(Jan. 10, 2020) The Ocean City Green Team’s hard work paid off in 2019, after it received not one, but two awards in honor of the group’s various projects to keep Ocean City green and clean.
“I’m really glad we recertified this year, that was the big accomplishment,” facilitator and City Engineer Gail Blazer said.
The team won the Sustainable Maryland Award and the Maryland Tourism Coalition’s Visionary Impact Award.
In order to receive the Sustainable Maryland Award a community must form a Green Team drawn from the public, community leaders, municipal staff and officials.
The team must then satisfy a number of requirements, ranging from climate change planning to conducting energy audits.
A municipality must obtain 150 points to achieve certification, but the resort’s team went above and beyond this year and obtained 380 points.
One of the projects that gave the team’s application a boost was the group’s cigarette butt hut installations.
Cigarette butts are the number one pollutant worldwide.
During the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers found more than 2.1 million cigarette butts polluting waters.
The filters are made with cellulose acetate, which break down into tiny microplastics and end up filling the stomachs of sea creatures and leaching toxins into the water.
To combat the issue in Ocean City, the Green Team installed around 90 of the butt huts west of the Boardwalk, and the project has proved to be a huge success.
During a July 10 meeting, Blazer said the waste collected from the butt huts easily filled 55-gallon buckets.
Green Team chair and City Councilman Tony DeLuca hopes to see an expansion of the butt huts in 2020, from 28th Street all the way to the Delaware state line.
Later that November, the team won the Visionary Impact Award, which recognizes an individual, business, organization, group or coalition that has made a major impact with an industry project or product within the past year.
The city government advisory committee received this award for its Protect our Sand & Seas source reduction campaign, which focused on reducing single-use plastic waste produced by resort businesses.
The campaign launched last March, and participants were to choose one or more of the following pledges to commit to:
• Pledge one: Summer Flounder level– Straws are upon request only and Strawless Summer pledge is signed.
• Pledge two: Horseshoe Crab level – No plastic straws. Alternatives such as paper are offered.
• Pledge three: Diamondback Terrapin level – No plastic bags or Styrofoam are used for takeout.
• Pledge four: Black Skimmer level – No plastic or Styrofoam cups.
• Pledge five: Harbor Seal level– No plastic tableware.
The team had a slow start in promoting the campaign because of funding issues, but will aggressively market it in 2020.
Two-thousand and twenty will be a huge year for the team, as it will have to reckon with the state’s styrofoam ban, which goes into effect July 1.
Blazer said Ed Potetz of the Worcester County Health Department would join the team for its first meeting in January to discuss how the ban will be implemented.
Additionally, Mother’s Cantina restaurant co-owner and Green Team member Ryan James will help educate businesses on styrofoam alternatives.
Aside from the styrofoam ban, the team’s outlook for 2020 greatly resembles that of 2019.
“We just want to maintain all of the good things that we have been doing,” Blazer said.