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Sustainable Futures: A Community Approach

By Zainab Mirza

Zainab Mirza is a student at American University studying International Relations, Environmental Science and Sustainability.

Not everyone gets to grow up in a small town, or on the beach, but I had the luxury seeing familiar faces everywhere I went and constantly having sand between toes. On the Eastern Shore of Maryland lays a small town, Ocean City, only five miles away from 2013’s Coolest Small Town in America, Berlin.

This area is known to be the ideal family vacation destination with its beautiful beach, a history that dates back to Spanish settlers and amazing seafood at local restaurants. It is in a town like this that environmental consciousness and sustainability is a priority.

This small town relies on the sunbathers, fishermen, surfers and merry-go-round riders that visit during the hot summer months to maintain the economy. However, in order to make sure everything is in order for the yearly visitors, the environment is expected to be in pristine condition. Ocean City prides itself on its clean beaches by encouraging visitors to “leave only footprints” and gathering locals for monthly beach cleanups.

These local actions also are a result of national programs. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), one of 28 National Estuary Programs (NEP) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is located right near Ocean City. They strive to protect the five surrounding bays in the area. They rely on local volunteers to come together and make changes today for a sustainable future.

I was lucky to grow up in this small town but Ocean City was much more than just my home, living there shaped my future. It is here where I made my decision to study environmental sustainability, striving to create a healthier environment in my hometown and throughout the world. In this small-knit community, it is a team grassroots effort that promotes environmental sustainability and a model that exemplifies that change is made from within.

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