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Our "Adventures in Philanthropy" blog posts are written by our staff and diverse membership and offer a glimpse into the world of philanthropy, presenting current issues and information relevant to funders, policymakers, members of the media, and those interested in current issues and giving trends.


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Implementation of Green Cleaning Law in Schools a Success

Posted By Tausi Suedi, Thursday, September 8, 2016

By Allison Rich, Children's Health Specialist, Maryland Environmental Health Network

Maryland Environmental Health Network is pleased to announce that all of Maryland's 24 independent public school districts have implemented or are in the process of implementing a green cleaning policy. All public school districts in the state are now using green cleaning products in various capacities.

This progress comes less than a year after launching a peer learning network, in partnership with the Maryland State Department. of Education and EPA Region 3 to support implementing toxics protections in schools, as required by Maryland law. Prior to the launch of the peer network, only 2 school districts in the state had fully implemented Maryland's green cleaning law, which went into effect in July 2014. Several other school districts were working on policies, but lacked technical resources and advisors.

As further evidence of the transition to robust adoption of toxics protections, Marylanders were 30% of participants at the National Green Clean Schools Leadership Summit held in July 2016. All these attendees had participated in the peer learning network in some capacity over the past year. Green cleaning progress continues in Maryland through the Facilities & Operations Roundtable, bolstered by this EPA funded partnership.

Specifics on the progress made in Maryland: 

·         Nineteen (19) Maryland School Districts have fully implemented green cleaning policies and products

·         An additional 3 Maryland School Districts primarily utilize green products, however their Boards of Education have chosen to not mandate green cleaning but rather implement it as a procedure

·         Two other Maryland School Districts are using green products and are in the process of having policies reviewed and approved by local Boards of Education. 


Tags:  educa  environment  environmental health  Maryland Environmental Health Network 

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Leveraging Change in Baltimore and Nationally

Posted By Celeste Amato, Monday, November 23, 2015
Updated: Monday, November 23, 2015
November 23, 2015

By Celeste Amato, ABAG President

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Health & Environmental Funders Network’s 2015 Annual Meeting here in Baltimore along with ABAG members and other local and national funders interested in environmental health and justice. 

I was honored to speak at a panel session to discuss Baltimore’s challenges, how philanthropy is responding by working to build more resilient communities, and potential lessons for environmental health and justice investments elsewhere.

Here are some highlights of my remarks:

In April, the death of a young man named Freddie Gray while in police custody sparked days of mostly peaceful protest and some unfortunately destructive protest.

In the days and weeks that followed one moment that stands out for me is attending an event outside of the burned out CVS on Pennsylvania Ave. and looking down the street at a vacant lot – a lot that has stood vacant since its building was burned down in the 1968 riots roughly 50 years earlier.

We were standing in the same place – literally and figuratively.

I am sure most of you are familiar with the racially discriminatory practice called redlining. It was the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic make-ups of those areas. The most well known of these were real estate practices involving denial of financial services such as banking or insurance to residents within "red lined” communities.

Baltimore’s redline history is often cited in scholarly works on the subject but for those of us who live here – that past practice does not live only in the past – it continues to impact the lives of all residents in Baltimore whether you live inside or outside of those lines. I often think of the redline map as the map of all ills. If you want to know where life expectancy is shorter, where vacant and blighted housing is rampant, where lead poisoning is most common, even where there are few if any trees – the redline maps of Baltimore outlines the most negatively impacted communities.

Freddie Gray’s own life was impacted again and again by inequity and he has become representative for so much that we have struggled with as a City for so long. Too many of our children are growing up in homes and neighborhoods ravaged by drug addiction and violence, in housing conditions poisoned by lead and other toxins, in schools that are ill-equipped to meet their needs and in communities that will not offer employment opportunities even if they are able to attain a high school education.

Our funders have dedicated their expertise and resources to many of these issues for years and only sporadically with the support and collaboration of partners in other critically influential sectors.

April 27 was an outcry that our City needed. In the immediate aftermath our funding community was not a first responder, but a day one early responder.

In the first days following the destructive demonstrations in west Baltimore we focused on who we had on the ground – as grantees – who could support delivering basic needs to seniors and families without mobility. Many communities had now lost the few retailers selling basic necessities in their underserved communities.

