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Bowie Becomes Eighth Certified Sustainable Community in Maryland

City’s Green Team aims to better both the community and environment through sustainability.

The City of Bowie has become a bit greener, thanks to the hard work of residents and city employees.

In March of this year, Bowie became the eighth city in the state become Sustainable Maryland Certified by, due in large part to the hard work and dedication of the Green Team, a group of residents dedicated to making Bowie cleaner and greener. 

According to the Sustainable Maryland website: 

Sustainable Maryland Certified (SMC) is a new initiative of the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland (EFC) designed to support Maryland's 157 municipalities as they look for cost-effective and strategic ways to protect their natural assets and revitalize their communities. Using best practices in resource areas like water, energy, planning, health, food, and economy, a municipality can earn points toward sustainability certification.

The certification is the culmination of efforts beginning with a September 2011 resolution by the Bowie City Council to become a sustainable certified community and the first Green Team meeting in March 2012. By October, the the city had the necessary actions and plans in place to apply.

To be certified, communities must reach 150 points, which can be earned in a multitude of ways, such as making a Green Team—a required action—and performing energy audits or partnering with organizations to promote water system health.

The Bowie Green Team earned a total of 185 points. Some points were gained from actions already taken, such as the municipal energy audits taken at dozen major buildings in Bowie, which earned 55 points alone.

“Before this Green Team was formed, we always had an environmental committee- they were focused on policy and regulation,” said Joe Meinert, director of planning and economic development for Bowie. “But what we needed was a broad-based group actually interested in doing things. The Green Team focused on projects and action as opposed to policy.”

Meinert put the application in order and helped plan the work for the team. The team has a core executive committee of 12 people, with 20 to 25 others doing more behind the scenes work for the team, said Kay Kane, chair of the team. Many on the team work in the sustainability field in some way and some members are retired.

“We seek to provide leadership to the city of Bowie to improve the environment, economy and community,” said Kane. “It’s not just about the environment, but the people and the community.”

One of the things the team plans to get done in its first year is the green business certification, which will provide businesses with information on how to become sustainable and implement practices that will save money, Kane said.

The team plans to spend the first year focusing on that certification as well as promoting the Bowie Green Expo, implementing an invasive species weed warrior event and working to apply for the Gardens4Wildlife program.

Programs such as the weed warrior event, which teaches local residents to maintain invasive weeds on city land, also encourage the “integration of community volunteers into the local environment for hands-on results,” Meinert said.

“The bulk of our actions are in year one and two," Kane said.  "We want knock this out,” she added.

The Green Team has a three-year plan of actions and initiatives to undertake. The first year has 27 items alone. The certification requires that communities who are certified must continue to do more every year to maintain that certification.

“The focus on sustainability goes well beyond the environment, it’s a focus on community,” said Meinert. 

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