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markey

Is Charlotte a "green" city?

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Hi,

We are thinking of moving to Charlotte from Greensboro and I'm wondering if Charlotte is what one would consider a "green" city. Does the city participate in a recycling program and what is the overall feeling of the residents of Charlotte regarding the environment? Are there any home improvement stores in Charlotte that specialize in green products for the home?

BTW-I am not comparing Charlotte to Greensboro, however since Charlotte is larger and growing at a much quicker rate I'm thinking this might be a hotter topic with residents in Charlotte?

Thanks so much in advance!

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I'll keep my response generic since I don't know specifics, but from what I've gathered, Charlotte doesn't score well nationally in terms of things like pollution, and I can't argue that the air quality here isn't wonderful. but I can say that charlotte has far more 'greenage' than I was used to (being from Buffalo) and is very clean, pretty much everywhere you go, by urban standards. And yes, there is a recycling program.

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I think it is typical of any sunbelt city, where environmentalism isn't a consensus value. However, I think there are many parts of the city with people who do.

The city itself does the basics for the environment, like recycling. It also is a national leader on redeveloping brownfields. You could consider the city's commitment to infill development, transit development, and transit-oriented development as being strong commitments to trying to make the city more sustainable and green. City projects, however, often don't pursue green sustainability with much vigor.

The city's two major employers, Wachovia and Bank of America, both have office buildings going up that are pursuing LEED certification.

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I would say that by most measures, that Charlotte is not a green city but it is making some progress. It has had recycling at homes for almost 15 years and has been slowing extending it to businesses and apartments. It is building a fairly significant transit system of buses and rail. But for the most part it is a city that is almost completely dependent upon the automobile and as a result has some of the worst air pollution in the entire USA. It's remarkable how bad it is given there are only 1.5M in the metro. In this regard you are not going to find any differences from Greensboro.

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We give ATL a run for their money smogwise. Charlotte is nowhere near "green". Our metro favors sprawl over everything else and green buildings are viewed as nice novelties to have here and there in Uptown to falsely appear that people care, but this business town will never have a green ethic overall.

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Green buildings are never false. I think corporations do not have human character traits. That are what they do. If they build a LEED certified building, they have done something 'green'.

I do agree, however, that all but a select few developers in this country are entirely focused on sprawl. But in comparison to Greensboro, and almost all other sunbelt cities, that is standard.

Also, our air is bad for many reasons. For one, we get Atlanta's air when they are done with it. We also have lots of trees, which are an important factor in smog production when the other pollution factors are there. Those pollution factors are there in this city for one reason: Duke Energy's obsession with coal power.

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I know that the few LEED buildings in this town are and will be authentic. I was pointing out that their small number and general lack of motivation to encourage a comprehensive plan illustrates Charlotte's blase attitude towards green structures.

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Definitely. I especially fault the city for not pursuing green structures. I would far rather have a 1% green ordinance than a 1% public art ordinance. Supposedly, many LEED features that do a lot of good only add 1% to the cost of a structure. It is a matter of major savings for those features being almost the same cost if worked into the design of the building.

For a very tiny example, they have water-free urinals now, that cost a little more than regular ones, but also save on plumbing costs.

There are also simple things like changing the orientation of the building, the color of the glass, etc. We also all know that the green roofs save money in the long term in cooling costs and roof maintenance. Those would greatly benefit city projects as they must plan maintenance and operating costs into the costs of a building, as there is no transference of the costs.

Sadly, the city is not really pursuing that at this time, even though the banks are starting to incorporate those features.

Hopefully, a new city manager in a younger generation might be more willing to consider a paradigm shift in this area.

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I guess we should be glad about what we do have. McCrory is actually pretty supportive of green buildings, but I guess with all the other pressing issues this is considered a "vanity" when in reality these buildings are cost saving and environmentally friendly.

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I agree. But this city does have a very controversial requirement to spend 1% of a project total on art. While that is a bit misleading, as I think that also includes architectural upgrades from the most utilitarian of structures, it is still more of a vanity than a 1% green/sustainability requirement. I agree with you whole-heartedly that such a requirement would save the city money in the long run. What is usually considered an externality for most in private enterprise is actually a direct or indirect cost for government entities such as cities. Water requirements and runoff directly cost the city by way of their utilities department. Pollution indirectly costs them in the potential for losing federal funds, and in health costs. Maintenance and energy costs are obviously direct costs of owning the building for a long period of time. The unique nature of most city projects usually means they are stuck with the building for a very long period of time. It isn't like an office building that can simply be re-leased. A Nascar Museum or arena will be in city hands for its entire lifespan.

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Charlotte is about as green as any other city, that is, not very much so. It is technically "greener" because we don't have a huge legacy of brownfields that you would find in cities like Buffalo, St. Louis and Cleveland.

From a planning perspective, there are not any particularly progressive policies to incent more green development. The city has not taken the lead, like Chicago, in promoting green-development. The air quality is okay, at best. We could eventually face some water supply issues if drought conditions, like we experienced back in 2001-2002, reoccur.

Overall Charlotte's "sustainability" is a reflection of the local culture and its appreciation for nature versus consumption. Consumption is winning.

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I would say that by far the most green part of Mecklenburg is Davidson.

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Not many cities are taking the lead that Chicago is. I sure wish the city would. My number one request would be to do a green roof park, like Chicago did, on top of the convention center. Not only would it connect the pedestrian path along the rail tracks, which are cut off by the convention center. But it would create much needed greenspace uptown, replacing a very ugly roof.

But it would also reduce cooling costs and maintenance costs for that roof that cost the city quite a bit each year.

