'Sustainability' goes beyond environment, includes people

'Sustainability' goes beyond environment, includes people
Sustain Charlotte asks leaders to take a long view
Charlene Price- Patterson

Do you believe the decisions we make today determine our quality of life tomorrow?

At an event that focused on "being kind to the earth" (as my daughter once said in elementary school), I picked up some information published by a nonprofit organization called "Sustain Charlotte." The group is dedicated to inspiring, informing and advancing economic vitality, social equity and environmental sustainability.

Its brochure "Charlotte 2030: A Sustainable Vision for Our Region" outlines 10 key aspects of urban sustainability: air; buildings and homes; economy; energy; food; parks and green space; waste; social equity; transportation; and water.

Those are important areas because, together, they determine the quality of our lives.

Members of Sustain Charlotte have asked more than 100 community leaders a key question: "Twenty years from now, what do you envision for the Charlotte region?"

Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, said, "The goal is to help people understand the long-term economic, environmental and social aspects of decisions made today."

He went on to say, "What may seem like the least costly choice, in the short term, may actually be the most costly in the long term when all of the factors are considered."

Binns runs the organization as a volunteer and depends on volunteers for support. He holds a master of public administration degree in environmental science and policy from Columbia University.

His full-time career is with Green Press Initiative. He works with publishers around the country to help them understand and reduce their environmental impact.

After living in Charlotte for a few years, Binns saw a need to help Charlotte grow sustainably. He met with the director of Sustainable Atlanta and developed the project in Charlotte two years ago.

Binns has the support of two UNC Charlotte leaders. Both Dr. David Walters, director of the graduate program in urban design, and professor Jose Gamez, director of the design and society research center, have collaborated with Sustainable Charlotte.

Walters said, "What Shannon is doing is highlighting issues we take for granted ... but are harmful to the environment. He is prompting us to rethink the way we do things, both on an individual basis as well as on a city and county basis."

Together, the UNCC leaders are working with Sustain Charlotte on issues related to urban design and other areas. They believe that when we look to the future as it relates to housing, schools, and other key arenas, it is vital that we consider social sustainability and environmental sustainability.

"It's not just about the environment. It's about having a healthy, socially just society. If there is a political will, we can change policy," said Walters.

In a separate program, UNCC also has signed on to a climate action plan to help eliminate carbon emissions.

Sustain Charlotte needs volunteers with specific skills, including communications, fundraising, grant writing and public outreach. UNCC student Dylan McKnight was a great volunteer who helped me learn about the organization.

Sustain Charlotte would like to partner with organizations throughout the Charlotte region to provide information about how people affect our sustainability.

Although the topics can get complex, the concept is elementary. We can all find ways to "be friendly to the earth."

It starts one person at a time.

Learn more at Sustain Charlotte's site, www.sustaincharlotte.org.



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