Report looks at Charlotte's sustainability trends

by Bruce Henderson and Steve Harrison
[email protected]

Charlotte trails national averages on transportation and land use patterns while showing improvement in energy use and other local measures, says a first-of-its-kind sustainability report card released Tuesday.

The nonprofit group Sustain Charlotte examined data trends in nine categories to produce the report. Charlotte City Council members and Mecklenburg County commissioners are scheduled to appear at its release in Marshall Park.

“We’re living in a time when more and more we’re making decisions using big data,” said Shannon Binns, Sustain Charlotte’s executive director. “It seems important to have an understanding of whether we’re making progress on these issues.”

The report assigns two grades for each category, the first measuring local trends and the second a comparison to national averages.

Among the trends the report details: The number of local families and children living in poverty doubled between 2000 and 2011. Transportation costs are taking larger chunks of personal income. Sixty neighborhoods are “food deserts.” Sprawling land development continues.

“Overall what this report shows is that there are very few areas in which we are making dramatic strides forward and outshining the national averages,” Binns said.

The report is aimed at local decision-makers, but the group hopes to also influence individual choices. It’s also intended to serve as baseline data for residents involved in the Mecklenburg Livable Communities Plan, which will develop community goals.

Sustain Charlotte makes recommendations for each category, with some drawn from sources such as Mecklenburg County’s biennial State of the Environment report.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provides operating grants to Sustain Charlotte. The Davidson College Sustainability Scholars program provided intern Jordan Luebkemann, who helped compile the report’s data. The reports other authors include Sustain board member Jennifer Fairchild, staff member Meg Fencil and Binns.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender

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