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BNote launches in Baltimore

One lucky Baltimore resident will be able to swap some green in exchange for a dinner for two, but it won't be George Washington's face on the bill.

BNote, a local currency bearing the names and faces of famous Baltimoreans such as Frederick Douglass and Edgar Allan Poe, was launched Sunday in Hampden as officials of the Baltimore Green Currency Association celebrated a new effort to support local economies.

A bundle of green balloons carrying an envelope was let loose in the wind — with instructions for the lucky finder on how to cash in a BNote for a dinner at Woodberry Kitchen — signifying the first BNote released to the public, via a biodegradable, helium balloon.

"This represents a new economic way forward for Baltimore," said Jeff Dicken, director of the Baltimore Green Currency Association. "One that supports communities, friends and neighbors."

The alternative currency is exchanged for dollars — the first exchange receives a 10 percent discount — and then is circulated among communities through use at 55 locations across the city. Exchanges can be done at the law office of Murray M. Blum and Little Shop of Hardware in Hampden, and CapitolMac in Fells Point.

The launch of BNote was held during the Localize It! Festival, organized by the BGCA and the Baltimore Free Farm to support grass-roots vendors and celebrating what Dicken said was "one step closer to greater sustainability" in Baltimore.

Chris Raitzyk traveled from Laurel to join the festivities and make one of the first and largest exchanges for the BNote on Sunday. She looks forward to using the currency when visiting her father, which she does a few times a month.

"I'm ready to get these in circulation," Raitzyk said, holding a fistful of $110 BNotes. "It's very important to support business in the local economy instead of national conglomerates, where you don't know where the services are coming from."

Local vendor Ryan Boddy, of the homebrew group BaltiBrew, had already taken in about $30 worth of BNotes on Sunday for the organization's ChiliBrew. Through BaltiBrew, BNotes will reach two local organizations: Velocipede Bike Project and the Baltimore Free School, both of which benefit from BaltiBrew proceeds.

"It's an awesome thing," Boddy said. "It keeps your money right here in Baltimore, where it should be."

Ryan Boddy's last name was misspelled in earlier versions of this article. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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