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Charlotte needs better sustainability
Report offers suggestions for city's livability
Published Tuesday, August 12, 2014 2:21 pm
by Herbert L. White

Charlotte needs to cut back on its carbon footprint in order to remain livable, according to a new report.

The study, published last week by Sustain Charlotte, found that air quality and energy use exceed national averages as sprawl continues its march across the region. Local and county public officials joined Sustain Charlotte Executive Director Shannon Binns at a press conference to announce the release of the inaugural “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card: Scoring Our Economic, Environmental, and Social Health.” The report card is an independently researched and written assessment of the region’s health using 57 metrics spanning nine issues.

Using years of data from multiple sources, the authors generated a report card for each issue and provided 94 recommendations for how Charlotte-Mecklenburg can accelerate progress. The nine issues assessed include: Air Quality, Energy Use, Equity + Empowerment, Food, Jobs + Income, Land Use, Transportation, Waste, and Water Use.  

“We’ve taken an objective, quantitative approach to assessing our progress on the issues that affect the quality of life for today’s residents as well as those who come after us,” Binns said. “We hope our leaders as well as all residents who call Mecklenburg home will take our recommendations to heart, and make the choices we must make to ensure a vibrant future.”

“Through this report, Sustain Charlotte has held up a mirror for us to reflect on where we are making progress and where we are not. This is a vital contribution as it helps us know what we need to focus on, and I am committed to taking the necessary steps to put our community on a sustainable path,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

Added Charlotte City Council member John Autry:  “Charlotte aspires to be a national leader and this report provides valuable insights and recommendations that will help us achieve this goal — if we act on them.”  

The report recommended:

• Providing more safe, affordable, and convenient alternatives to driving, and replacing suburban sprawl with more compact, walkable, and transit-oriented development are critical steps to improve our air quality.

• Ambitious and achievable goals for increasing local renewable energy use and provide information locally to help meet those goals, as well as work with federal and state governments to continue tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

• Give existing communities priority for economic development funding to encourage infill development, reuse or improvement of existing structures for pedestrian-centric growth.

• Provide incentives such as reduced permitting fees to reduce the up-front construction cost of full-service grocery stores as infill development in food deserts, as well as zoning for the use of city and county properties for temporary farmers’ markets.

• Improve wages and employment by identifying the pool of unfilled jobs and unemployed workers, and develop workforce training.

• Plan future land use strategically by developing policy documents that set specific measurable goals.

* Increase transportation spending for transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure by decreasing spending for expanding road capacity in outlying areas, which contribute to sprawl.

• Enact a so-called “pay as you throw” pricing system for residents to discourage waste generation and encourage waste reduction strategies such as recycling and composting.

• Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department should continue water audits, benchmarking, and project the impact of climate change into long-term plans to target consumption reductions.

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