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Campus & Community

Electric Cars, Community Gardens and Hungry Goats

How UMD’s Sustainable Maryland Program Has Helped Maryland Towns Go Green

By Maggie Haslam

Sustainability illustration

Illustration and infographic by Valerie Morgan

Gaze across the sprawling field of solar panels just west of Annapolis, and it’s hard to imagine that just underneath lies 80 acres of trash. Annapolis Solar Park is the largest solar project built on a capped landfill in the United States, cutting the city’s electric bill more than $100,000 a year—and for Annapolis, it’s part of a larger effort to create a greener, healthier community.

The city has had help. Annapolis is one of 85 municipalities and homeowner’s associations across the state enrolled in Sustainable Maryland (SM), a no-cost “greening” program from the University of Maryland’s Environmental Finance Center. Now marking its 10th anniversary, SM has mobilized sustainability efforts from New Carrollton to North Beach by connecting municipalities with funding opportunities, training, expertise and a tight-knit network of peer communities.

“Sustainability has become a way of life for us, and having SM help us develop a plan each year keeps us on track,” said Rod Barnes, town administrator for the town of Edmonston, who has leveraged SM’s guidance, training and network to develop $4.2 million in successful grants, funding 28 rain gardens, three public fruit orchards, a pet waste program and more.

Offering over 100 greening actions for communities to choose from, SM is a “choose your own adventure” in sustainability that equates to big numbers for Maryland—shrinking carbon footprints, protecting waterways and building resilient, healthier places to live. Here’s what 10 years of greening Maryland looks like, by the numbers:

Sustainable Maryland's First Decade: Directly engaging 53% of the state's 157 municipalities, across 20 counties; 16 certified municipal stormwater management programs; 170 pet waste stations installed in Prince George's County (keeping 30,000 pounds of pet waste out of the Chesapeake Bay watershed; 1,000+ individual sustainability actions, from wind-powered streetlights to community gardens; helped start 6 composting programs, keeping thousands of pounds of food waste out of landfills; 1 herd of goats to eat invasive species in local parks, making room for native plants; created and trained 60+ "green teams"

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.