The key to green living and sustainability most often lies with grass roots efforts by dedicated individuals with personal vested interests at stake. A situation such as this gave birth to the Shell Recycling Alliance. This group consists of members of the local oyster shucking community with family legacies of care and commitment to the Chesapeake Bay. They recognized that the tons of oyster shells discarded at events where they shucked could serve a useful purpose, and they got together to do something about it.

Oyster shell is a limited natural resource that provides a habitat for new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Hatchery uses it for its oyster setting process. This program spawns oysters taken from the wild, creating larvae or spat, which is released into large tanks with cages of oyster shells to set. The newly spawned oysters are fed algae and upon reaching maturity, are returned to the Bay. The Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA) has teamed up with area seafood restaurants throughout Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Delaware to save oyster shells, which are collected and delivered to the hatchery to be used for setting to replenish the bay oyster population. To date, the SRA has provided around 75,000 bushels of reclaimed oyster shells to the program.

In addition to being a food attraction, oysters play a major role in the health and survival of the Chesapeake Bay, as the filtering capacity of the entire oyster reef community is vital to the Bay’s water quality. By virtue of its algae consumption, an oyster filters water at a rate of up to approximately two gallons an hour. This filtration clarifies the water, allowing bay grasses to receive more sunlight and become more plentiful. As a result, oxygen levels in the water increase, which in turn, leads to reduced wave energy and shoreline loss. The end product is a healthy habitat for aquatic life.

Thanks to the actions of concerned people committed to the protection of our waters, oyster replenishment programs now operate not only in the Mid-Atlantic States, but also up and down the east coast. A small green movement has led to a large green revolution. A great way to get involved is to support the restaurants that participate in this program. A list of participating businesses can be found at Let’s live green, be green.

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With the upcoming presidential electionpolitics is one of the hottest topics around.  While we owe it to ourselves to be educated on the issues and to go out and vote in November, it is also imperative that we pay attention to localstate and regional issues, especially those affecting the environment.  The clamor over immigration issues, health care and “Fast and Furious” was so loud this past week that it practically drowned out the enactment of several “green” laws that took effect on July 1st.

Noting that “the abundance of aquatic life is one measure of a healthy Chesapeake Bay“, several laws taking affect over the weekend are aimed at significantly reducing pollution from varying sources.  Laws passed to protect the Chesapeake Bay include:

  • Doubling the flush tax from $2.50 to $5.00 to raise funds to upgrade wastewater treatment plants.
  • Placement of limitations on areas where developers can build residential communities that use septic tanks.
  • Requiring local jurisdictions to set fees to fight storm water pollution in Baltimore City and nine of the largest counties in Maryland.

These green laws are a manifestation of the need to accomplish eco-friendly objectives through taxation as there clearly has been a failure to achieve the desired results through advertising, education and voluntary public support.  The green movement has been around for a long time, yet most citizens have not jumped on the bandwagon.  In future legislation, we can expect to see further taxes to reduce waste and increase recycling in the form of taxes on grocery bags and more bottle deposits.  

No one likes the idea of higher taxes, but “green” taxes are an inevitable component of improving the environment and failure to act voluntarily serves as a mandate for government to enact and enforce policies to guarantee the protection of the environment.  In an effort to lower our taxes, let’s voluntarily live green, be green!