The Greening of Baltimore

City programs aid environmental issues

By: Melanie Losover

Various environmental and green-minded groups are working to clean up Baltimore and help sustain a healthy environment. The city is taking action after years of public unrest about growing environmental, conservation and waste problems.

In 2007, the city recognized sanitation services were at a 30-year standstill, air quality was at dangerously hazardous levels, and the Inner Harbor was being saturated with pollutants daily. As a result, city legislation created the Baltimore Office of Sustainability and the Baltimore Commission on Sustainability, according to Alice Kennedy, the Sustainability Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

Kennedy, the Commission on Sustainability, and over 150 members who attended the commission’s first meeting, helped form the city’s plan for sustainability, which lays out 29 goals. These goals are divided into seven chapters, according to the Baltimore Plan for Sustainability: cleanliness, pollution prevention, resource conservation, greening, transportation, education and awareness, and green economy.

Though various groups have become involved with the effort, it is mainly the Office of Sustainability’s duty to make sure these goals are reached.

“The Office of Sustainability develops and advocates for programs, policies, and actions by government, citizen, businesses, and institutions that improve the long-term environmental, social, and economic viability of Baltimore City,” said Kennedy.

The plan recognizes the issues that made the city realize there was a problem. Up until 2009, sanitation services for the city hadn’t changed in 30 years, according to the Plan for Sustainability. The city failed to keep up with emerging recycling technology and citizens’ desire to contribute to it.

The commission’s solution was to increase the number of times recycling is collected from twice a month to once a week.

“The Department of Public Works, [specifically the] Bureau of Solid Waste, closely evaluated ways to deliver service to proactively create efficiencies, promote effective and sustainable waste management, and protect the environment by producing less waste and recycling more,” the Baltimore Plan for Sustainability states. “Public Works decided to implement One PLUS ONE collections in Baltimore City – one mixed refuse and one recycling collection each week… [this] was designed to benefit the increasing number of households already recycling and encourage more residents to follow suit by providing recycling collection more frequently.”

The commission has joined forces with other sustainability groups to combat unemployment, which plagues Baltimore City and the nation. Unemployment is at 10.4 percent in Baltimore City, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

B’More Green and the Baltimore Center for Green Careers are divisions of Civic Works and strive to create jobs that utilize environmentally sound practices.

John Mello, the Green Projects Director for B’More Green, said that it’s important to incorporate green practices into the city’s companies and work force.

“Our objective is to create green collar jobs in Baltimore and to prepare Baltimore’s unemployed and underemployed workers to obtain these jobs,” said Mello. “[We want to] make Baltimore a stronger, more economically viable, and more sustainable city that has opportunities and safe communities for all residents, regardless of race or class.”

B’More Green and Civic Works work with the Office of Sustainability to accomplish their goals.

“Members of the Civic Works staff have served on the Sustainability Commission and were involved in drafting the sustainability plan,” said Mello. “Our efforts are often cited in sustainability plan updates.”

Forty-three businesses are in the Maryland Green Registry, according to the 2009 Baltimore City Annual Sustainability Report.

Some efforts put forth by green groups need to pass in the Maryland General Assembly before they can be put into action.

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters works to lobby for legislation that benefits the environment and green efforts throughout the state.

One of the group’s most important pieces of legislation is the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act. If passed, it would assist B’More Green in their efforts. The bill would bring a new source of reliable and clean energy and jobs to Maryland by requiring utilities to purchase a small portion of their energy from offshore wind sources, according to Dannielle Lipinski, the Baltimore County field organizer for the MDLCV.

Lipinkski’s job is to connect Baltimore County environmental groups and residents to the happenings in Annapolis, where the general assembly confers. The MDLCV does a similar job of uniting green groups’ efforts to ensure that legislation is passed that will aid in their endeavors.

“The MDLCV acts as a sort of connector between all these groups that have similar goals and shows them how they can work together to achieve those goals,” said Lipinkski.

While it’s clear there are plenty of groups working toward a common goal, it is unclear whether or not the Baltimore Commission on Sustainability is accomplishing all it set out to do. So far, a report has not been released about the progress made in 2010, though it is still somewhat early in the new year.

Overall positive progress is being made in making Baltimore City a greener and more environmentally friendly city, though it is yet to be seen if the progress is being sustained.

John Mello explains the EnergyReady weatherization initiative

A map of green-minded groups and programs in Maryland.


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