Southeast Green - Business depends on the environment and the environment depends on business

Why Be Locked Into One Way of Doing Things When Opportunity Beckons?

January 1 may be the traditional day for resolutions, but, for me, that time of the year is way too hectic to be able to think straight and to set a true course for the future. For me, the day that has far more resonance is the one we are about to face tomorrow. March 4. March forth.

With our beloved one-snow-day-a-year behind us now, and the daffodils blooming all around the Dunwoody Farmhouse, and a particularly dark winter for the economy turning a corner, perhaps, as the potential of stimulus money and its effect on our country, state, and city titillates, today is a good day to spend a few moments reflecting on the path you want to forge this year, the course you want to set for the next stage of your journey. Then, tomorrow you can wake up and get up and stretch your arms and legs and mind and march forth into a new day and a new way of doing things that have the potential to make a positive diffference in your life. Why be locked into one direction, one way of doing things, when opportunity beckons?

If principles of sustainability figure into your plan, here are some ways to embrace March:

Green Wednesdays: Townsend Bailey of Sustainable Atlanta
March 4, Pizza Fusion (2233 Peachtree Road)

Green Wednesdays is free and open to anyone with an interest in the green/ sustainable business world. It is sponsored by the Green Chamber of the South. This new business chamber already partners with Dekalb County, Fulton County, and our newbie city neighbor, Johns Creek.

Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable: The "Greening" of the Affordable Housing Market
March 6--634 West Peachtree Street (All Saint's), Atlanta

The “greening” of affordable housing should look beyond promoting sustainable construction practices and creating durable, healthy homes to also addressing the issues of quality growth. Come hear what steps are being taken by the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta to ensure that affordable housing developments are promoting quality growth in our region. (Upcoming topics include water and transportation issues.)

City of Dunwoody Sustainability Commission Monthly Meeting
March 12--Dunwoody Nature Center (7:45 AM)

Join us for an update for the City of Dunwoody's progress so far this year on its pursuit of Atlanta Regional Commission Green Community certification, and find out what the month ahead holds and how you can have an impact. Connect with others in our community as we take sustainable steps forward.

Georgia Organics Conference and Trade Show
March 20-21--Agnes Scott College

This year’s 12th Annual Georgia Organics Conference and Trade Show is bigger and better than ever with more farm and food tours, focused In-depth workshops and Educational Sessions for growers, chefs, foodies, sustainability advocates, and food distributors. This year’s keynote speaker is author Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma). I am attending:

Workshop 4 - Urban Homesteading:
Eating and Living Off the Grid
Jules Dervaes,
Path to Freedom

Since 2001, Jules Dervaes and his family have been living a protest— Path to Freedom—against corporate control of the food supply. They now grow over 6,000 pounds of produce annually on a onefifth acre residential lot in Pasadena, Ca.Their project incorporates alternative energy, transportation, and back-to-basics practices. Mr. Dervaes will present steps individuals can take where they are and with what they have, to become independent and live as responsible stewards of the earth

Greenprints Conference and Tradeshow
March 25 & 26, 2009--Atlanta, GA

The Greenprints Conference and Tradeshow, a leading southeastern green building symposium, returns in 2009. Join green building professionals, policy makers and industry experts as they come together at Greenprints to share trends, strategies and the latest environmental technologies in a stimulating and interdisciplinary environment. Learn how Atlanta measures up as a sustainable city and explore smarter ways to “green” our city.

Dunwoody Nature Center
Oakhurst Community Garden

Both offer classes that will help you increase your sustainability.

Green Collar Jobs Board

Pursue a new career in a green collar job. Be sure you are well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities as the "shovel-ready" stimulus money starts to flow, or take steps now by finding out what skills you need to learn in order to get in on the action in the future.

"The Neighborhood Demands It"

This is a small sampling of what I got in my farm box yesterday (for 25 bucks) from Charlotte of Riverview Farms (the largest certified organic farm in Georgia), all grown within 100 miles of here. The latest statistics I see (mentioned in Sharon Astyk's book, Depletion and Abundance) are that it takes a minimum of an acre a person to feed each person (that's for a vegetarian diet--it is almost double for a meat-based diet). That means that if we wanted to have true food security in our community, we'd have to allocate 40,000 acres to growing food.

Ain't gonna' happen, Pattie. Give it up. Go back to home gardening, where ten 4' x 5' raised beds can meet an awful lot of a family's fresh produce needs. And I already have ten, which I am continually working to improve.

Yet . . .

As I was interviewing Katrell from Dr. Bombay's the other night, I asked her about sustainability initiatives at her store and she answered every question as if, of course, they do these things.

"The neighborhood demands it," she told me.

The neighborhood demands it. The neighborhood demands it. Those words rang in my head all night. I couldn't really imagine a neighborhood that demands these things. Yet, there it was, just a handful of miles away from us here in Dunwoody.

