Our First Mixer with Green Drinks Charlotte Was a Big Hit!

Over 45 people attended the very first Green Drinks Charlotte + Sustain Charlotte Monthly Mixer! The event was held in the beautiful basement of The Liberty in South End. Numerous guests told us, "I didn't know this place even has a basement!" But it does, and it's the perfect location for our new merged mixer. With its dark wood shelving, personal bar service, and private meeting space, we already feel right at home. The Liberty graciously donated appetizers for our mixer, including plates full of delicious house-made soft pretzels. Christina Vernon, Assistant Vice President for a Healthy Environment at our Gold Partner Carolinas Healthcare System, explained the unique sustainability challenges faced by medical facilities. She cited some incredible statistics: A single cardiac procedure generates as much waste as an average American household of 4 people in one week. CHC's acute primary care facilities generate an average of 37 tons per day, or the equivalent of 7 elephants. Christina Vernon explained how Carolinas Healthcare System is committed to sustainability. Continue reading

Children in West Charlotte Plan Their Neighborhood's Future

The key to fulfilling a great plan is beginning with a bold vision.  Last week, Sustain Charlotte staff taught children at the Southview Recreation Center in West Charlotte what sustainability means and how they can help to make their neighborhood more sustainable. This follows our visioning workshop with teens last month at the nearby Arbor Glen Outreach Center.  Recreation Specialist Korey Townsend showed the children his drawing of a sustainable neighborhood.  Continue reading

Sustain Charlotte Seeks a Full-Time Bicycle Program Manager

Applications accepted through June 15, 2015 Position Summary Sustain Charlotte is looking for an energetic Bicycle Program Manager with a passion and talent for fostering collaboration to accomplish shared goals. Reporting to the Executive Director, the Bicycle Program Manager will develop and manage a two-year initiative to build relationships and foster collaboration among the various organizations who offer cycling events and programs in the Charlotte area, assist with publicizing these activities, and establish Sustain Charlotte as the hub organization for information related to cycling. The Bicycle Program Manager will also assist in securing funding via grants and membership to support these activities beyond the initial two-year period. Continue reading

Sustain Charlotte Hosts Sustainability Discussion with Latin American Visitors

Sustain Charlotte staff and board members met with eight Latin American professionals on Wednesday to discuss ideas for implementing sustainability programs in urban areas. We shared the story of why our Executive Director Shannon Binns founded Sustain Charlotte five years ago. Then we explained the goals and strategies for each of our major programs and initiatives. As we reviewed land cover maps showing how sprawl has dramatically altered our regional landscape over the past 40 years, several visitors shared that their countries or regions are also facing similar challenges. Poor land use decisions, over-dependence on private vehicles, and short-sighted planning are not problems unique to the United States.    Sustain Charlotte staff and board members discussed sustainability with Latin American visitors. Continue reading

Sustain Charlotte addresses City Council at Monday night's public hearing on City budget

At last night's public hearing on the City budget, we questioned the proposal to replace our current waste collection and disposal fee with a property tax increase on the grounds that doing this would make the actual cost of our waste “invisible” to residents, and create no financial incentive to reduce how much we throw away. We proposed a variable rate structure based on the amount of waste each resident generates instead, as used in Austin and Seattle and thousands of other American cities and towns. See Sustain Charlotte Director Shannon Binns' comments to City Council below:  Good evening,  My name is Shannon Binns, I live here in Charlotte and I direct a local nonprofit called Sustain Charlotte.  Tonight I want to share with you our perspective on two important issues related to the budget. First, think about the last time you turned down your thermostat because you knew that doing this would save you some money on your monthly electricity bill. Now think about the last time you turned off the faucet or garden hose because you knew it was wasteful to let it run, and that you would pay for your wastefulness when you got your water bill later that month if you didn’t switch it off.  Now think about the last time you didn’t throw something in the garbage can at home because you knew it would save you some money on your garbage bill. My guess is that you thought about a time you turned down your thermostat and turned off the faucet, but had a hard time remembering when you didn’t throw something away to save some money.  This is because putting less in your garbage can at home doesn’t save you money.  No matter how much (or how little) waste you create, the amount you pay is the same.  In other words, the financial incentive you have to reduce your energy and water use does not exist when it comes to the amount of waste services you use. But it doesn’t have to be that way.    Unit pricing, also known as variable rate pricing or pay-as-you-throw, is a system under which residents pay for waste management services per unit of waste collected rather than through a fixed fee or tax, thereby offering individuals an incentive to reduce the amount of waste they generate. In fact, rather than replacing our current flat annual waste services fee with a higher property tax to raise the revenues needed for waste collection and disposal, which makes the true costs of waste services invisible to residents, we urge you to implement variable rate pricing as thousands of municipalities around the country have already done, including Seattle, WA and Austin, TX, to name just two. This approach is not only more economically efficient, but it is also more equitable in that those who choose to reduce their waste are not subsidizing those who choose not to do so, more transparent, and gives residents more control over the cost of waste services, in that they are able to save money by the choices they make. If we move to a variable rate system, it is estimated that we would generate $17M in additional revenue in the first year and see another $2M in tipping fee savings for a net financial impact of $19 million in the first year, nearly enough to cover our current budget gap.  Over 10 years, this approach is estimated to positively impact our bottom line by $233M.   ==== Lastly, I want to reiterate our continued support for investing in Phase 2 of the Gold Line.  Those of you who were serving on Council in May of 2013 will recall that we presented a statement of support for this investment to Council that was signed by over 2,500 of our residents.  Like us, those residents remain supportive of this important investment for our growing city and we do not have time to delay this investment further.   Thank you, and thank you for your service.

