ASHEVILLE – Sustainability directors from 22 cities across four southeastern states met in Asheville June 14 and 15 to share notes and exchange strategies for creating greener and environmentally sound organizations. The Southeast Sustainability Directors Network kicked off its first conference with a series of workshops and sessions designed to spotlight energy and waste reduction techniques that work across southern cities.
“Sustainability looks different in different regions. It’s implemented differently in Boston than it is in Los Angeles,” said Maggie Ullman, Energy Coordinator for the City of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability. “But within our region, we can find a lot of similarities. This network provides us with a forum where we can compare notes and talk about what’s working in the south and what isn’t.”
In January 2008, the City of Asheville became the first city in the region to establish an office of sustainability. Since then, cities across the southeast have established their own sustainability offices. Nationwide, some 100 cities, including Asheville, participate in the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a large-scale platform for sharing information. The SSDN is designed to do the same thing on a regional basis, and sustainability directors from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee attended the launch event.
“This is a new field, but there is a lot of innovation that is happening on the ground,” Ullman said. “Peer to peer communication is the best way for us to learn from one another’s successes.”
From here, network founders Asheville and Knoxville will join seven other cities on a steering committee to work out the best opportunities for shared projects, like LED streetlights and community energy conservation.
One of Asheville City Council’s strategic goals is to be the southeast leader in green energy and environmental sustainability, and regional cooperation is one of the objectives outlined in achieving that goal.