The University of Maryland’s Sustainable Maryland program certified 12 state municipalities this fall for their efforts promoting sustainability.
The program, part of the Environmental Finance Center, has certified municipalities annually since 2012.
Out of the 157 municipalities in Maryland, 58 are registered and are already certified or in the process of being certified, according to the Sustainable Maryland website. As of this year, 30 are certified, said Mike Hunninghake, program manager for Sustainable Maryland.
Hunninghake said the program has helped state communities become more environmentally sustainable.
“We are pleased that this overall framework has demonstrated effectiveness in getting communities to become more sustainable and engage their residents,” he said.
To become certified, each community must first pass a resolution indicating that they intend to pursue certification, Hunninghake said. Then the city or town has to form a “green team” of elected officials, municipal staff members and volunteers from the community, who then choose a number of various activities to complete.
These activities include projects from eight different categories. For example, Mount Rainier’s Bicycle Co-op — which enables residents to own, maintain and ride bicycles affordably — is considered a greenhouse gas project because it helps reduce emissions from cars, according to a news release.
“What each municipality chooses to do is entirely up to them,” Hunninghake said. “There are dozens of projects that they can choose from, and they can do things that we don’t specify, called innovative demonstration projects.”
Four of the 12 — Mount Rainier, Berlin, Chestertown and Rockville — were recertified for the first time. Though they were originally certified in 2012, Sustainable Maryland requires each community to reapply every three years to keep their certified status.
Communities can be certified in as little as one to two years, Hunninghake said. Larger cities have more developed sustainability programs, which makes the process of certification quicker than smaller communities that are starting from scratch, which can take three to five years. Some municipalities registered several years ago and still aren’t certified, Hunninghake said.
The program named Mount Rainier the 2015 Sustainability Champion for having completed the most projects, Hunninghake said. Rockville also showed substantial improvement since 2012.
“Our community has made sustainability an important priority and our progress is due to collaborative community effort by our elected officials, residents, local businesses and institutions, and City staff,” Rockville Sustainability Coordinator Erica Shingara wrote in an email.
Rockville’s Environment Commission, consisting of nine appointed officials, serves as the main part of the green team, but other volunteers from the community help out with projects as well, Shingara said.
Rockville gained points through a variety of projects, including establishing a local farmers market, creating a workplace wellness program and continuing to implement a stormwater management program, Shingara said.
Daniel Nees, the Environmental Finance Center’s interim director, said projects like these benefit cities.
“The annual Sustainable Maryland Certified awards are a testament to the passion and dedication of volunteers, municipal staff and elected officials on our Green Teams,” he wrote in an email. “The innovative projects and plans they have completed towards improving the quality of life in their communities and reducing our collective footprint on the planet.”