The next day, Katrell sent me an email inviting me to come check out their land trust. Here is what she told me:

Our community bought about 15 acres within the Candler Park/ Lake Claire area from the government when Marta was diverted into a different location. The whole community owns this land trust and it is our job to keep it up. On our land trust we have:

* Community organic garden plots

* Tons of beautiful exotic plants

* Blueberry fields

* Tree climbing ropes and classes

* Some emu, goats and chickens

* Playground for the kids

* Picnic tables

* Summer camp

* An amphitheater for anyone in the community to use for plays, music, community gatherings

* A kitchen for cooking out or hosting fundraisers

* Large man-made pond

* Koi ponds and water garden

* Rain barrels

* Recycling recycling recycling--everyone takes landscaping items that they are not using and drops them off for people who need them. Anyone can go get stone, pine straw, bricks, mulch for their yard if they need it

* A community bulletin board for trading things

Yikes. I can't believe this.

But then, I fell upon a community garden in Buckhead at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. Here's what I found out about it:

The Blue Heron Nature Preserve protects and restores land along and near Nancy Creek. We also aim to focus community attention, involvement and education on the preservation and improvement of local greenspace and wetland habitat, accessibility, creek bank stabilization, and water quality along Nancy Creek.

The Preserve was founded in 2001, when a local school teacher, the North Buckhead Civic Association and a local developer worked together to set aside seven acres of floodplain along Nancy Creek, at Rickenbacker Drive near Roswell Road.

Local residents, community groups, businesses and students then joined together to help restore the land to its original state, removing invasive plants, planting native trees, and attempting to stabilize the stream bank.

More recently, through the City of Atlanta, two large pieces of land nearby have been added to the Preserve. The first is a nine-acre wetland off Emma Lane and Lakemoore Drive, and the second is the five-acre former sewer tunnel construction site on Roswell Road. Finally in 2007, the 5-acre "architect's site" at 4055 Roswell Road was purchased by the City, bringing Blue Heron holdings to about 25 acres.

As a community-based effort, the Preserve will continue to grow and provide a place of natural beauty for the community and health of our local environment. In 2006, we started a community garden, with 32 plots open to the community. Future plans call for education programs, continued community outreach, acquiring greenspace, building trails and a new pavilion at the community garden site.

And finally, as good things come in threes, I got an email from Stephanie Van Parys, the director of the Oakhurst Community Garden in Decatur. She listed exactly what things at the garden cost (as part of a fundraising campaign to encourage donations). Here goes:

Your gift of . . .

$50 could cover the supplies for five rain barrels made by the Decatur High School Exceptional Students program.

$100 could add a complete beehive to the Garden.

$250 could feed the chickens for an entire year.

$500 could host an international intern for the summer.

$750 could purchase all the plants needed to restore the Wylde Woods with native flowers, shrubs, and trees.

$1,500 could support the entire cost of offering sustainable lifestyle classes for one of the Growings On 12-week sessions.

$2,000 could cover the cost of the Boys and Girls club program that reaches 10 youth for 12 weeks

Oh, my. So much is going on so close to here (to find out more about the Oakhurst Community Garden or to donate, click here). Berkeley Lake in Norcross has a community garden, and another one elsewhere in the city is planned for 2009. And I even connected with Scott Hamilton Kennedy, a director in LA who just released a movie called The Garden. On the movie's website, it says:

From the ashes of the L.A. riots arose a lush 14-acre community garden, the largest of its kind in the United States. Now bulldozers threaten its future. If everyone told you to give up, would you?

Wait 'til you see what happens there! Scott is sending me a copy of the film to view (it is being screened in L.A. right now) and I will surely write much more about it in the near future. Here's the trailer.

And so, I'm not sure if Dunwoody will ever rally around a community garden or a city-wide strategy to increase our food security. It takes work, and who wants more work? But methinks we may one day end up as one of the only communities without one.

I, for one, love this stuff and find it fun and exciting. In fact, I just signed up for an organic FARMING course through Georgia Organics at Cane Creek Farm, which consists of seven full Saturdays, every other week starting January 31, 2009 (and my counterpart at Sustainable Alpharetta signed up as well!). If you had told me 19 years ago when I moved from Manhattan to Atlanta to become a sales promotion manager at CNN that I would one day be taking an organic farming course in Forsyth County, Georgia, I wouldn't have believed you. I guess stranger things have happened.

I have no idea where I'm going with this, but as a writer I know I need to know as much about this trend toward community sustainability as possible. Also, I think I could be of help, if not here, elsewhere. And besides, my garden could be better. :)

I guess my question to us would be, "What does our neighborhood demand?"

Oh, and as usual, all this research got me curious . . . what new things are other cities doing? Check back each Friday as I profile cities small and large around the world and their headline-making new steps toward increased food security. Tomorrow we're going to London!

Pattie Baker is an eco-writer. She lives and breathes this stuff. You can read other postings at her website

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