We worked with government and grantees to deliver necessities, including prescriptions, and connect with seniors and others who were unable or even afraid to leave their homes.

In the weeks that followed, our funders turned their attention to the city’s children and how we might keep them safely off the streets for the summer knowing that violence would likely escalate in our impacted communities. Funders coordinated and collaborated to raise more funding which in turn created more summer programming seats.
The longer term response of our funding community will be more challenging. We were already engaged in race conversations and beginning a strategic effort to give our members tools to bring a racial equity lens to their grantmaking practice.

April 27 pushes us all harder and further to examine how we connect our work to community, invest our resources and use our collective voice to influence change and drive greater impact:
  • We are challenging ourselves to give voice to and support race dialogue across our City and State.
  • To focus on youth programming with an emphasis on disconnected youth – those 16 to 24 year olds not engaged in school or employment.
  • To continue our a strong focus on workforce AND connect our current funder investments more closely to public/private initiatives pushing to increase local hiring and purchasing.
  • To give our members a variety of tools to engage community voice in their grantmaking practice.
  • And to coordinate with our national funding colleagues to engage their expertise for Baltimore’s future.
It has also pushed partners in other business sectors to acknowledge and engage in conversations about racial disparities in ways that I have not heard or seen in my career experience until now.

Our hope is that the broad network for philanthropy our Association has been building will not only drive alignment among funders but increasingly drive intentional, focused alignment and action with partners in other sectors and that we will be able to eliminate barriers and increase access to opportunities - creating a city where a child’s skin color and zip code no longer predict his educational attainment, his employment or his health and life expectancy.

Tags:  ABAG Members  Environmental Health  HEFN  Maryland Environmental Health Network 

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MdEHN - Climate Hero

Posted By Allison Rich, Monday, November 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

November 24, 2013 

By Allison Rich, 

Children's Environemntal Health Specialist, The Maryland Environmental Health Network

The Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) received recognition last week as a Climate Hero from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). The award ceremony was part of the Baltimore stop on CCAN’s Crossroads Tour. Over 230 people attended the program at MICA, to hear how the plan to export fracked gas out of Cove Point in southern Maryland threatens our environment and health, while renewable energy alternatives protect both and are economically beneficial as well.

Rebecca Ruggles, Director of MdEHN said, "Recognition from CCAN is a high compliment. Climate change is a huge threat to human health and it’s closely related to air pollution which is a major cause of preventable illness and premature death.” Rebecca shared the stage with CCAN founder Mike Tidwell and Lynn Heller of the Abell Foundation, who spoke about her role in leading Baltimore City’s Climate Action Plan work group.

For the past year, MdEHN has worked on a range of energy related issues that impact the health of Marylanders. With our partners, the Chesapeake Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, MdEHN helped insure that health implications of fracking will be well researched as part of Maryland’s Marcellus Shale Commission study process.

Maryland is the first state to research the public health implications of unconventional drilling practices by the natural gas industry, before drilling takes place.

With support from a BGE Green Grant, MdEHN’s November meeting focused on the health implications of energy choices in Maryland and ways health advocates can promote healthy energy policy. Past meeting topics focused on environmental factors that impact air quality and human health. Resources from past Network meetings are available here.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network is a project of ABAG, started with leadership and support from the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Foundation. Additional funders supporting the Network and its publications are: the Zanvyl & Isabelle Krieger Fund, the Town Creek Foundation, the Abell Foundation and The Keith Campbell Foundation.

At our September meeting in Brooklyn/Curtis Bay, MdEHN helped connect environmental health researchers, state policy-makers, the Filbert Street Garden, and a student led advocacy group called Free Your Voice. As someone who has worked with many student groups, I am so impressed with these young people. They are mounting a campaign to stop the incinerator that would be less than a mile from their school . Check out the video these students made about the impact of industrial pollution on their neighborhood:

MdEHN will publish a report on the relationship between Maryland’s health status and air pollution problems in early 2014. Most air pollution is linked to sources that also produce greenhouse gases, so solutions such as renewable energy development are good for both health and the climate. That’s the good news – a health lens highlights policy solutions that will pay off on multiple levels.

# The Maryland Environmental Health Network convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. MdEHN is a project of The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers

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Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  environmental health  Maryland Environmental Health Network  Mdehn  November 2013 Members' Memo 

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