Transportation and Poverty: What's the link?

Mecklenburg County is the second worst large U.S. County for upward social mobility of children born into poverty. Yet, Charlotte has the second fastest population growth among large U.S. cities. This is very troubling. Even as our metro area attracts unprecedented growth, our own children are slipping further and further behind the rest of the nation. And it's not just children born into poverty. Even children from average and upper income Mecklenburg households lag the national average in annual earnings when they become adults.  Mecklenburg County is the 2nd worse large U.S. County for upward mobility of children born in poverty. (Source: NY Times)  Transportation certainly isn't the only factor that determines economic mobility, but it is incredibly impactful. An article in today's NY Times titled "Transportation Emerges as Crucial to Escaping Poverty" reports that the impact of transportation on social mobility is stronger than several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community. The study emphasized the strong link between availability of public transit and income. The researchers compared neighborhoods by accessibility to mass transit and the number of jobs within an hour’s commute. Residents of the areas least well-served by mass transit relied on personal vehicles. Areas in the middle third — those with some, but insufficient, access to transportation — had the highest rates of unemployment and the lowest incomes, the study found. The problem is, it's not always an easy task to raise public awareness of the tightly interwoven links between transportation and quality of life.  In my outreach role for Sustain Charlotte, I'm often asked to identify the most critical sustainability challenge that Charlotte neighborhoods are facing. I often see puzzled looks when I answer, "Transportation." The well-intentioned asker of the question often follows up with a variant of: "But aren't they facing...you know, more urgent challenges like safety, or poor health, or poverty, or polluted streams?" Continue reading

Exciting news at our May Monthly Mixer!

Just when you thought our Monthly Mixer couldn't get any better, we're making it happen! Beginning in June, we'll combine our monthly networking event with Green Drinks Charlotte. We're all excited about this merger of the two events since we know it'll mean more chances for YOU to expand your network of new friends who care about sustainability! The format will remain similar and you'll still see all of the Sustain Charlotte staff and volunteers, but we'll also be joined by volunteers and current attendees of Green Drinks Charlotte. We can't imagine a better opportunity to invite your friends, family, and colleagues to our new event! Stay tuned to our social media (Facebook and Twitter) and your email for an announcement about the date and location of the next mixer. More than 45 people came to mingle and to hear what we're working on!   Continue reading

CityLYNX Gold Line facing City budget cuts! Show your support now!

The $75 million the Charlotte City Council approved in 2014 to fund half the cost of constructing Phase 2 of the City LYNX Gold Line is being threatened. Due to City budget shortfalls, some Members of City Council are suggesting the $75 million they already approved for the Gold Line be cut from the budget. However, these funds are required for us to obtain a matching federal grant of $75 million to cover the full cost of Phase 2. Without these funds, we will not be eligible for the $75 million grant that is included in President Obama's recommended budget for fiscal year 2016.    A public hearing on the City budget will be held this coming Monday, May 11th and Council will cast their vote on June 8 so we need you to act NOW!  This $75 million for Phase 2 of the Gold Line was approved by City Council due in large part to the 2,593 signatures we received for our petition to "Bring the Streetcar to Charlotte's struggling neighborhoods" back in late 2013. It is important that you show your support for this critical investment in our city. With your voice, we will ensure the City Council remains committed to this project and takes advantage of the opportunity to receive a dollar for dollar $75 million federal matching grant to complete Phase 2!  Streetcar test run on Trade St. Phase 2 will extend the Gold Line by an additional 2.5 miles, add 11 more stops, and purchase modern streetcar vehicles built by domestic manufacturers. Moreover, the Gold Line is just one piece of the Charlotte Area 2030 Transit Plan. City Council's commitment to the Gold Line is absolutely essential to showing their commitment to the transit vision that will make all parts of our city more connected.  Continue reading to learn how you can show your support NOW: Continue reading

West Boulevard youth envision a sustainable community

"People young and old all joined together and recycled, built green homes and started using less cars for the roads. I just see bikes and happy healthy smiling people walking and exercising at all the newly made playgrounds. That's one small step for a neighborhood and a big leap to an energy efficient country". This is the vision 17 year-old Imani created for her Arbor Glen neighborhood in the year 2040. It's a powerful vision, and it's achievable. In fact, we loved this vision so much that we read it aloud to Mecklenburg County state legislators the following morning! On April 23, middle and high school students in Charlotte's West Boulevard neighborhoods joined Sustain Charlotte's staff (Branyn Calegar and Meg Fencil) for a sustainability visioning workshop at the Arbor Glen Outreach Center.   Youth created and shared 2040 neighborhood visions with their neighbors. We began by asking a simple question: "How would you define sustainability?" All of the youth said they've heard this word before, but their answers showed that they didn't have a firm understanding of it: "I would define sustainability as in controlling something."  "Maintaining the same in the neighborhood." And my personal favorite: "By using a dictionary"  Continue reading

Mecklenburg state legislators, please support sustainable transportation!

State Representative Becky Carney recently organized and hosted the very first public listening session of Mecklenburg County state legislators. On Friday, April 24, County residents spoke directly to legislators about their needs and concerns. We took the opportunity to speak up for the future of Mecklenburg County's sustainable transportation network of light rail, commuter rail, buses, and infrastructure for safe, well-connected biking and walking. It was a fantastic opportunity to share our concerns with policymakers, so we hope to see many more listening and dialogue sessions in the future!  Here's what our Education and Outreach Program Director Meg Fencil said: Continue reading