ANNAPOLIS, MD.—Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (VAAAC) teamed up with Annapolis Green to promote enhanced environmental stewardship during the U.S. Travel Association’s May 6 to 12 National Travel and Tourism Week celebration.
VAAAC President and CEO Connie Del Signore says this year’s theme, “Travel Then and Now,” provided the perfect opportunity to showcase ongoing environmental initiatives that are underway in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. “Savvy, environmentally-conscious travelers patronize destinations that share their same concern for Mother Earth,” Del Signore said. “They look for destinations with strong environmental track records and plan their trips accordingly. Tourism Week provides the perfect opportunity to share the economic impact travel and tourism have on our economy. Having a clean, green destination is part of the appeal.”
According to Tourism Economics’ most recent “Economic Impact of Tourism in Maryland” report, nearly 7.2 million individuals spent more than $3.7 billion while visiting Annapolis and Anne Arundel County in 2016. That represents a 2.2 percent increase in visitors and a 2.1 percent increase in visitor spending over the previous year. The tourism industry in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County directly employed 21,700 individuals in 2016, up from 21,561 jobs in 2015.
Annapolis Green Co-founders, Lynne Forsman and Elvia Thompson, say they’re delighted to use National Travel and Tourism Week as a vehicle for sharing some of the recent strides Annapolis Green and its nonprofit and business partners have made in boosting environmental awareness and practices in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.
Week Kicked Off with Cleanup Activities
VAAAC and Annapolis Green kicked off National Travel and Tourism Week festivities a day early—on Saturday, May 5—with a series of green events and activities that began with a 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. cleanup of four designated areas of the City. As a Keep America Beautiful affiliate, Annapolis Green is partnering with the City of Annapolis and community leaders and organizations to coordinate #CleanYOURblock efforts as part of Keep America Beautiful’s nationwide “Great American Cleanup.”
Reflecting the United Nations’ theme for Earth Day 2018—“End Plastic Pollution”—many of Annapolis Green’s initiatives focus on reducing single-use plastics. To that end, Mayor Buckley joined Elkay Manufacturing Company representative Abid Khaleel in dedicating an Elkay permanent water refill station recently installed at the Visitors Center. Single use plastic bottles make up much of the recyclable trash in the United States. The station makes it easy for visitors to fill reusable bottles with free filtered water. Forsman says the strategy is a simple one, “If individuals can easily fill up their water bottles, they’ll buy less—or no—bottled water. That means they’ll create less recyclable trash.” The VAAAC refill station was made possible by an Elkay sponsorship obtained by Annapolis Green.
Continuing with the environmental theme, attendees then moved outside for the dedication of a 7’ x 48” Blue Heron sculpture the City of Annapolis plans to install in the surface parking lot behind the 26 West Street Visitors Center prior to National Travel and Tourism Week. Created by Jim Swaim of the North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Company, Environmental Sculptures, the custom designed, hand-crafted metal sculpture is made from mild steel 14-guage thick and round one-quarter-inch to 3/16” steel rods. The heron’s body is designed to be filled with picked-up trash—as a way of encouraging passersby to pick up after themselves. Debris from the morning cleanups will be the first trash inserted into the new work of art. The fixture is a salute to Annapolis’ Art in Public Places initiative. Swaim has created a similar sculpture—a Blue Crab—that resides at the Annapolis Maritime Museum’s McNasby campus in Eastport.
Plastic straws are another single-use pollution culprit Annapolis Green is on a mission to eliminate. Some 500 million plastic straws are used in the United States daily, and they aren’t recyclable. That means many of them end up in the Chesapeake Bay, in the oceans, and our nation’s food chain—since pieces are ingested by marine mammals. During Annapolis Restaurant Week in February, Annapolis Green launched a “Don’t Suck. #SipResponsibly” campaign to encourage restaurants and bars to present straws only upon request—and to include paper straws, rather than plastic ones, in their inventory. According to Thompson, “Every plastic straw that was ever made is still in our environment, and we keep making more. Plastic straws and plastic silverware usually don’t get recycled because they’re too small. The litter we have on land typically ends up in the water. Any beach cleanup is filled with plastic bags, bottles and straws.” Throughout National Tourism Week, Thompson and Forsman once again began encouraging Annapolis Area restaurants to do what they can to reduce the use of plastic straws.