Keeping The South Sustainable, Green And Vibrant

Chattanooga

by AINSLEY LAWRENCE

It’s hard to get through a day without hearing about the current climate crisis facing our planet. As a result, more people are starting to take an interest in sustainability and better management of their carbon footprint. A recent survey found that 93 percent of Americans have a general concern for the environment, and 77 percent want to learn how to live more sustainably.

The South has an interesting history when it comes to environmental efforts –  some good, some not so good. Today though, some Southern states are leading the way when it comes to sustainability efforts

The point, however, is that it’s never too late to make a difference. The first step is to educate yourself on green practices. The more you know about what your state/city has done and what you can do personally, the better. It doesn’t take much to “go green” or live more sustainably. It just takes a little bit of time and know-how.

A History of Southern Sustainability

When you think about Southern living, sweet tea might come to mind before sustainability. Unfortunately, there’s a reason for that. Out of the Top 10 most environmentally-friendly states, not one Southern state makes the list. Most fall somewhere in the mid-twenties, which isn’t exactly terrible.

But it could be so much better.

The problem mostly rests in urban areas. In the 1960s, Chattanooga was dubbed the dirtiest city in the country thanks to pollution and poor air quality. Urban development and agriculture have always created a bit of a problem for Southern states when it comes to sustainability. But, that’s starting to change as more efforts are being taken to practice greener living.

States like Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina are leading the region in energy codes. Sustainable agriculture is becoming more prominent, especially thanks to organizations like Southern SWAG.

It’s easy to see that things are changing, and most southern states and cities are looking for ways to create a greener future.

What Cities Can Do

Larger cities need to be the ones to lead the way toward sustainability. Thankfully, due largely in part to the growing interest in climate change, more cities are jumping on board with sustainable efforts. Louisville, Ky., recently released a climate action plan that set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2050. Atlanta’s city council also voted on a climate plan, and the state of Georgia is starting to move away from fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, there is still so much more to be done. The worst part?  Despite the best efforts of some cities, not all councils and local officials are in control. That’s one issue the state of Georgia is seeing since Georgia Power provides the state with energy, and continues to argue economics over emissions.

Cities, however, still have the power to make changes in their urban areas to become more sustainable. Some of the most responsible and impactful efforts include:

  • Facilitating zero-waste efforts
  • Managing resources
  • Offering sustainable public transportation
  • Creating clean air zones to reduce carbon emissions
  • Designing green buildings

Most of these changes require quite a bit of urban planning done by elected officials. So, if you’re wondering how you can make an impact on the sustainability of your city, it starts with your vote. On the other hand, if you want to reduce your carbon footprint faster, you can start at home.

What You Can Do

It’s okay to start small when you’re new to sustainability efforts. Saving energy at home and reducing your environmental impact is easier than you might think. Plus, if you do things the right way,  you could even end up saving money. It’s a win for your wallet and the planet, all at once. Not sure where to get started? Try some of the following energy efficiency ideas:

  • Regularly replace home air filters
  • Unplug devices when they aren’t in use
  • Switch to a programmable thermostat
  • Cut back on water usage
  • Replace existing bulbs with LED lights
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated

You already know how warm it can get in some areas, so keeping energy efficiency in mind, especially during the summer months, is crucial. It’s a good idea to have your HVAC unit looked at regularly by a professional. This will help ensure it’s running efficiently. You might also consider turning off your A/C at night or on cooler days to let in the fresh air. Even turning off the unit every once in a while can make a big difference.

There are so many additional efforts you and your family can make. Set up a recycling station in your home. Create a competition for who can take the shortest showers. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed.

When everyone in your home is on board, you all can make small changes with a big impact. The more families that do the same, the more cities will change, which will get the south a faster track to sustainability than ever before.

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