Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And much of the leadership and innovation in the environmental movement today is coming from individuals, working at the local level. Many people are no longer content to wait for the federal government or major corporations to address the many critical issues surrounding climate change and environmental degradation. At first glance, Charleston might not seem to be a leader in the green revolution, but a closer look reveals initiatives at all levels. Our community is truly fortunate to have many individuals who are not only passionate about the environment, but actively making a difference.
Below, we highlight some of these people and provide links to a number of websites where you can learn more about our local green movement. This is by no means a comprehensive list. We’ll highlight other individuals and initiatives in the future.
Charleston's long-time Mayor, Joe Riley, was among the first of more than 200 US mayors representing more than 100 million Americans to sign the Kyoto accords on global warming. Signers to the Kyoto accords pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 7 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2012. Charleston has made progress toward that goal by implementing measures such as using less wasteful vehicles for municipal services, installing more efficient streetlights, enhancing the efficiency of heating and air conditioning systems, and installing low flow water devices in city buildings. Riley formed the Green Committee to provide leadership promoting a prosperous, environmentally sustainable community and to inspire individuals and organizations to take actions that help make Charleston a model of healthy and ecologically sustainable living. As a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, Mayor Riley was actively involved in promoting sustainable management of our marine environments. Riley told the commission that with half the U.S. population living along the coast and millions more visiting each year, “we are loving our coasts to death.”
In 1999, Jim Augustin and John Knott founded The Sustainability Institute in 1999 to promote healthy and environmentally sound practices for home building and renovation. The institute’s demonstration model home, The GreenHouse, in North Charleston is a 1940’s era house that was renovated and retrofitted to create a real-world example of sustainable living. The institute provides community education through workshops and special programs. Bryan Cordell is the Executive Director for the institute. Get more information at their website.
Justin Baden, Gregory Heath, Melanie Milonas, Chad Norman, Jennifer Norman, and Jennifer Mathis run a great online community called Go Green Charleston. Their mission is “to educate Charleston-area citizens on how to lessen their impact on the environment and plan for a sustainable future”. They regularly post informative articles with tips for green living and community news and information. See them on the internet at www.gogreencharleston.org. While this site has been active in recent years, you will still find a wealth of information posted in prior years.
In addition to contributing to Go Green Charleston, Jennifer Mathis started the Little Green Bag Project to promote reusable shopping bags and thereby reduce the amount of plastic bags entering the waste stream. She sells bags made from “EcoSpun”, a recycled material composed of 100% post-consumer content. Each bag is numbered and carries a logo of a local area sponsor.
Dean Johnson and Jason Cronen started a Charleston chapter of Green Drinks. This organization was originally founded in London, England in 1989 to encourage “an open meeting of people with diverse interests in the environment, who make spontaneous and random connections that enhance their understanding and appreciation of the world.” The group welcomes everyone and meets monthly for what has come to be known as Charleston's Green Happy Hour. See their blog for more info. Dean owns Eco Design Partners, a local design/build consulting firm. Jason's company, Ad-Naps, focuses on compostable, environmentally-friendly, corn-based packaging for the hospitality and restaurant industries.
Jamee Hayley is the executive director of Lowcountry Local First, a nonprofit group that promotes independent businesses and farms in our region. They educate the public on the importance of supporting the local economy and encourage businesses and consumers to be environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. Find out more about them at their website.
Chris and Elizabeth Fisher have been providing recycling services in Charleston since 1992. Fisher Recycling makes the rounds of local restaurants to collect used cooking oil for fueling their truck fleet and to pick up food scraps for composting. They make beautiful countertops and other products from the glass and other materials they recycle. They actively promote recycling in the community – a waste audit they conducted for Charleston Place resulted in their saving $58,000 annually by demonstrating how much they could save by not throwing recyclables in the dumpster. Their website is www.fisherrecycling.com.
Drew and Suzie Franyo started Evergreen Concepts) in Mount Pleasant to help homeowners build and remodel homes in a sustainable way. Evergreen Concepts showcased regional green businesses and provided consumer education and consultation services. Later, these two entrepreneurs went on to create the Charleston Green Fair featuring hundreds of companies to thousands of attendees.
Mickey and Caroline Brennan operate The Sprout café in Mount Pleasant , South Carolina’s most earth-friendly restaurant. They feature delicious vegan, organic, raw food and smoothies served in biodegradable containers. See their menu and more information on their website.
Tony Bakker is leading many commercial enterprises to adopt more sustainable practices. As CEO and majority owner of the Charleston Battery, he recently engaged The Sustainability Institute to conduct an energy audit of Blackbaud Stadium, home to the soccer team. As a result, the stadium has recently installed solar panels, installed a geothermal HVAC system for the office building, implemented a recycling program, and taken many other steps to create a greener playing field. Tony is building a Hilton Garden Inn on Daniel Island that will meet LEED silver standards – possibly the first “green hotel” in the state. His future home (a renovation of the former Navy Degaussing Station) and a restaurant planned for downtown Charleston will also meet LEED standards.
Throughout our area, we have real estate developers, architects, and builders leading the way in creating greener buildings and residences. We also have many people working diligently to protect our natural resources through regional organizations like the Coastal Conservation League and local chapters of national groups like the Sierra Club. We’ll highlight many of these leaders and their projects in future postings.