Our lives are like books – preface, chapters, and epilogues. I’m about to turn a page to start a new chapter. On January 1, I’ll turn over the day-to-day reins of Annapolis Green to the capable hands of my co-founder, Lynne Forsman, and our new Executive Director, Maggie Hughes.
Fifteen years ago, Lynne and I embarked on a journey to shine light on the fact that protecting the environment is about protecting us – our health and our prosperity. We began by connecting local businesses, governments, and the public in general with the environmental community.
Our signature Green Drinks gatherings did just that – fostering person-to-person connections that grew from a handful to over 100 people every month. Those connections were vital to building community in the Greater Annapolis area. (Green Drinks will be back in spring 2022 if the state of COVID allows.) Through Green Drinks we introduced people to restaurants and bars that were on the path to sustainability and to other unique venues like the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, Great Frogs Winery, Bayhawks lacrosse games, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and more.
But Annapolis Green was about more than fun, informative parties. Our programs began with recycling at public events large and small. And of course, we started big – providing recycling capability to the boat shows in 2012. We demonstrated to event planners that waste reduction was possible and that the public supported the effort. A few years later we added composting capability to our Responsible Events and Festivals program.
In the past couple of years, we added our NAPTOWN TAP water dispensers that preclude single-use plastic water bottles. The TAPS have replaced over 8000 12.9-oz. bottles and is part of our Refill Revolution to encourage the use of reusable water bottles and part of our ongoing Plastic Free Annapolis campaign.
Through these programs we’ve helped planners run sustainable Zero-Waste events of all sorts, including regattas and their shore parties, golf tournaments, foot races, auctions, galas, and the iconic Annapolis Rotary crab feast. The goal—achieved many times over—is for nothing to go to the landfill. It’s all about what you buy, how you educate attendees, sponsors, staff, and volunteers, and how you arrange for disposal of compostables and recyclables.
I’m proud that we were one of the first local nonprofits to focus our programming on Climate Change and its impact on this area. We have offered several talks on the topic and are the only local nonprofit to inform and advocate for mitigating its effects by driving electric.
My personal interest in driving electric as a personal mitigation step led to the presentation of electric vehicle showcases every year since 2012. The largest took place this fall with over 60 electric cars, police cruisers and motorcycles, e-bikes, electric boats and more at City Dock. I am proud that due to my personal connections I was able to bring representatives from all four levels of government to open the show: Mayor Gavin Buckley, County Executive Steuart Pittman, Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, and Senator Chris Van Hollen. My personal goal is to bring information about driving electric to low-income communities whose residents can benefit from personal transportation that is less expensive to maintain and has no harmful emissions.
We now hold EV showcase events at least twice a year so the “EV curious” can talk directly to drivers to get the scoop on what it’s like to move into the future of transportation. I serve on Maryland’s Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council that advises the state executive and legislative branches on transportation electrification.
Our Climate Crisis programs also encompass plastic reduction and gardening to get close to Nature in the belief that people need to be in Nature to protect it, just like we need to get to know and appreciate the Chesapeake Bay to protect it. Our office garden, a designated Pollinator Habitat Garden, was the centerpiece of our fertilizer-free and pesticide-free Here We Grow program. For several years we were successful urban farmers growing herbs and vegetables in with the native plants. We also “adopted” the City’s sidewalk garden on State Circle and made it into a native plant demonstration garden.
One of the fundamental principles of Annapolis Green is that even when discussing serious, and sometimes scary, issues it’s important to have fun too.
Thanks to you, we’ve collected hundreds of thousands of wine corks sending them off for repurposing into other products like flooring. We’ve had programs with visual artists and performing artists, visited a farm and the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery, held themed trivia nights, and invited other environmental nonprofits to march with us in several St. Patrick’s Day parades – to show off our Green on a day of green!
For the past two years we’ve collected fall pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns for composting and later sale as Pumpkin Spice Compost. This followed Christmas Crab Compost created from the more than 15 tons of food waste from the Annapolis Rotary Crab Feast before the pandemic.
We addressed financial and economic issues too, like the value of ecosystem restoration and financing large Climate Change mitigation projects.
We brought the local public’s attention to what was going on in other places too.
The Polynesian Voyaging Canoe Hokule’a came to Annapolis at our invitation in 2016 with its message of caring for the Earth and were thrilled that USNA football coach Ken Niumatalolo and his family joined us at the welcoming ceremony at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. It was a perfect example of how we are all citizens of the world and how we must work together to thrive in an era of Climate Change.
Understanding that only a vibrant community will support environmental initiatives, we’ve encouraged support for local businesses and local farms. We’ve partnered with Historic Annapolis, Four Rivers Heritage, business and economic development organizations, and many more. We are part of the Downtown Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, and participate in several business organizations and nonprofits that are not in the environmental space like the Providence Center, Box of Rain, Hospice, and others.
One of the things that sets us apart is our partnerships with other nonprofits, particularly as part of the GreenGive.
Our book club, Annapolis Green Reads, is now in its second year, and is a terrific platform for discussion of ideas centered around Climate Change presented in the voices of great writers.
We’ve encouraged participation in our city, county and state governments and for years put on a reception immediately following the Environmental Legislative Summit to “continue the conversation” about important state legislative initiatives.
We’ve been advocates for renewable energy working with solar installers and community solar organizations like Neighborhood Sun.
I produced and hosted over 200 one-hour radio programs about the environment on WNAV with co-host Vic Pascoe as another way to reach the public on important issues of the day. We were on the air for many years and I’m still asked about the program. Maybe there will be time for a podcast series in the near future?
Throughout we’ve been lucky to partner with waste hauling companies such as Waste Management and composting pioneer Veteran Compost, whose mission goes beyond composting to employing people who have served our country while in uniform.
Shortly after we began photographer Ken Tom showed up one day and has voluntarily documented just about all our events. He’s created an incredible archive for us for which we are very grateful. Most of the photos in this post, and indeed, in our entire website, are from him.
Along the way Annapolis Green was honored with State, County, and City citations, and awards from many organizations. It’s humbling to be recognized in this way.
Of course, none of what we’ve accomplished would have been possible without the many volunteers who have greeted people at Green Drinks, participated in neighborhood cleanups, worked with us on Responsible Events and Festivals events, worked with us in the office and so much more. We are forever and continually grateful for your support and enthusiasm.
The past two years have been difficult with the pandemic putting a stop to in-person events like Green Drinks and with the sale of our beloved Annapolis Green House on State Circle and Maryland Avenue. But Annapolis Green has persevered, continuing to bring you needed information and encouragement as you join us on a journey to sustainability – now more important than ever.
Lynne and I built Annapolis Green from scratch, based on the idea that we could move our community to work together for a healthy environment. Her ever-present enthusiasm, hard work and persistence cannot even be described. She has been a great partner, giving Annapolis Green the can-do vibe and creativity it has.
It’s time now for new leadership with new ideas to better connect to the next generation. Maggie has been working with us for the past year or so as program director and I am confident, as is our Board, that Annapolis Green’s important work will continue yet with a different flavor, as is only natural. Lynne will provide the continuity.
I hope to move on to work on state, national, and global aspects of the Climate Crisis, maybe in the electric vehicle area. But I don’t plan to totally walk away from Annapolis Green. I’ll always be on call as needed for Annapolis Green.
It’s been a joy to do this work for the past 15 years. It’s never really been work. Instead, it’s been a calling, a passion.
Thank you for your encouragement, friendship, and moral and financial support. Please help Annapolis Green continue to thrive.
— Elvia Thompson