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September 5, 2013

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Tennessee Environmental Council opens office downtown

It was a fitting location for a rare evening. The crowd arrived at The Crash Pad, the only LEED-certified “boutique hostel” in the world.  A broad cross section of representatives from business, academia, government, environmental organizations and neighborhoods gathered outdoors for food, beverages and networking. They’d come to witness the launch of Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC)’s new satellite office for the SE Tennessee Region.

Overheard in conversation:

“I’m here for my [green] business, but there’s not a more important issue than environment.  I wanted to be with like-minded people.”

“I’m a former lobbyist.  I want to get involved.”

“Do you know about National Plug-In Day?”

“Teachers don’t get much, if any, developmental training about environment and environment education.”

“I am impressed with the diversity and enthusiasm of the people I have met here. All seem to be working on air, land and water issues.” 

Dr. John McFadden, the Council’s executive Director, greeted the crowd. “Natural resources are important to both community quality of life and the economy,” he said. He pushed for actions to preserve the environment, encouraging use of solar power, energy efficiency, and demand-side management through programs such as TVA/EPB’s Green Power Switch. These last can lower the need for mountaintop-removal coal mining methods that hurt tourism jobs, he pointed out. He noted that the TEC also works to restore urban rivers and streams, including through the planting of trees. Last year, the TEC planted 25,000 trees across Tennessee.  

McFadden introduced Tina Crawford, the new SE Tennessee Regional Director, now based in Chattanooga.  Crawford has already led an educational program for youth during the Alton Park Development Corporation Summer Program. This youth group gained knowledge of city creeks as they tested for water quality, picked up trash, caught aquatic animals, planted trees, and enjoyed canoeing.  

 “I’m so honored to be able to be part of TEC’s work, “ said Crawford. “I want to take your ideas and turn them into action for the benefit of the region’s environment and us in it.” 

Mayor Andy Berke expressed his approval of TEC’s heightened presence in the area.  

“We live in one of the most amazing places in the world,” he stated. “We can see beauty in the heart of our city. We care about the environment around us. While there are only [a few] miners in Tennessee and while those jobs are important to them, there are about 150,000 jobs in tourism. We must take care of our environment. “

The group was asked to list suggestions on what TEC could do to help the environment in Southeast Tennessee.  Suggestions included: 

Fund selenium testing in mine drainage in Rock Creek drainage (North Hamilton County)

Save our watersheds

Environmental education for students and teachers 

Progressive recycling and composting programs for residential and commercial industries

Better energy efficiency programs for businesses

Inform the public about the real problems fracking causes

Why should TEC want to set up a special focus here in Chattanooga?  After all, aren’t we the Environmental City, risen from ashes of America’s most-polluted city and leading the way for clean air, sustainable development and green building in Tennessee?  Don’t people praise our city for our greenway system, outdoor recreation, fiber optics/Smart Grid technology, Climate Action work, increase of city tree canopy, and our “Chattanooga Way” long used to include citizen input in community planning?  

As long as all our streams are still on the state “threatened and impaired” list, our sewer system requires serious updating, we can’t easily walk or bike for daily supplies, our energy comes from unhealthy sources used inefficiently, we have food deserts, we are not adequately addressing the impact of climate disruption, and our native biodiversity, floodplains, and forests are disappearing due to urban sprawl and development, there is still much work still to do.

Chattanooga may be ahead of other Tennessee cities, but from the global perspective, no place in the U.S. is sustainable. October 20, 2012 was  Global Overshoot Day. That was the day when our demand on the planet’s resources exceeded, or “overshot” what Earth can regenerate each year. According to annual ecological measurements tracked by Global Footprint Network, it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we all used yearly. Rather than liquidating Earth’s resources, can our region model the way to more resource-efficient lifestyles?  With the TEC in town, we have another leg-up helping us move in that direction.   

The new TEC office is located at 302 West 6th Street in downtown Chattanooga.   

(423) 364-4619, tina@tectn.org

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September 5, 2013