Small Programs, Big Impacts

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Numerous cities across the nation have started green initiatives or programs to better their surrounding environment.

Several aspects define an eco-city and programs, including air and water quality efforts, recycling and proper waste management, LEED-certified buildings, use of renewable resources, access to greener modes of transportation (such as bike-friendly additions and bus systems) and an abundance of products and services offering more sustainable lifestyle choices.

While several larger U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore. and Boston, Mass., have implemented initiatives like these, we wanted to highlight the smaller communities that are making a difference in their own space.

These efforts  start with individuals dedicated to improving their communities, no matter the scale. Their size may be small, but their impact is great.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Gatlinburg Goes Green

Gatlinburg, Tenn. is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce created Gatlinburg Goes Green, a voluntary educational program that recognizes member businesses for their steps to reduce their environmental impact and improve their social and economic sustainability.

"Gatlinburg Goes Green" has set a goal to have 75 percent of businesses pledge to make pledges regarding waste reduction, water and wildlife conservation and air quality, among others. Photo: Flickr/Old Shoe Woman

"Gatlinburg Goes Green" set a goal to have 75 percent of businesses make pledges regarding waste reduction, water and wildlife conservation and air quality, among others. Photo: Flickr/Old Shoe Woman

The criteria for the program include communication and education, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, air quality, wildlife conservation, transportation and purchasing and local community benefits.

This November, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will celebrate its 75th anniversary, and to honor that milestone, Gatlinburg Goes Green set a goal to have 75 percent of city businesses join Gatlinburg Goes Green by the anniversary celebration on Nov. 16.

Aspen, Colorado: CORE

Located in the Roaring Fork Valley, home to skiing communities such as Aspen, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) works with businesses, individuals and government entities to create improvements in energy and water efficiency to benefit the local environment and develop a sustainable economy.

In 1998, CORE started the nation’s first “solar production incentive” program, paying local residents $2.00 per watt for installing a solar photovoltaic system. Since its inception, CORE has monitored national and global energy trends to improve the Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado. Its Web site provides solutions for energy problems, offering unique and up-to-the-minute information.

CORE stresses the importance of education: The program provides community energy education through forums, presentations and articles. Some of CORE’s current programs include its reusable bag initiative, REMP, which requires new homes to mitigate their environmental impact, and the Energy Smart Loan program, which brings feasible financing options to home and business owners in order to implement energy efficiency.

Annapolis, Maryland: Sustainable Annapolis

Nestled in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the small Maryland state capitol of Annapolis calls itself the “sailing capitol of America.” The Chesapeake Bay watershed supports 3,600 species of plant and animal life, along with 17 million people living along its shores.

But the Chesapeake Bay has suffered greatly from pollution – an enormous problem for the water and wildlife, including its famous blue crabs. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation created the Save the Bay initiative in the 1970s after a devastating EPA report documenting the catastrophic amount of toxins and pollution in the Bay and surrounding rivers and tributaries.

Spurred by the need to protect its fragile backyard, the city created its own program, Sustainable Annapolis. Sustainable Annapolis is dedicated to making the city a sustainable, carbon-neutral city. The initiative is a long-term effort emphasizing building green, thriving neighborhoods and, in turn, promoting energy efficiency, water conservation, transportation alternatives and incentives for local businesses to go green.

The city of Annapolis also works to protect its local environment through programs such as the  Clean Air Initiatives, Keep It Clean campaign and storm water management.

These initiatives started with individuals who felt the need to clean up their communities. It is never too late to put a green plan together in your city, no matter the size!

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