of them hope to reduce energy use, capture rainwater before it becomes stormwater runoff and clean their air. Because Annapolis sits right on the Chesapeake Bay and has a high public profile, it is important that the city do all it can to promote the bay's health.

Annapolitans have responded and engaged in a municipal stewardship program that recognizes homes and businesses for their environmental stewardship.

To get around town, one can hop on an eCruiser shuttle car — a little, electric-powered car that resembles an oversized golf cart. Drivers work for tips. Advertisements on the back of the business cards they hand out and on the 10 five-passenger vehicles "pay the freight," according to owner Russell Rankin. Mr. Rankin figures he has moved 380,000 people, and the cruisers have prevented gas and oil drips from running into the bay and also eliminated a lot of carbon dioxide.

One can cruise around the lovely waterways in a 16-volt battery-operated Duffy Electric Boat. They provide a green alternative to conventionally powered boats and contribute no noise pollution. They use about $10 worth of electricity per boat per month.

A rented Green Pedals electric bike gets users around town and may inspire them to trade in their automobile, no matter what their fitness level. Green Pedals operates from a shop in West Annapolis and owner Geoff Elliott has placed 500 bikes on the streets of Washington, D.C., in the last few years. The bikes make it easy to merge into traffic or negotiate hills with a quick switch to electric power.

For lunch, patrons can dine at Galway Bay, one of the city's 13 Certified Green restaurants, and feast on a salad made from locally grown bib lettuce and a hydroponically grown tomato; sip from a straw made from corn; wipe with a recycled napkin; and feel confident that any food waste will be picked up by a new, veteran-owned and operated Maryland business that will turn it into compost.

Restaurant manager Fintan Galway said that he believes a community can no longer encourage economic growth without sustainability, without a sense of greening. Those days are over. With visible businesses like Galway Bay adopting these forward-thinking principles, how can the rest not want to follow?

It is pretty tough to become a Certified Green restaurant, so a new program was developed for eateries to try out their "training wheels" before deciding on taking the plunge. These restaurants' menus highlight "Green plate specials" that feature locally produced foods.

Suzanne Pogell and the Spa Creek Conservancy, named after a creek in the middle of town, started a program making rain barrels and composting bins available to Annapolis' citizens. Once purchased, free installation lessons are offered as well as instructions on how to create a garden trickle system. Because everything quickly runs into the town's four creeks and then the bay, it is important that runoff is filtered, absorbed and pollution-mitigated. To date, thousands of rain barrels have been added to greater Annapolis. Homeowners are also offered a checklist of green actions to take around the house.

Environmental violations have gone down since these programs have been in place, Ms. Broadbent said, noting that some businesses seek out green initiatives. They say "Check this out — look what we are doing now," she said.

"It matters to people," Ms. Broadbent said. It is a win-win situation for the planet, the bay and all of the people and businesses.

Several communities in the Chesapeake Watershed have similar programs. The include Lancaster, State College, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Carlisle in Pennsylvania; Alexandria and Virginia Beach in Virginia; and Ocean City, Baltimore, Howard County and St. Charles in Maryland.

Cindy Ross lives in Pennsylvania and has written six books about the outdoors. This column is distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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