This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the environmental movement commemorated annually as Earth Day. Since 1970, billions of people worldwide have come together on April 22 to take action towards a more sustainable, equitable and resilient future for our planet.
Greater awareness of our environment as well as climate crises comes at a critical time when the just-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, known as IPCC, report warns of the urgency in strong, rapid and sustained reductions in the greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating widespread temperature and weather extremes as well as ecological, social and economic unrest.
United Nation’s Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls our environmental and climate crises “the defining issue of our time.” And what we do, or fail to do, today will have significant implications for generations to come.
Whether globally or locally, these challenges connect and affect us all. Historical hurricanes such as Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018 impacted thousands of lives, homes and businesses not only in Fayetteville, but in surrounding communities, states and beyond.
According to our state’s budget office, these extreme flood and weather events cost over $20 billion in damages, clearly telling us that the cost of inaction is far more destructive and expensive than the life-promoting benefits of sustainable action.
We are living in unprecedented times when our human and environment calls for sustainable action are loud and clear. In response, in 2016 nearly every nation on earth signed the Paris Climate Agreement that addresses climate change mitigation and adaptation.
In 2022, the U.S. federal government enacted the largest environmental, climate and renewable energy legislation in U.S. history. Leading in the south in renewable energy jobs and green innovation, North Carolina has a State Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan.
Also joining forces, with sustainability and climate initiatives, are the major and growing cities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Winston Salem, Asheville, Cary and others.
Fort Bragg, our nation’s largest military installation, not only has comprehensive waste reduction and recycling initiatives but also energy efficiencies that include the largest floating solar array in the southeastern United States.
As the momentum of sustainability is rapidly increasing across cities and nations around the world, our city of Fayetteville has a distinct opportunity to benefit and lead by example.
With greater environmental awareness, unified leadership and bolder climate action, a City of Fayetteville Sustainability Master Plan is inherently defined by meeting the needs of our city today without compromising the regenerative needs of nature or the generational needs of the future. A Sustainable City of Fayetteville would also strive to carefully balance social equity, environmental stewardship, as well as economic prosperity — known as sustainability’s triple bottom line.
The success of our city’s social, environmental and economic initiatives requires a whole-community approach in implementing cleaner, greener solutions. These include:
- 1). Leading by example through integrating sustainability best practices into our city’s decision making thereby maximizing environmental benefits and minimizing negative environmental impacts.
- 2). Cultivating collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders that encourage sustainability education and innovation — not only in city and county government, but also in homes, small businesses, large corporations, school districts, colleges, universities, churches and more.
- 3). Promoting and improving city-wide waste reduction and recycling initiatives that move us beyond a linear material economy and into a circular material economy that reduces, reuses, recycles and composts waste thereby reducing the burden on our rapidly-filling landfills.
- 4). Promoting and incorporating clean and renewable energy efficiencies that include expansions in community solar opportunities, carbon offsets, as well as cleaner multimodal transportation systems that help reduce carbon emission objectives that are aligned with our federal and state priorities.
- 5). Protecting and preserving vital water resources, including the Cape Fear River, which is already bearing the impacts from industries, pollution, and competition, according to researchers.
- 6). Preserving neighborhoods, providing affordable and efficient housing, innovating with greener buildings, and supporting local and small businesses that all collectively support an equitable, sustainable and resilient community and economy.
Investments in the health and wellbeing of our environment are investments in the health and wellbeing of our community and economy — as they are all connected.
Climate-change evidence and environmental-pollution lessons derived from the ongoing prioritization of economic profits over the detrimental impacts on people and planet clearly demonstrate the justice and “rightness” of world-wide, sustainable policies and practices.
Today’s All-American City is a sustainable city that reaps the benefits of greener, innovative action that includes greater environmental awareness, improved resource efficiency, lower waste, cost savings, resident and visitor affinity, brand enhancement, strengthened resiliency, climate adaptation, and more.
In Fayetteville, we can deepen our appreciation for our unity with Mother Earth by harmonizing our Can—Do Carolina mindset with our environmental calls for action as we affirm: “We find a way. We care for one another. We protect the world. We always go further.”
Editor’s note: Anne Schrader is the owner of Eco Solutions, a local company providing sustainable-living services for business, home and community. For more information visit www.ecosolutionsnc.com.