Last September, EPB announced it would build a community solar project, the first of its kind in Chattanooga. This is great news for the future of renewable energy in our community. I know you have questions, so let’s see if I can answer some of them here.
Like many of you, I woke up the day after the presidential election with one thought on my mind: What’s going to happen to the progress we’ve made on the environment, and the progress we need to make?
Sustainability in Agriculture
Farm-to-table is a becoming a popular trend in America, and Chattanooga is no exception. The number of restaurants that source their food locally and seek ethical farming practices are growing exponentially. We are becoming a city that recognizes a need for change in agriculture.
One of the first main attempts at getting local farms’ food available to the people of Chattanooga was the Sunday Market in the First Tennessee Pavilion. The Sunday Market became the place for families to spend their Sundays, looking at the art, eating food from the food trucks, and buying local produce like those exceptionally delicious summer strawberries. Now there are farmer’s markets all over the city of Chattanooga, another example of our growing awareness.
At this point, people know they should be buying organic food, or going to farmer’s markets, but a lot of people don’t really know why these purchasing practices are important. The main narrative is that organic is supposed to mean it’s healthy, right?
While this is partially true, it's not the whole story. "Organic" ultimately means that it is sustainable. Our modern industrial farming practices have begun to disregard what’s going to be best long-term. It’s easiest to grow food only thinking about the now. Using pesticides and herbicides helps protect the plant in this particular growing season, but what happens when it runs off into water sources and kills the fish?
See, we have forgotten that soil is alive. We treat soil like it will always serve us, but our soil took hundreds of thousands of years to become the amazing ecosystem that it is. Every time that we put fertilizer in the soil, we are damaging the delicate balance in place. Sure, it’s absolutely easier to use fertilizer so that we can grow out of the same field every season, but eventually that soil is going to give up, and then what will we do?
Growing food organically means growing it without chemicals, which of course is healthy for your body, but ultimately it’s what will help the land last the test of time. Aiding in keeping the land alive is true sustainability. We must be sustainable in agriculture in order to keep it all going.
You can have an impact on sustainable agriculture by supporting farms with ethical farming practices. Head out to Crabtree Farms and have a look at their fresh squash or lettuce. Stop by the Main Street farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoons and talk to the people who are passionate about food and agriculture. Shopping sustainably starts with shopping locally.
Green or sustainable? Aren’t they kind of the same thing? The short answer is a resounding “no” and let me outline why…
First and foremost, what does each respective term even mean? Definitions vary, but some major tenets of sustainability include it being well-balanced, looking at the long-term solutions that benefit an entire community rather than a select few, and having an eye not just towards the health of the environment or economic vitality but also towards social equity. Where sustainability, in order to be successful, must have a some sort of political involvement and position on policy, “green” doesn’t have to be connected to anything politically charged, making it far more digestible by everyday consumers.
Here’s the thing, we consume...a lot. Our level of consumption, if the whole world were to live like we did, would require the resources of three Earths. We don’t think about the longevity of our consumer goods, but rather we purchase what’s easiest and inexpensive. All these products really begin to pile up, whether they were marked "green" or traditional.
Nowadays, we might still consume, but we also see the need for change. Unfortunately, change itself is hard and often unappealing. To become more sustainable requires true change, the alteration of entire systems, but to become more “green” we can implement easy short-term solutions that really aren’t too hard to swallow.
The idea of “going green” isn’t necessarily inherently bad, but it’s tied up with some pretty bad stuff. “Greenwashing” is the concept that businesses who are fundamentally unsustainable are using the “going green” trend to help sell their products. People are wanting to do what’s best, and these companies are deceiving consumers by telling them that in buy the company’s products, they are helping the environment.
All in all, companies like big coal and big oil who are “going green” are really just using it as a marketing tool to get more consumers to buy their products and play into their sector of the economy. Understanding how we are being cheated into purchasing higher-priced goods in the name of “green” is the first step in the direction of a true sustainable revolution. The best way to live a more sustainable life is to think twice before shopping.
green|spaces is dedicated to their mission of promoting sustainability in working, living, and building in Chattanooga. We want to help improve the entire community rather than promoting an individualistic agenda because we feel we have a responsibility not only to be stewards of the environment but also raise the quality of life for residents and visitors.
You too can be a part of making Chattanooga more sustainable! Think twice before making “green” purchases, keep things balanced within your own limitations of circumstance, and focus on the long-term effects of your actions rather than the short-term.
The debate over the Paris climate accords, signed by the U.S. and dozens of countries on Earth Day, 2016, centers mainly on cost, with some saying that a transition from the old ways of doing business is too expensive. But the evidence is overwhelming that a greener economy will not only help save human life on earth, it will be a boon for business.
It's pretty widely known that boosting a business's energy efficiency not only reduces its carbon footprint, but also saves money. What's less well understood is how much customers and employees care about a company's approach to sustainability.
For example, a recent survey by the Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility showed that 42 % of Americans are "willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact."
Plus, sustainable companies find it easier to recruit the best employees. A study by Corporate Responsibility Magazine found that more than 70% of Americans want to work for a company whose leadership is actively involved in corporate responsibility and/or environmental issues. In fact, according to a survey by Net Impact, 45% of Americans said they would take a 15% pay cut to work in a job that makes a social or environmental impact.
Talented Millennials are especially committed to finding an employer who shares their dedication to sustainable corporate behavior. And once workers find a green employer, they are 16% more productive than average, according to research by UCLA.
All of this is why green│spaces has launched its green│light third-party corporate sustainability certification program. When businesses achieve green│light certification, they signal to customers and prospective employees alike that they care about their environmental and social impact in Chattanooga — and that they not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
Here's how it works: A company contacts the green│light program director to get started. Green│spaces evaluates the organization's size and type and helps it create a step-by-step sustainability plan. The plan might suggest actions relating to wellness, energy, water, recycling, facility maintenance, landscaping, purchasing and/or transportation. As a first step, companies can visit the green│spaces website for a toolkit that helps benchmark energy and water use. As the company implements and documents improvements, green│spaces helps support these efforts and celebrate achievements.
So far, green│light certified businesses include 212 Market Restaurant, The Crash Pad, Flying Squirrel, River City Company, Ruby Falls, The Strand, and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
And many other area businesses are working toward certification, including Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel; Elemi; Franklin Architects; Green's Eco Build & Design; Hunter Museum; Lupi's; Riverview Animal Hospital; Sportsbarn; Taco Mamacita; and Urban Stack.
We encourage you to visit the green│light participant businesses and show them some love! Learn more about the green│light program here.
Written by guest blogger Leslie Bell
Home energy costs: A question of justice
In 2014, green│spaces asked a question. Which Chattanooga-area homes use the most energy?
Was it the 5-bedroom luxury homes, with their appliances, computer equipment, cathedral-ceilinged great rooms, and lit-up landscaping?
The answer: Nope. Not at all.
The homes using more energy turned out to be the smaller, older homes in East Chattanooga, Highland Park, and East Lake. At lot more. Forty-three percent more per square foot than the Chattanooga average.
Which is a problem.
With the continuation of Empower Chattanooga and the Georgetown University Energy Prize with free bilingual DVDs distributed in our target neighborhoods, more regular education and a Green Schools Summit, more businesses receiving green|light certification, the development of our first net-zero energy and healthy NextGen Home, the extension of key tax credits for renewable energy, EPB's PEER Certification, upcoming announcements from the City of Chattanooga and other partners, and a new version of LEED, it is shaping up to be an incredible 2016 for sustainability in Chattanooga!