Some things just work well together. Think Old Bay and seafood, the Orioles and their fans, spectacular sunsets and the Chesapeake Bay—and BGE and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The partnership between BGE and the Trust has spanned decades. To infuse new vigor and vision into the partnership, BGE has committed a $600,000 grant to be distributed over the next three years to support the expansion of two existing Trust programs—the Chesapeake Conservation and Climate Corps and Urban Trees Initiative—as well as foster solutions that mitigate the health effects of climate change in underserved communities.
Aligned with BGE’s goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, the Trust’s Chesapeake Conservation and Climate Corps provides onsite training and educational opportunities for young adults. Corps members are matched with nonprofits, government agencies, and private companies to receive hands-on experience in improving local communities, protecting natural resources, and clean energy solutions. It’s a way for young adults to learn a vocation while forging a successful and sustaining career path.
“We strive to diversify the workplace with an influx of historically underrepresented groups in the environmental sphere,” says Carlton Burns, program coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Corps. “We are widening outreach efforts and have capacity-building efforts that are seeing greater impact each cycle.”
New for the coming year, Corps members will focus on renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, climate adaptation activities specifically in communities disproportionally affected by climate change, and mitigating health impacts of climate change in underserved communities.
“Clean air is extremely important to the health of our communities,” says Emily Stransky, program manager of the Corps.
Sadly, the air is literally cleaner in wealthier neighborhoods, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report, while low-income communities suffer from elevated pollutants that increase asthma and other health problems. Clean, healthy air is not a luxury. So, in addition to creating viable career paths for community members, the grant funding will encourage greater equity in the areas of health and well-being.
Supporting the Urban Trees Program, established as part of the Tree Solutions Now Act of 2021, is an important aspect of that work. The Urban Trees Program’s goal is 500,000 new native trees planted (and maintained) in urban, underserved areas in the next eight years. The purpose of this program is to green urban communities traditionally left behind in greening efforts. Urban trees have significant benefits to human health, climate, the economy, and the environment. Yet some urban communities are severely lacking in greening, contributing to heat island effect, exacerbating asthma and other health issues.
“The BGE grants will advance our shared mission to unite communities and improve access to resources that improve lives,” says Greg Burks, who manages the Urban Trees Program. “Empowering communities that have felt disenfranchised to take ownership with the tools needed to improve access to a healthy, greener environment will benefit current and future generations.”
This is critical, according to Trust President Dr. Jana Davis, because the effects of improving the environment of low-income communities go beyond conservation, go beyond physical health to improve mental health and increase overall quality of life.
“Studies show the positive impact of green spaces in urban housing communities on improved mental health, physical health, social cohesion, and many other aspects of community life,” says Davis. “We are thrilled to be able to broaden our partnership of many years with BGE to this new work.”
In addition to $600,000 in funding, BGE is committed to assisting with a number of Chesapeake Bay Trust environmental hands-on events, such as tree plantings and habitat restoration, with support from BGE employee volunteers. BGE also has selected the Trust as its 2023 Cause Partner.
“I believe in the work of the Chesapeake Bay Trust and appreciate the alignment of their mission with BGE’s purpose and values, including our commitment to advancing environmental justice in our communities,” says BGE Senior Vice President of Governmental, Regulatory, and External Affairs Alex Núñez. “Chesapeake Bay Trust will enable BGE to take a new step forward and more deeply engage in community action that will drive long-term sustainability in the region.”