Baltimore city planner Kristin Baja holds up the "safe" window placard in an emergency kit distributed to residents at community meetings held to encourage disaster planning and preparedness.
Baltimore city planner Kristin Baja holds up the "safe" window placard in an emergency kit distributed to residents at community meetings held to encourage disaster planning and preparedness. (Tim Wheeler)

Now for some good news about Baltimore: The city has earned top marks from a national nonprofit organization for its efforts to make the community more sustainable and resilient.

STAR Communities, a Washington-based group, awarded Baltimore its highest, "five-star" rating for making progress on several economic, social and environmental issues, particularly climate change and energy efficiency.

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The group's executive director, Hilari Varnadore, called Baltimore "a national leader" for its efforts to encourage disaster preparedness, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote urban agriculture.

The city's Office of Sustainability has developed a plan and held community meetings to prepare for a variety of disasters, including storms and flooding made worse by climate change. Climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions have declined nearly 18 percent across the city in the past five years, officials report. And more than 14 acres of public and private land in Baltimore have been devoted to urban farming and gardening.

Baltimore joins just two other U.S. cities, Seattle and Northampton, Mass., in getting STAR's top rating, according to the group.  The system, under which communities apply for recognition, was developed by local government leaders to help communities assess their progress as they to work toward increased sustainability. About 35 communities nationwide have achieved certification under the rating system.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake welcomed the group's recognition at a ceremony Thursday on Federal Hill, calling it "an objective, third-party assessment of conditions in Baltimore today." But she added that "there is much room to improve" and vowed in a statement to work to "ensure a sustainable future for every resident of this city."

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