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Center for

Environment & Society

Community Greening

What Is It?

The Community Greening Tool Kit is a “box” of resources designed to assist municipal governments and other organizations in setting up their own community greening programs. The items included are presented in pdf format, for viewing only. If you would like to have a particular item in its native format, so you do not have to “reinvent the wheel,” as it were, please contact Briggs Cunningham at bcunningham3@washcoll.edu, or 410.810.7174.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are you doing this?

Small communities like Chestertown can make a significant impact on their environments by engaging in a number of relatively easy projects outlined in the “green plan.” Not only is Chestertown protecting its natural heritage, which incentivizes more tourism, but it is also avoiding costs for its basic government operations. Also, it’s the right thing to do.

What difference will this work make in our community?

If we can set benchmarks for the current energy usage (and also greenhouse gas emissions) in our communities, then we can take direct actions that result in reducing energy consumption, avoiding expenses, and improving the environment.

Will it work?

Judging by what the results have shown us so far, small communities like Chestertown can reduce their energy usage significantly, even over a short period of time —24% in two years in this case. That said, a municipality can probably expect to invest in renewable energy systems, such as solar or wind, in order to realize the greatest avoidance of energy expenses over the long term.

How do we find a project coordinator?

In the case of Chestertown, the Town partnered with Washington College to secure a staff position at its Center for Environment & Society. Funds for the position were originally provided by three organizations: the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Town Creek Foundation, and Shared Earth Foundation. Since the initial year, the project coordinator has secured additional funding through various grants. The project coordinator also works on the College’s green projects, and leads community greening initiatives in several towns around Kent County.

What will it cost?

There was no real expense to Chestertown’s government, except for some minor ones related to printing and distribution of newsletters and door hangers. The Town did avoid expenses for electricity in the range of $33,000 in 2010 compared to 2009, and more than $70,000 in 2009 compared to 2008. With those funds not spent on electricity, the Town can them invest in other energy efficiency projects that will add to the avoidance of even more expenses down the road.

How do we galvanize support in our community?

The best place to start is by getting the local governing body (e.g., Mayor and Council, or County Commissioners) to approve the production of an energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions report. Experience has shown that, once the baseline numbers are established, volunteers come in to join a committee that looks at ways to begin reducing those expenses.

How To Start

After Mayor Bailey signed Chestertown onto the U. S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (USMCPA) in 2007, it was deemed necessary to hire a person to manage the project. An educational component became a part of the grants that were awarded to the Center for Environment & Society (CES) to pay for the coordinator. It was decided to include a basic “tool kit” of items used in the implementation of the Town’s project, and to make it publicly accessible via the web so that other municipalities on the Eastern Shore (and elsewhere) could learn from the Town’s experiences.

The most important starting point is to understand what your community has the capacity to undertake. A green committee was established in Chestertown that meets on a regular basis to devise ways to make the town greener. Using guidelines set by the USMCPA, the committee has devised a Green Plan for the Town, and continually revises it as progress is made on certain agenda items (see Chestertown Green Plan 2011 (pdf)). The committee found that it could prioritize items and establish some goals that fit the community of Chestertown (and its surrounds) that might not be as suitable for more urban, or even suburban, ones. For instance, being a rural community, establishing a public transit system is not very likely. However, the town has succeeded in obtaining grant funds to build a rail-trail system, which will encourage walking and biking around town.

One of the more interesting discoveries was that by taking an inventory of the Town government’s greenhouse gas emissions, the committee was able to focus in on actual figures related to energy use and waste management. It is not unusual for a small municipality like Chestertown to lack the resources to inspect their expenses at the level of detail that is required for this project. But once the project coordinator was on board, the “low-hanging fruit” (expenses that can be easily cut back with a little bit of management) was quickly discovered, and work on those items began almost immediately. The first project to be completed was a comprehensive report of the Town government’s operations and facilities energy usage (see Chestertown Energy Usage 2010 (pdf)). This report gave the Committee a baseline from which to start reducing expenses. Data was gleaned from invoices in the Town office, as well as from vendors who were contacted directly by the project coordinator.

Now, after four years of reporting the energy data, we have a clear picture of what is succeeding, and what needs work, in order to reduce energy expenses (see Chestertown Energy Analysis (pdf)).

Examples of other items included in the Green Plan include: the Mayor offering “green tips of the week” during her weekly radio show; “Chestertown Goes Green” banners hung at town events; the Town partnering with the local Rotary Club to distribute cloth shopping totes at the Saturday morning farmers market on the town square; the Town partnering with Delmarva Power to have LED street lights installed as a demonstration project; with assistance from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, more than 700 trees being planted in Town over the past three years, with more expected in coming years. For more information on that program, go to CES news, or see the Chestertown Forest Plan (pdf).

The Tool Kit also includes a poster, a newsletter, a banner, a decal for reminding folks to bring their cloth bags when they shop, a green neighborhood survey, ordinances related to banning plastic bags and protecting trees, and even zoning language for wind and solar energy systems. Go to Clean Air—Cool Planet for a free carbon calculator for municipalities and small towns.