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Maryland gets its first 'Certified Sustainable' community: Berlin

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The first Maryland municipality to earn a "Certificate of Sustainability" under a new statewide environmental program is the Town of Berlin on the Eastern Shore.

The Sustainable Maryland Certified (SMC) program - managed by the University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center - recognizes and assists communities working to protect their assets, as well as revitalize and improve their long-term quality of life.

"Berlin is a role model for what can be accomplished when communities and local governments team up to adopt sensible, sustainable practices," says Joanne Throwe, director of the University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center. "The Town of Berlin has organized its many sustainability initiatives in a way that is likely to intensify their impact and build citizen awareness."

Twenty-two other communities around Maryland are following Berlin's lead and working toward their own certification - a process that involves setting goals and completing a series of actions in areas relating to water and air quality, waste management, energy efficiency, local economic development, planning and land use, and health and wellness.

To earn its certification, Berlin first established a citizen-government Green Team. This steering committee was charged with selecting a series of actions to perform from a menu of resource management and economic development activities. Each completed action earned points toward certification.

"SMC is a purely voluntary program," Throwe says. "We want communities to embrace actions important to them, and then help them achieve these actions in an efficient, goal-oriented way."

In Berlin's case, the community completed activities from the community action, community based food systems, energy, health and wellness, local economies, and natural resources categories.

After a rigorous application and review process by the SMC staff and external industry experts, the program's executive committee approved the Town of Berlin's certification, making it the first Maryland municipality to achieve this distinction.

"Our citizens share a common belief that in the 21st century for any community to obtain sustainable success, environmental stewardship and economic opportunity must be two sides of the same coin," says Berlin Mayor Gee Williams. "By actively working together with citizens, local environmental groups and the state, the Town of Berlin seeks to be a leading community on the Eastern Shore in environmental responsibility. We are most grateful that the efforts of our citizens are being recognized through this very special honor."

The University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center formally launched SMC in June 2011, based on a successful program in New Jersey. Berlin quickly signed on as the first participating community.

SMC is a partnership that has evolved and been built on the contributions and talents of many. SMC sponsors include the Maryland Municipal League, the Town Creek Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Program partners include the UMD National Center for Smart Growth, as well as 87 other organizations from the public and private sectors, nonprofits, and academia.

The Environmental Finance Center is one of ten university-based centers across the country whose mission is to help communities identify sustainable strategies for financing their resource protection goals.

Contact: Neil Tickner
University of Maryland

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