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BY PATTIE BAKIR

a movement toward more sustainable com- city was awarded Certified Green Community
ities are stories of regular people leading the way status on December 1, 2o1o.
g action in all areas ofsustainable living. Holly Freishtat's story bears some similarities to
Daniel Wallach's story, for example. He Heneghan's. While living in Washington state,
wife, Catherine Hart, lost their life savings Freishtat worked with institutions to make her
I bills while living in Colorado. They community more sustainable. She connected
in rural Stafford County, Kan., where hospitals and retirement communities with local
ed start a local foods co-op that served farmers and developed a program to teach low-
residti@,'In the towns of Pratt and Greensburg. income students about nutrition through gardening
\{hen F*:7*nile-wide tornado destroyed just about and cooking. Freishtat also coordinated the develop-
every.thing in r.5-mile-wide Greensburg, Wallach ment of the first USDA-inspected mobile slaughter
found himself once again with a blank slate. He facility in the country, thereby enabling small farmers
advocated for the town to be rebuilt green, and to process meat on their farms. When Freishtat
today, just four years later, it's a global model for moved back to her hometown of Baltimore, she was
what's possible. hiredas its first food policy director.
John Heneghan's approach to sustainability was Before he could get solar panels installed on the
to work through the channels of local government. roof of his home in Salem, Ore., Larry Lohrman
Heneghan was elected to city council when citizens had to amend the covenants of his Creekside
of Dunwoody, G&., a suburb of Atlanta, voted for Estates neighborhood homeowners' association.
the suburb to become its own city. Committed to Lohrman spent nine months working to change the
making the maze of suburban sprawl more walkable covenants and, as a result, changed minds, raised =
and bike-friendly before the new city started awareness and helped homeowners across the
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operating, he attended a Green Communities country change their neighborhood rules.
workshop given by a regional planning agency. These four people are on the front lines of a
Heneghan spearheaded the creation of a citizens' growing movement to create more sustainable o
advisory board to help Dunwoody pursue certification communities. They have different points of entry- E
for implementing policies and practices that reduce green building, livability, alternative transporta-
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its overall environmental impact. As a result, the tion and energy, food-but the sustainability

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But green? Greensburg residents told Wallach
that they didn't want to carry the stigma of being
left-leaning, liberal tree-huggers. "Greensburg is
the most conseruative part of a very politically con- Wind turbines
servative state," Wallach explains, "yet so many take advan-
green attributes are really basic, sound principles tage af
that were already embodied in the community's 6reensbut'g's
ancestors. These include using windmills, building natural power
with the sun's orientation in mind, living off the re50urces.
tand by hunting and fishing, and being tied to
nature in ways that are truly authentic." Going
green for Greensburg was not as big of a stretch as In exanirting
it might have seemed at first glance. sustainability,
As city officials embarked on a comprehensive plan question your
io rebuild Greensburg as a model of sustainable liv- tity's ciedica-
ing, Wallach launched Greensburg GreenTown, a tion to rety-
- grassroots, community-based organization that cling facilities.

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movement is diverse and multifaceted. These people


have a lot to teach us about making our communities
more sustainable.

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According to a t987 report by the United Nations,
"sustainability" is the ability to meet society's
present needs without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own.
Although most people immediately associate
sustainability with the environment, it also
includes economic and social aspects, such as
creating robust local businesses and ensuring that
no segment of society (like the poor) gets cut out
of the good stuff (sidewalks, green space, farmers'
markets) while shouldering more of the burdens
(landfills and recycling plants).
Why would a city even want to become more
sustainable? Because sustainable cities use less
energy and produce less waste. They make it easier
for residents to walk and ride bikes, thereby
improving their health. They make it easier for
seniors to "age in place." They prepare children for
the challenges of a changing world and are more
resilient in the face of disasters and emergencies.
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"Greensburg was utterly devastated and materially
depleted by that tornado," Wallach says, "and z
there was a hunger to make something positive out =
of it."

MARCH/APRIL 2011 1 5
"What is your vision for the CitY of a committee of cjtizens, and advocating
Dunwoody regarding sustainabi[ity?" for sustainab[e practices and policies at
That's what I asked every candidate for city haLL. I was then chosen as a member
city counciL when residents in my Littte of the comprehensive [and-use-plan steering
sLice of suburbia voted to become a new committee, which gave me the opportunity
city. A seasoned btogger, I [aunched a new to hear about community issues, learn
bLog named SustajnabLe DunwoodY from other citizens as weLL as consuttants,
(www.sustainabtedunwoody.com) so fo[ks and advocate for sustajnability attributes
could see what choices a brand-new city to be integrated jnto the 20-year ptan for
faced regarding sustainabiLity. our new city.
About half of the candjdates responded. I joined fellow citizen actjvists
I heard encouraging answers invoLving (activist? When did I become an activist?)
waLking and biking, creating a farm/Life to starl the first community garden in our
museum, and expanding our meager green city, which serves as an jncubator for other

space. Inevitabty. a few candjdates aLso gardens and an example of sustainability I've a[so learned:
questioned, "What's sustainabitity?" principles in actjon. I eventuaLLy resigned S Vision matters. A city can't ralLY

