• Perhaps Nature Hasn’t Lost Its Meaning After All

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    By Alexis X.A. Roberts

    If sustainability is defined as the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely, it stands to reason that those behaviors must be conducive to life itself. Sustainability has often been viewed as being simply ecological in nature: The experts have tied our survival as a species to our management of natural capital. Yet, true sustainability must also consider the many aspects of day-to-day living, which includes an interconnected web of factors. More than simply nature, meaning is at the heart of why we fight to sustain the good within our daily lives. The  list of people in Savannah who not only live, but work with a sustainable future in mind seems to grow by the month. Our team has been seeking to connect with these people , and we’ve found many.

    Four weeks ago, we were presented with the opportunity to speak with many of Savannah’s Good Work Giants across a range of industries, including the built environment, urban planning, the service + retail sectors, food, design and even community. From the planter to the builder, these small businesses represent the potential for Savannah to truly lead as a sustainable city of the future. Despite their differences, the links between the individuals who run these organizations go far beyond the simple need to exist or compete as a business; they are connected by the need to give back in a meaningful way.


    As one example of the presence of sustainability business advocate in Savannah, we recently sat down with Kerry Shay, founder of Victory Gardens. On the plight of Savannah’s sustainability advocates, Kerry finds it quite a challenge. “I think on a personal level with respect to sustainability, we would like to be a bit more sustainable as a business but, a lot of times things are a bit more expensive.

    Juggling our questions and his young daughter, Kerry spoke on the difficulty of competing in a chemical heavy industry. “Our industrial economy produces these cheap fossil fuel dependent resources, so you’re competing in a marketplace with those things. People are not used to paying a premium price for more sustainable products even if they are a more responsible product. So for me it’s having to weigh the dynamics of each option. I need to have customers to stay in business, but I do want to run my business in a way that is sustainable.

    Describing the “uncertain” nature of their process, Kerry shares the necessity of choosing when to fight and when to compromise. “Because we’re not producing one mass produced item I can’t design one thing and design a sustainable process behind that deliverable because each new project has its own set of design factors,” Kerry said. “Trying to integrate those and living in the real world requires that we understand that we have to make some sacrifices to make some projects work. I think that we’re also in the same place as a lot of small businesses. Getting started and taking leaps in our business takes enormous amounts of energy and at times, capital that we don’t always have access to. So our growth has been in fits and starts.

    His responses were thoughtful, never rushed. Pauses frequented his answers. Shay ended the interview with his take on the embedded responsibility of sharing his beliefs and knowledge with others. For him, this work has weight but significance.

    It’s heavy; heavy for sure. I think that people who are aware have the burden and responsibility to bring our need for Sustainable Thinking into focus. It’s about trying to help people who are fine with the status quo but don’t understand that this very quo isn’t something sustainable, to use the catch word. The way we go about living isn’t going to continue to work indefinitely because we have one planet and it has limits. If we don’t learn to live within those limits, nature will teach us. It can be depressing or burdensome to have that knowledge but it can also be viewed as a great responsibility. We don’t have to sit on our hands wait for the worst to come. We should do what we can and teach other people to do the same.

    We have personally seen that the push to do good work is a common endeavor. In light of this process we stand inspired by everyday people who share our interest in seeking a more responsible future. That said, small businesses do struggle a great deal to move forward with their purpose. We all long to stand under the promising sun of tomorrow, but must also wrestle the problems of today. There is indeed a great deal of work to do if we mean to secure the opportunity; it’s a privilege to do just that. Many signals point to the natural world around us. Nature can be both resource and mentor. Perhaps Nature has not lost its meaning after all.

    We’d like to thank the Good Work Giants for sharing their time, expertise and experience with us.

    -The U.S.T. Collective -

  • Savannah Green Map: Sneak Peek

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    By Claire Partlow

    What if we could empower communities worldwide to form networks supporting the core beliefs of Sustainability? What if we could unite local businesses, leaders, artists, teachers, suppliers and every day civilians? What if there was a website that compiled data about all the sustainable businesses in your area? Guess what…it exists! Look no further than The Green Map! The Green Map is a tool developed by Thomas Turnbull, Lela Prasa, Wendy E. Brawer, Marissa Feinberg and many other contributors of The Green Map Organization. The mission of the Green Map is to “engage communities worldwide in mapping green living, nature and cultural resources”.

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  • “Ending an Era, Starting a Revolution”

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    by: Claire Partlow

    Most people would agree the Industrial Revolution rapidly transformed the quality of life in the United States and created the concept of the “American Dream.” Industrialization of numerous countries around the world also took place around the same time.  Overall, people around the world were overjoyed by the advancements in medicine, public education, and material wellbeing. However, innovation came at a price.

    Approximately 195 years later, the United States is “consuming 25 percent of the world’s fossil fuels with only 5 percent of the population” (Senge, 2008, p. 5). This lifestyle of mass-consumerism and overconsumption has devastated the natural environment and created global social inequity. Now we must reevaluate the ideologies that lead us to where we are.

    According to Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution, humanity is destined for extinction if we don’t succeed in the notorious “80/20 Challenge”. Senge explains that the global community must succeed in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in the next 20 years if we are to have a hope of saving the Earth from reaching the “tipping point” of ecological destruction.

    You may be wondering, “How is an 80 percent reduction in emissions even possible?”  When humanity’s impending doom is at stake, we must find a way. Succeeding at the 80/20 Challenge is possible. However, all of Earth’s citizens must first admit to ourselves that the Era of Industrialization is unsustainable.

    As a global community, it is imperative that we find it in ourselves to commit to creating a sustainable revolution in the way we live, work and collaborate. We must find a way to thrive together in harmony with the environment, in order to create a truly sustainable world. Endings are not truly the end, but merely the beginning of something new.

    Please stay tuned to this blog to learn more about what a SCAD Sustainable Practices in Design will be doing in Savannah to help drive the kind of change we need. For some background on what’s been done in the past through SCAD’s Design for Sustainability program, you can look all the way back to 2011 on this blog, at a time we were preparing for SCAD’s Design Ethos DO-ference in 2012. Since then, one class after another, one thesis student after another, one intern after another, we’ve been finding ways to help amplify the voices of champions for sustainable change, here in Savannah and beyond.

    And keep reading to find out how we will carry on this legacy.

    “The Industrial Age was not planned but innovated. The next age will be no different…” –Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution

    Ready to take action? Keep following us to learn more what you can do here in Savannah. And here’s how you can learn more about some principles of sustainability and join the revolution:

    1) Business Alliance for Local Living Economies

    2) The Necessary Revolution –Peter Senge

    3) Racing Extinction