Sustainability: Making Healthy and Sensible Choices

Thu, 2014-09-04 11:38

Last night, we were honored to host the September monthly mixer for Sustain Charlotte at our green training facility in Charlotte, NC. Everblue has been a member of the Sustain Charlotte organization for some time, but this was the first time that we hosted the monthly networking event at our facility. We had a great turn-out and could not have asked for a better night.

The event kicked off at 5:30 p.m. Attendees were invited to enjoy free snacks from EarthFare that included fresh fruit, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cookies. We spent the first hour meeting everyone and discussing our passion for sustainability. The main event began shortly after 6:30, when Sustain Charlotte's Education and Outreach Program Director, Meg Fencil, summarized the organization's recent sustainability report.

Everblue specializes in sustainability training

Findings from 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card

Meg indicated that the report looked at a lot of different aspects of sustainability. "We looked at nine different dimensions of sustainability and 57 metrics within those dimensions," she said. "Oftentimes, when people think about sustainability, they don't think about non-environmental issues. Sustainability really has to do with all the different choices that we make that make our lives better, not only today but in the future. So we also looked at some social and economic indicators."

She went on to recap some of these issues, including the unemployment rate and housing affordability in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. The results for transportation were particularly interesting.


"Transportation is a huge issue that Sustain Charlotte is working on," said Fencil. "As you know, our city is very sprawling. We were recently ranked the fifth most sprawling large metro in the U.S. and that has impacts on the way we get around. About 93% of us commute to work by car, and of those, 83% drive alone. In 2011, only 42% of our roads had sidewalks on at least one side. The good news is that ridership on the light rail has increased projections by about 60%, and every year we see more and more people riding mass transit. We hope that those trends continue."

Land Use

As far as land use, Meg recounted that Charlotte has the tenth highest pedestrian mortality rate in the U.S. and that our neighborhoods were largely designed for cars, not cyclists. There's still a lot of work to do, she said, to make our streets safe and accessible. The good news is that our new streets are being built with the "complete streets" approach, which means that they have safe sidewalks and bike lanes.


In terms of waste, the per person residential recycle rate (what you put out at your curb) really hasn't changed much over the last 15 years. We're recycling more tonnage than we were 15 years ago because our population has increased. The actual rate has remained relatively unchanged. We've increased the amount of yard waste and construction/commercial waste that is being recycled rather than landfilled. We do have a long way to go, though. Most large apartment complexes do not offer recycling, and small businesses aren't provided recycling services at this time.

Water Consumption

The average residential water consumption in Mecklenburg County has been decreasing over time. We still use a lot of water for power generation. Sustain Charlotte wasn't able to analyze water quality in this report, as they didn't have enough years of data to compare. They hope to do that in future reports.

Energy Use

Finally, Meg announced that residents of Mecklenburg County use about 21% more electricity than the average American but about 4% less natural gas. "That has to do somewhat with our climate," she said. "We use more air conditioning and less heating than most of the country."

A really bright spot in energy use is that the number of LEED certified and ENERGY STAR buildings being built in Mecklenburg County has increased dramatically in the past decade. Right now, Charlotte has about the 11th highest number of ENERGY STAR buildings nationally.

You can download the full report online and look at all the dimensions that were analyzed by Sustain Charlotte.

Encouraging Sustainability Awareness

Following Meg's speech, Everblue President Vince DiFrancesco addressed the crowd and applauded Sustain Charlotte for filling a gap in the industry. People are doing processes and projects a certain way, he said, and Sustain Charlotte does a great job of encouraging people to think about doing things in a more sustainable manner.

Vince went on to explain the various teaching props found at Everblue's green training facility. He explained that we use weatherization props to teach people how to air seal and insulate existing homes to make them more energy efficient, healthy, and comfortable. We use our model home to teach people how to do energy audits on new and existing homes.

"Charlotte is very important to us, but we're proud that we're making a nationwide and a global impact on how people make their decisions and how they build buildings and operate buildings so that it makes the world a better place," he said. "I don't think there are any enemies. A lot of people are doing the best they can with their current level of awareness. Our job is to raise that level of awareness."

Vince moved his speech from the main floor to inside the model home, where he performed a demonstration of the blower door. Vince answered several important questions, including how to insulate a garage, whether it matters if the combustion appliance is in the garage, and how to evaluate solar thermal heaters and tankless water heaters.

Here are some video samples from Everblue's Instagram account:

We concluded the event with a raffle. The prizes included a complimentary seat in our Certified Sustainability Manager course and a travel poker set!

We want to thank Sustain Charlotte for inviting us to host their monthly mixer. We also want to encourage local residents to attend some of the upcoming events, including the Eco Expo and Climate Change Hearing. You can find more information about these events at the Sustain Charlotte website.

By Lesley Cowie