By Aiesha Solomon
Laurel residents turned out on Sept. 10 for the city’s first Sustainable Saturday festivities. The event showcased pollinator-friendly and green-initiative organizations working together to underscore the importance of pollinators and the essential role they play. The event also recognized the city’s first year as an affiliate to the Bee City USA.
“The Sustainable Saturday event is really a kick-off to educating our residents about the importance of pollinators and our Bee City initiative and to show them a rendering of our vision for the city’s first city pollinator garden, which will be at the Larry T. Smith Park,” said Michele Blair, the Laurel Environmental Affairs Committee environmental programs manager.
Bee City USA is an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Or. The program certifies applicants that successfully complete a number of requirements, including establishing a committee to carry out sustainability actions and public education activities.
On July 22, Laurel met the requirements to become a Bee City USA affiliate. The Sustainable Saturday event emphasized Laurel’s Bee City affiliation and gathered educators and vendors that supported the foundation of the city’s long-term sustainability plan, according to Blair.
“Part of that plan includes, obviously, the environment, and with that, it is important to recognize the decline of our pollinators, in addition to creating an environment that the community can be involved in on a personal basis, on a very basic kind of level — i.e. putting your hands in the ground and planting a pollinator garden,” Blair said. “The pollinators pollinate the food that we eat and the flowers and promote a healthy ecosystem.”
Jimmy Rogers, chair of the Bee City subcommittee of the Environmental Affairs Committee, manned a table at the event.
“A lot of what I’ve been doing is talking to residents today about how they can choose successful, native plants that will be a sustainable garden that also brings a lot of wildlife in and has a long bloom time and keeps the weeds down,” he said.
Many local and county groups participated in the event, including Howard EcoWorks, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Sierra Club, Millie’s Garden and the Laurel branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System. Laurel’s El Buen Gusto Panadería Bakery sold food and drinks to visitors.
The Howard County Beekeepers Association (HCBA) had a table featuring local honey for sale, information on helping pollinators, activities and a bee observation hive on display. Christina Mullan, the association’s secretary, noted that in addition to bees, many other species are pollinators, too.
“Pollinators include not just insects … there’s animals that pollinate, there’s birds that pollinate … so it’s really holistic. Even though it’s called Bee City, it’s all about pollinators, no matter what that pollinator might be,” Mullan said.
Mayor Craig Moe held a welcoming ceremony for the first Sustainable Saturday event, including cutting a fittingly green ribbon to open the festivities. Blair, Donna Crary and Jamal Lee, both committee members with Laurel’s Community Redevelopment Authority, Councilmember James Kole (Ward 1), Robert Love, director of Laurel’s Economic and Community Development, and Deputy City Administrator Joanne Hall Barr were all on hand to help.
Leila Ashkeboussi, an HCBA volunteer, said that she would be adopting personal ways to become more pollinator friendly.
“I want to replace my lawn with a sustainable pollinator garden. Maintaining a lawn tends to waste a lot of water [and] gasoline for lawn mowers,” Ashkeboussi said. “It’s a food desert for pollinators, so creating a sustainable lawn and yard can really help your local wildlife.”
The event was a huge success, and the large turn out prompted Blair to say that Sustainable Saturday would become an annual event.
“I envision that each year we will have a different focus – this year it was Bee City and pollinators,” Blair wrote in an email. “We were very pleased with the resident participation and the educators/exhibitors/vendors were also pleased with the event.”
For more information about the Bee City USA program, go to beecityusa.org.