University aiming to support local green efforts

The University of Maryland wants to help Maryland's 157 cities and towns go green — or, in some cases, greener.

The Maryland Municipal League's annual convention in served as the background for the launch of Sustainable Maryland Certified on Sunday.

Officials of the program, developed at the university's Environmental Finance Center, say they will help steer public and private funding to communities that win sustainable certification by adopting green policies.

"We found a lot of enthusiasm from many municipalities," center director Joanne M. Throwe said. "A lot lined up to talk to us after the announcement and many of them told us they are ready to go. Some even have a green team in place."

According to the program's website, it will help communities find cost-effective and strategic ways to protect natural assets and revitalize.

The website recommends actions that communities can tailor to their own needs and budgets as they plan green initiatives, including alternative energy options, reduced transportation costs and community gardens.

Participation in the free program is voluntary. Local officials looking to get involved must first pass a resolution to adopt the program and then form a collaborative green team versed in sustainable initiatives.

A community may win sustainability certification by amassing a total of 150 points, earned by setting up programs to address issues such as global warming, energy, pollution, land use, air and water quality, health equity, support for local businesses, sustainable agriculture, green buildings and transportation.

Throwe said the program, funded by federal and private grants, would offer cities and towns advice and support as they build best practices in managing resources like water, air, waste, energy, equity, and economy.

She said the program would provide training, case studies and other resources to guide communities through their greening efforts.

Throwe said most communities recognize their assets and are willing to make improvements to protect their streetscapes, waterways and character. She said the program would work with local leaders to identify ways to finance those efforts.

Throwe said nearly 40 communities have already expressed interest.

"That's a great sign so we are hopeful," she said. "This is not labor intensive and will not require a lot of paperwork."

Organizers decided to offer the program on the local level first.

"If we do a good job here, we will expand to the counties," Throwe said.

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