#ESA100 carbon offsets: ESA donates $23,000 to Baltimore’s Parks & People Foundation

To offset the carbon expended to bring ecologists to the 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Md., ESA contributed $5 for each person attending to support community greening projects through a local non-profit.

Parks & People volunteers plant trees on a street in Baltimore. Credit, Parks & People Foundation.

Parks & People volunteers plant trees on a parking strip in Baltimore. Baltimore’s under-served neighborhoods have a lack of tree canopy compared to wealthier parts of the city–a situation that Parks & People is working to change. Credit, Parks & People Foundation.

When over 4,600 individuals from across the United States and around the globe convene for a scientific conference such as the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) recent meeting in Baltimore, Maryland it takes an environmental toll: the energy required to power the planes, trains and automobiles people use to travel to and from the meeting.  And, the hotels and convention center that were built to provide the facilities needed to host thousands of people ate up habitat and displaced wildlife.

Parks and people logoAs one way to offset these environmental costs, ESA contributes $5 for each meeting registrant, which the Society then donates to a local project or organization in the city in which it meets.  For this year’s Centennial Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, ESA donated $23,000 to the Parks & People Foundation based on the recommendation of the meeting’s local host, Chris Swan, an associate professor at the University of Maryland.

ESA’s selection of Baltimore to celebrate its centennial seemed a fitting choice due to the city’s rich historic past and geographic significance. Baltimore Harbor, founded in 1706, is located within the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, a jewel in our Nation’s landscape. The Baltimore area was inhabited by Native Americans from at least the 10th millennium BC, when Paleo-Indians first settled in the region and lived off the bounty of the land and water. English settlers arrived late to the scene in 1661 when Davy Jones claimed the area known today as Harbor East on the east bank of the Jones Falls river, which flows south into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Fast forward to 2015, and Baltimore is now an urbanized area grappling with an ecosystem stressed by over 300 years of urban development. Ecologists working with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) study how an urban area works as an ecological system, looking at the ecological interactions in the whole range of habitats — from the center city of Baltimore, out into the surrounding rural areas. BES works with local government and groups including Parks & People.

Understanding that no single organization can address the multitude of ecological and societal issues faced by Baltimoreans, Parks & People works with a diverse and far-reaching network of groups and community volunteers to integrate their projects and programs into broad community-driven initiatives for maximum impact. Together, they are revitalizing neighborhoods through hands-on cleaning, greening and capital improvement projects; building partnerships to sustain green spaces; and offering programs that help children to learn, grow, and explore their natural environment.

Parks & People recently completed its most ambitious project to date – the revitalization of a 9-acre tract of derelict parkland in Mondawmin that was separated from Druid Hill Park during development in the 1970s and left to ruin. This new campus, with restored historic buildings, a state-of-the-art LEED Platinum-designed ecology center, and surrounding grounds, provides capacity to sustain and expand programs for even more impact in communities across Baltimore.

Kid's plant their schoolyard in Baltimore with help from the Parks & People Foundation. Credit, Parks & People.

Kid’s plant their schoolyard in Baltimore with help from the Parks & People Foundation. Credit, Parks & People.

ESA’s $23,000 donation will support Parks & People’s community greening work by providing tools, supplies, and staff support to oversee volunteer tree plantings and attend community meetings that engage residents. Although our Centennial Meeting lasted but a week, ESA’s contribution to Baltimore’s ecosystem and community will have tangible impacts.

Last year, the Parks & People community greening team planted 6,000 trees, shrubs and flowers across the city and awarded $139,000 in grants and in-kind materials to community-managed green spaces. Maybe ecologists from around the country on their next trip to Baltimore can point to a newly planted tree, or a derelict lot transformed into a green oasis, and say, “I had a small part in greening Baltimore.”