• Three Cities that Savannah Should Look to for Inspiration When it Comes to Resilience

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    Let’s get inspired about what the city of Savannah could become.

    By Jenna Bowers

    Any successful research project begins with some in-depth secondary research. For us, that meant looking into case studies of cities that are doing it right. Because we are searching for a way to foster a more resilient Savannah, we found it appropriate to look into the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. 100 Resilient Cities works with cities worldwide to build resilience to the growing social, economic, and physical challenges of the 21st century.

    Now, you might be asking – what do we mean by a resilient city?

    A resilient city is one that can both survive and thrive — regardless of the challenge. It is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to adapt and grow no matter what kinds of stresses and shocks they may experience.

    In total, our team researched 20 different resilient city case studies. From these, we selected the top 3 case studies that we felt best informed our project development: Denver, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Mexico City, Mexico.

    Denver, Colorado

    Photo courtesy of Drunken Peasants

     “Resilience is integrated and enculturated into everything we do — a set of behaviors we practice every day, not simply when someone needs help.”

    Addressing climate change has been a priority in Denver. They have a breadth of programs to expand energy efficiency and water use, improve commitment to renewable energy, protect the tree canopy in urban areas, and have even implemented a city wide Environmental Management System.

    While Savannah can learn a lot from Denver’s passion for sustainability, we are more concerned with programs involving the citizens of the Mile High Capitol of Colorado and what they have done to make their city more resilient.

    Through our research, we found just that. Denver has found that strong food systems support resiliency of the community in the face of an uncertain future. The Denver Food Vision is an extensive public engagement process that included businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and members of the general public supporting community listening sessions across 11 districts.

    So far, they have produced spectacular results centered around food systems and feeding the community. These discussion are started with important figures of the community to spark healthy conversation around something we all need to survive; healthy food.

    New Orleans, Louisiana 

    Photo courtesy of Carnaval

    New Orleans has its obvious need for resilience. While Savannah, thankfully, has not endured everything New Orleans has in the past, many of the stresses and shocks are similar. From the health of the coastal geography, equitable opportunities for the citizens, and transit for people to stay connected throughout the city.

    New Orleans has three main areas of concern, the first being a maintained healthy relationship with their unique coastal geography. This includes restoring and protecting the coast, managing urban water, incentivizing property owners to retrofit their homes to reduce risk from natural disasters, and integrating environmental awareness programs.

    Like Savannah, New Orleans is also concerned with providing equitable opportunities for all New Orleanians. From investing in the financial stability of low-income households to increasing workforce participation. We feel we can learn from New Orleans’s hard work in homicide reduction, public safety, social cohesion, and expanding access to affordable housing. All of the work they are doing to provide opportunities would be wasted if people don’t have access to them.

    They are also working to improve their transit system to better connect people to services and employment, promoting sustainability as a growth strategy (hooray!), and a pre-disaster plan for post-disaster recovery.

    Mexico City, Mexico

    Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet

    After reading about New Orleans and Denver you might think that Resilience Strategies can be only applied in smaller cities, but what happens when you are in a city with more than 20 million people? Can you really change the environment? Well, that is the case of Mexico City.

    Mexico City (CDMX for branding purposes) is the capital of Mexico, and is the main political, academic, economic, fashion, financial, business and cultural centre of the country. Mexico City was built in a lake area that suddenly became one of the top 10 cities most populated in the world, and as you can imagine, this transformation happened in an era when sustainable practices were not a big concern. Therefore, the city is now facing several environmental, social and economic challenges due to its geographic location and the socio-environmental transformation.

    So how can a city that is this big can address those problems in a resilient way?

    The government of the city decided to establish 5 main goals that will help the city address its main issues. The first of those goals aims to create regional coordination by making a national agenda with the experience of different cities that will function as a guidance for other cities in the country.

    Mexico City is promoting water resilience by taking action in several ways. They are installing temporary rainwater collection systems and water “kiosks” that will allow communities with lack of water to be self-sufficient. The third goal is planning for urban resilience, this means creating public spaces with environmental purposes. Mexico City is promoting the installation of green roofs and vertical gardens (the city has already installed green walls along the highways). The aim is create the first full resilient community!

    Like Denver, they are improving the mobility by making the city friendly for pedestrians and bikers in order to decrease the usage of vehicles. And finally, one of the most interesting goals is implementing campaigns of information so that citizens are always  aware of the actions that are being carried out around them and what they can do about it.

    If a city made stronger by travesty, a city known for its adverse policies, and city with millions of people can align its goals and move into a resilient environment, why not a city like Savannah? Of course it can! Let’s just start the conversation and bring people together!

    Tell us in the comments what you’d like to see in the future of Savannah, and how we might get there together.

  • What Will You ‘Leaf’ Behind?

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    Community members shared their stories – now they’re growing into new life in Savannah’s urban gardens.

    By Gabriela Valez

    Yes it’s a pun. But it’s a pun with good intentions.