I didn't intend to get involved beyond from the sustainabiLity commission to around a vision if there isn't one.
my btog, but when candidate-etect John focus more fuLLy on these gardens. # "Going green" shoutd be fun (even
Heneghan and I attended the same Green My city is siitl finding its way, and I've when jt's hard work). If jt's not, you're doing
Communjties workshop given by the found my place in our sustainability journey something wrong or moving too fast.
At[anta Regional Commission in our neigh- as a "planter of seeds," both literally and & Passion is irreplaceab[e. When passion

boring city's LEED- (Leadership in Energy figuratively. Two years ago, I never would appears in your city, harness jt and Let it run
and EnvironmentaL Design) certified city have befieved I woutd be so familiar with in the direction of your city's dreams. Don't
haLt, a new direction emerged for my life. our city's Leaders and issues. However, as a bog it down with bureaucracy.
Appointed the chairperson of the new result. I consider myself to be a better advo- S 0ne person can make a difference in
city's sustainabitity commission, I suddenLy cate for sustainability close to home and your city. And you may be that person.
found myself working with city staff, Leading around the world. Baker
-Pattie

works hand in hand with the city to educate the expected to contain references to sustainability.
community, serve as a conduit for donations and However, with an established infrastructure, a
information, establish incentives to encourage car-based culture, limited green space and divergent
business and resident participation in building opinions about how to preserve the past while
green, and stimulate green economic develop- embracing the future, the green journey has not
ment. After four decades of decline, this small been smooth or certain.
rural city of fewer than t,ooo residents in south- Councilman Heneghan remains focused on the
western Kansas now finds itself in the spotlight as city's long-term sustainability. "I beiieve that when
it aims to rebuild a prosperous future through I have the ability to make a difference, I have the
common-sense green solutions. responsibility to do so," says Heneghan, who took
"If ihe folks in this little rural town can embrace on many issues in his popular blog (www.dunwoody
green living so enthusiastically, it can be done any- north.blogspot.com) even before running for office.
where," Wallach says. "And I was hopeful we'd be able to make the small
changes needed to set us on a sustainable course as
5*=Eesse*:LgEY 5**tu: ?*€g a city. Now, those little things have the potential to
Dunwoody faced a different kind of blank=?.e=E
slate. add up to make a big difference."
On December 1, 2oo8, it became the newest city He offers this advice for those in Dunwoody and
in the United States and the rgth-largest city in elsewhere: "Citizens can help city officials stay
Georgia, with about 4o,ooo residents. Its first focused on sustainability by writing comments on
two years of operation included the creation of a blogs and letters to the editor ofyour locai newspaper.
comprehensive land-use plan and the kickoff of Elected officials definitely follow these exchanges of
various master plans, all of which contain or are ideas and opinions. I knowthis firsthand."

1 6 URBAN FARM . urbanfarmonline.com


r. i: - .=1 j: 1.: !. : :,: t; ,:= ::,! :j a.: ;.: ,: '.]'.,: :-, ple in the United States who live in neighborhoods
With an established sustainability plan, with homeowners' associations. They want to
Baltimore is focusing on six of its z9 sustainability preserve the appearance oftheir neighborhoods so
goals, including those related to food systems, they can maintain properly values; however, many
and it appointed Freishtat as its "food czar." of these neighborhood associations have outdated
Freishtat says that title can be a misnomer covenants that restrict practices increasingly seen
because, as she explains, "I'm not here to tell as desirable.
people what to eat. I'm here to heip them have "When I asked the Architectural Review
access to choices." Committee for approval to install a solar photo-
Freishtat oversees the city's efforts to establish voltaic system on my house and it said no, I would
Baltimore as a leader in sustainable, local food have gone about my business," explains Lohrman.
systems through strategies such as increasing the "However, my neighbor, Burt Bogart, wanted one,
percentage of land under cultivation for agricultural too, and that kept me involved."
purposes, improving the quantity and quality of Lohrman chronicled the "solar story" on his
products available at food outlets, increasing blog, Sustainable Creekside (um'w.sustainable
demand for local food by schools and residents, creekside.org), and he used the blog to educate
and developing an urban agriculture plan. and connect with others in his neighborhood. He
"I want to emphasize how important food policy sent a mailer to his neighbors to announce the
is," Freishtat says. "With strong local food policies, website and invite participation in a survey,
a city can offer farmer-friendly terms, such as which revealed support for solar. He and Bogart
longer lease agreements, so urban farms can flourish then helped write new solar-installation guide-
and increase access to healthy, affordable food in lines for the neighborhood.
food deserts and throughout the city." On Earth Day zoto, the Creekside Estates
Architectural Review Committee approved the new
i',:,:. t,..',. -,, t.'.'l solar guidelines. About six weeks later, the first
Folks who live in Creekside Estates in Salem, Ore., solar panels in the neighborhood were installed on
are not so different from the other 6o million peo- Bogart's roof.