On the 'green city' thing, it is good to note that this metro area is getting a major environmental museum designed by the leader in sustainable design, William McDonough. That is care of Mrs. McColl. It will be the Museum of Life and Environment in York County, SC, near Carowinds.

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I don't know if this has been posted already but I figured this was as good a place as any despite the many threads that have come up on the subject.

The Southern Spring Show will have a green building pavillion this year. You can check out the info at this site www.southernshows.com

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I've been thinking about this thread lately and something really tiny has kept happening and thought it is a small symbol of this city's non-green culture. Twice in the last two weeks a have picked up a drink at a drug store and opened it while paying. Both times, the lady tried to put it in a bag. When I declined, in both cases she threw it out rather than using it for the person directly behind me. I think to most in Charlotte, that event wouldn't even be noticed. Do you guys agree?

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I agree, but I think that has more to do with American culture in general than Charlotte. What is lacking in Charlotte are the non-chain Green food co-ops where the mindset is more to preserve the environment.

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We need a radical overhaul of our tax system to incent green development. Property should not be taxed on economic value. For instance, if I spend $500,000 to build a 1,500 square foot house that uses all the green bells and whistles, I should not have to pay property taxes on the exchange value. Policies need to provide better incentives to builders and consumers who engage in more sustainable behavior.

Likewise, we need to consider all of Mecklenburg County as "urban" rather than dichotomizing it into "urban" and "suburban." The University, for instance, is only 9 miles from Uptown. The ordinances governing development treat the area like it is suburban, thus low-density. The opposite is true. In some of the setbacks on Mallard Creek Church Road, you could build entire villages.

Perhaps the latest climate change report will spur needed changes in our culture, but I'm not optimistic. It's hard to change our throwaway mentality.

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It's funny you bring the bag situation up Dub. I've been buying things in Boone and have noticed how so many places in Boone ask you if you even want a bag or not. Sometimes, for mundane items like books and sodas, it's only offered as an after thought, like "oh, do want a bag?" with almost an assumption of, "why would you want a bag for one book?". I pretty much always decline. Perhaps this has to do with the more environmentally minded population. Perhaps this is because Boone is a college town where a good number of the residents are students who are probably already carrying a bag and would just assume toss it in their backpacks. I do think advising cashiers that a bag is not necessary is one way to get them to think in a more environmentally sound manner. Perhaps if enough people refuse, they will ask next time someone only brings a drink to the counter.

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It definitely does, app. I guess societal values are simply the aggregation of many individual values. Clearly that event was just indicative of that one person alone. However, as we have many experiences, it starts to be a random sampling, for the building of what is theoritically the view of that society. In my experience, places like Boone have populations that are much much more eco-minded. Charlotte does not. There are exceptions, but in general, not.

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In reality, the bag issue has more to do with cashier training than anything else. Chances are, their attitude is formed primarily by the decisions of some corporate think-tank in New York; personal views are usually going to be secondary to on-the-job training.

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Well, I just went to the Home and Garden show because of the "Green Building Pavilion", which I thought was going to showcase all sorts of green technology. Um, it was four stands, one to sell homes on Lake Wylie, another to sell some sort of mystery insulation, another to that sold solar systems, and a fourth that sold solar water heater-radiant floor heating systems. Out of the thousands of stands at that place, it was 4 in the green pavilion.

Furthermore, there were silk and plastic flowers everywhere. There were stands for plastic decking materials (why use a natural, renewable, and non-toxic material when we can ship in petrochemicals from the middle east and form it into a product that emits all sorts of fun stuff when exposed to sunlight). There were stands for spray-on vinyl siding. There were hundreds of stands showing concrete bricks and pavers to look like stone. Apparently no one saw the irony of using machinery to crush actual stones, adding portland cement (which creates significant pollution during creation), and adding dyes to make it look like a cheap knock-off of actual stones.

Then, while leaving, I get a "Du yooh vuhte uhn Muhckluhnbuhg Cahnty, sahn theis tuh luhwer yer sayles tahkses?" (Loosely translated to "Do you vote in Mecklenburg County? Sign this to lower your sales taxes"). Of course, plenty of people were signing it without thinking. This is, of course, the petition to repeal the transit tax.

Is this place "green"? I'm going to have to say a big NO.

EDIT: I also just remembered that they were selling synthetic pine straw, and 'Amish-built' plastic rocking chairs. Nice.

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Furthermore, there were silk and plastic flowers everywhere. There were stands for plastic decking materials (why use a natural, renewable, and non-toxic material when we can ship in petrochemicals from the middle east and form it into a product that emits all sorts of fun stuff when exposed to sunlight). There were stands for spray-on vinyl siding. There were hundreds of stands showing concrete bricks and pavers to look like stone. Apparently no one saw the irony of using machinery to crush actual stones, adding portland cement (which creates significant pollution during creation), and adding dyes to make it look like a cheap knock-off of actual stones.

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That's amazing - How did we get to this point? Almost makes it seem impossible for us to get out of our current cluster.

What are ya gonna do!?

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I'd agree with most others in the sense that Charlotte hasn't had the best track record historically, especially in the 60s thru the early 90s where the city grew (like most sunbelt cities) outward via low density, auto-oriented growth... but good corporate stewardship, urban growth in the core and the overall reaization that suburban growth cannot continue unchecked, has led Charlotte to pursue some impressive initiatives in the past 10 years or so towards a more "green" and generally sustainable future. Maintaining the transit tax thru this difficult period and finding additional funding for the TAP and other sustainable infrustructure intiatives will be key for Charlotte to stay on course IMO.

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