    SA/GA is a project that aims to bring people together and foster resilience within the local community of Savannah. It encapsulates the spirit of Savannah’s rich cultural history, uniqueness, inclusiveness, and innovation through stories, relationships, and wisdom.

    These stories become the legacies of the citizens, and our team wanted to find out what those legacies might be. For the Savannah Earth Day Festival in Forsyth Park on April 15th, our team created an opportunity for citizens of Savannah to share their stories. We asked festival goers to “Tell us a story of when you felt close to your community.”

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  • Electrifying Change: Five City Buildings Take the Energy Challenge!

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    By Anaïs Cipriano and Rachel Segrest

    The City of Savannah is known for its beautiful natural elements, and the city’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability is doing its part to preserve that beauty. As one example of many, the department is exploring employee competitions, with the goal of creating a sustainability culture among the city work force. This platform was employed for the first time last year with a campaign to reduce recycling in 5 of the city’s buildings. The Thrive Five recycling campaign was a big success.

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  • Reflections of a Design Manager on Sustainability

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    By Hernan David Maestre Piedrahita

    Design is not easy, it requires consistency and passion. It involves an innate desire for change from individuals who see the rough present and believe that their contribution over time will have a positive impact in their context. Designers understand that creative work will always allow improvement, that to pass from invention to innovation we have to endure a diffusion curve that might seem as an uphill battle, that we need a clear vision, a strong project, and key actors for our project to diffuse and be successful.

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  • Are We More Connected Than We Think We Are?

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    By Jingya Zhang

    On Oct. 31, we were excited to make our midterm workshop happen at Gulfstream Center for Design, home to SCAD’s Design Management and Design for Sustainability programs. With the help of the Department of Environmental Services and Sustainability, we were glad to host several department heads and staff members from city government in a midterm workshop. Our goal was to present our research process, generate insights and concepts derived from 3 weeks of interviews with representatives from a dozen city departments, and determine next steps for the remaining five weeks of our course.

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  • A New Take on Affinitization

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    By Gabi Campagna

    After looking into different city case studies regarding sustainability initiatives and department dynamics, it was time for us to begin our primary research. With the help of the Department of Environmental Services and Sustainability, we were able to contact several department heads within the City of Savannah as interview subjects. Our goal in these interviews is to understand the mission and methods of each city department so that we may find areas of convergence and opportunity for sustainably driven departmental collaboration.

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  • Inspiration from other Sustainability Plans

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    By Beki Diaz

    As our first dive into the topic of sustainability, we decided to start by looking at other cities and how they have started to shift to sustainable practices. We chose a diverse range of cities including Atlanta, Charleston and New York. Not only did cities these provide different approaches, they represent the ideals that the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability looks forward to embracing and incorporating. As we start to work with them to find strategies that can help them move forward, a look at these role-model cities was the best way to understand their goals.

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  • Sustainability from a Design Management Perspective

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    By Pilar Moreno-Azcarate

    Three weeks ago we started a journey of understanding and welcoming sustainability into our practice as design managers.

    In our first week of exploration, we discovered that design management methods and sustainability models are very similar; both are based in systemic thinking and in a holistic approach to problems. This is not a coincidence; both emerge from the urgency of changing the way society has been developing. “The Industrial Age has brought extraordinary improvements in public education, human rights, and material wellbeing, but it has also destroyed ecosystems, swallowed up traditional cultures that had thrived for centuries, and created a way of life that cannot continue for much longer” (Peter Senge, 2008). We are shifting to a new era where the only way to bring development to everyone and guarantee a safe future is transforming our paradigm to start a truly sustainable way of living. This implies changes in how businesses project their vision and structure. Business models need to incorporate systemic thinking: “invest seriously and immediately in building a regenerative economy and society that mimics nature as fully as possible” (Peter Senge, 2008).

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  • Taking the Next Sustainable Step

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    By Claire Partlow

    As our ten-week project has drawn to a close, the UST team reflects on what has been a productive and insightful first step into Sustainable Small Business in Savannah. Throughout this project we have endured a rigorous process of ethnographic research and analysis. We also had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing numerous “champions” of sustainability in Savannah. In addition to our research, we hosted three events to gain feedback from key stakeholders. Through our extensive research process, we were able to discover compelling insights that are supported by data.

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  • How Will Our Next Date Look?

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    By Alexis X.A. Roberts

    Insights are indeed the keys to good design: We had heard from our Green Business stakeholders in Savannah that the existing social events geared toward sustainability in town had grown unfruitful, and a little stale. We responded to this with a Green Speed Dating event. To be clear, we weren’t actually trying to have our Green Business Owners date one another. Instead, this event was meant to introduce our stakeholders to a new way of approaching the existing social landscape of Savannah’s Small Green Business network. Our Green Speed Dating was intended to stimulate conversations around future plans, and around the idea that innovative collaborations between businesses can create the right conditions to nurture those plans.

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