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Lohrman suggests that others who live in neigh- resenting all aspects of the communilv seruing on
borhoods with homeowners associations "read commissions at city hall? Are there independent,
your neighborhood's covenants, know your state local businesses? Do schools have no idling, walk-
laws, communicate with your neighbors about to-school, classroom composting and other "go
environmentally related issues, look for other green" initiatives?
neighborhoods that have dealt with similar issues, Does your ciqv purchase environmentally prefer-
and be persistent." able products and services, conserve water and
protect the cit1,'s trees? Does it encourage local
a -t : ' food production and provide incentives for alterna-
Your city may already be on the sustainabilitv train, or tive energy and other green-building features?
it could not yet be aboard. Take a look around,vou: How about turning offpower overnight, supporting
Are there bike lanes? Sidervalks? Parks? Are transportation alternatives, using nontoxic and
there public recycling bins, farmers' markets, native landscaping solutions, and encouraging or
community gardens, solar panels? Are people rep- requiring rec-vcling?

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"g Form a sustainability advisory group. on aLL that "seasonaI cotor" annuaI trans-
€ CatL ;t the Green Team. Eco Group or ptant stuff, too.)
something catchy reLated to your area. * The aLlowance of small-scaLe food
:]: Look at your HOA covenants. See if production, such as front-yard vegetabLe
d=they reflect current eco-reaLities and gardens and backyard chickens
make accommodatjons for energing ones. '€ Rain harvesting/stormwater so[u-
Things to consider incLude: tjons, such as rain barreLs, rain gardens

€ The aLlowance of soLar power (and and permeable pavement


not just on the "side of the house that € Energy-efficient Lighting at your
can't be seen"-that may or may not be neighborhood entrance
where the sun shinesl) F The aLlowance of "solar drying"-
3i The allowance of recycled materials the clever term for clotheslines
for fences and pLay equipment -tr Gather baseline data. Figure out your n:e Determine and implement an actjon
€ A broader color patette for roofs to *.3 neighborhood's recycting rate. What js
**plan. Consjder sending out a survey,
accommodate increased reflectivity (and, your city's average. and how does your creating a bLog and estabLishing a

thereby, reduced heat-isLand effect and neighborhood stack up? What'hood has the Facebook presence. Invjte feedback and
jncreased energy savings) most homegrown food? What subdivisjon participation from residents. Communicate
i:,Natjve, drought-toLerant Landscaping sees the highest number of kids watking or steps taken, actions jnjtjated and results
in your common areas (You'[L save money biking to schoot? achieved. Celebrate successes.

If these initiatives aren't immediately apparent,


consider whether you could be the sustainability
champion your community needs. Start with
research. Scan your city's long-term vision, some-
times called a general plan or comprehensive land
use plan. Learn about your city's intentions
regarding transportation, green space, real estate
development and more.
Read master plans for economic development,
transportation, parks and green space or particular
areas ripe for redevelopment. Inquire about a sus-
tainability plan or food-policy council. Check out
your chamber of commerce, too, for encourage-
ment of local businesses, specifically "green" ones,
which could be anlthing from a caf6 that claims
zero waste to a carpet-cleaning business that avoids
-
harmful chemicals.
The smallest step you can take is also the largest:
Get involved. Attend meetings at city hall.
Encourage your community leaders to consider
sustainable practices when making decisions.
Bring your children so they can see how decisions As Wallach recommends, "If you want to get Acrass the

affecting their future are made. involved in creating a sustainable city, just plant county, home-
tr
Some folks are swayed solely by numbers, so
lli::ih:::: ilo gllr-
awners' associ-
seeking out and sharing the details you uncover
::--::n::: 11 I"-11'111 aticns are
about sustainable practices may help engage people. Pattie Baker blogs about sustainability at FoodShed turning pra-
Some people respond weli to personal stories of Ptanet (wrrlov"fcods hedplanet. com) a nd writes for roaftop saldr
those trying to make a difference and to successes publications and corporations committed to suslajn- psneL.

from other cities around the world. Some people anitity. 5he'is an avid home and ccmmunity gardener
just want to see sustainability in action so they can and a 1O-year CSA member. She naw only altends
start to understand it better. meetings in her city that require a pitchfork.

|4ARCH/APRIL 2011 1 9