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Berlin Earns State's First Certificate of Sustainability

May 07, 2012 11:09PM ● Published by Anonymous

 

Attention, enviro-advocates—the town of Berlin in Worcester County has become the first in the state to earn a Certificate of Sustainability from Sustainable Maryland Certified.

Sustainable Maryland Certified (SMC) is an initiative by the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland. It’s designed to support the state’s cities, towns, and villages, as they try to protect their natural assets and revitalize their communities.  The program is free and voluntary, and awards points towards certification. Points are earned through use of best practices in resource areas like health, water, planning, food, energy, and economy.

Berlin racked up its points by completing “actions” in several categories. SMC defines actions as concrete steps municipalities can take to become more green and sustainable. Categories include food, community action, health and wellness, natural resources, and local economies.

“What happened that really got things going into high gear was that three years ago the town of Berlin helped to support the development of Grow Berlin Green, which is a partnership with the Assateague Coastal Trust, the Lower Shore Land Trust, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program,” says Berlin mayor Wm. Gee Williams, III. “We jointly applied to the Town Creek Foundation for a substantial grant, and used that to make educating the general community our first priority. We figured if people understood the problems and the promise of environmental stewardship, they would respond.”

Through Grow Berlin Green, the town started taking physical steps toward greening their community. What started out as a few group rain barrel builds, for example, has now turned into the selling of more than 200 barrels. And a former perpetual puddle is now a thriving rain garden.

“This is a classic case where citizens in the community can lead by example,” says Williams.

After an intense application and review process, the SMC staff and external industry experts awarded Berlin certification.

“It’s gratifying and exhilarating, but I’m not thoroughly surprised,” says Williams. “Sometimes you have to believe in something, and I wanted to believe our community could do this.”

Now, 22 other Maryland towns are following in Berlin’s footsteps.

“Berlin is a role model for what can be accomplished when communities and local governments team up to adopt sensible, sustainable practices,” Joanne Throwe, director of the University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center, said in a press release. “We want communities to embrace actions important to them, and then help them achieve these actions in an efficient, goal-oriented way.”

Williams agrees.

“If little old Berlin with 4,500 residents can do it, anyone can do it.”

Find out more about the program, including how to register, at SMC’s website: sustainablemaryland.com.

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