When you consider the American South, sustainability and environmental safety initiatives might not be the first thought that involves thoughts.

Maybe it’s entrance porches, candy tea and sweltering summers. We’ve nonetheless acquired all that, however in Chattanooga we’re working collectively to make strides in solar energy, green transportation, preserving pure assets that make our area stellar for getting outside and extra.

Let’s take a new look at sustainability in the South.

During the 1960s and 70s, many individuals considered Chattanooga as foggy with air pollution — actually not green actually or figuratively. In 1969, the Federal Air Quality Report dubbed Chattanooga the dirtiest U.S. metropolis.

That similar yr, the Chattanooga City Council enacted an air air pollution management ordinance to set new air high quality targets and regulate emissions. Area companies spent $40 million to make sure the metropolis reached air high quality targets by 1972. Spoiler alert: as a metropolis, we did. The Environmental Protection Agency started utilizing Chattanooga’s strategy as a national model

Over many many years, re-inventing our future has turn into a part of Chattanooga’s DNA. Our metropolis gives a case examine for what it takes to turn into a metropolis devoted to sustainability.

Some areas historically heavy in manufacturing haven’t been leaders in relation to climate change and shifting to renewable energy, however our environmental influence is now not one thing we are able to ignore. In Chattanooga, a important mass of native enterprise willpower, nationwide experience and funding, native coverage shifts, scalable tech options and nonprofit involvement introduced our metropolis from “the dirtiest” in 1969 to being twice voted “Outside” magazine’s Best Town Ever.

Climate change resiliency in the South

Communities profit from collaborating inside their metropolis and past as they prioritize sustainability. This yr in Chattanooga, native sustainability nonprofit green|areas launched an built-in group sustainability plan and City of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced a regional resiliency council of mayors and commissioners in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.

The purpose? Making Southern cities extra resilient to altering climate — together with improved emergency response, catastrophe prevention and resiliency planning help for companies.

In 2016, Chattanooga dedicated to SolSmart, a Department of Energy (DOE) program recognizing cities, counties and regional organizations for making it sooner, simpler and extra inexpensive to go solar. More not too long ago, the metropolis of Chattanooga unveiled its first solar project for a water and wastewater therapy facility: a 10-acre solar farm to power a portion of the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment plant.

The metropolis of Chattanooga has cut energy use by 30 percent since 2013, attaining the biggest energy use depth financial savings of 25 contributors in the DOE Better Buildings problem.

Sustainable initiatives that protect high quality of place create an avenue for financial progress and expertise retention throughout communities.

Examples in Chattanooga embrace green|spaces applications like Build it Green, green|gentle enterprise certification, Green and Healthy Homes and Chattanooga Green Prix.

Another nonprofit company, Thrive Regional Partnership, ignites accountable progress in the tri-state Chattanooga area, believing financial progress and environmental preservation improve each other. 

Impressive solar progress

National tax incentives and a urgent environmental want for energy diversification have made solar energy extra accessible than ever earlier than. The U.S. added 10.6 gigawatts of solar capability in 2018, and not too long ago cracked its 2 millionth put in solar system. 

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy projected in April this yr that solar power will greater than double throughout the South by 2022 from final yr’s stage. 

Solar initiatives have turn into a important a part of Chattanooga’s dedication to sustainability. The Chattanooga Airport, Volkswagen Chattanooga and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee collectively generate greater than 15 megawatts of solar energy.

Soaring over the Chattanooga Airport by aircraft, guests spot a area of reflective solar panels close to the runway. Before touchdown, they might spy Volkswagen’s 33-acre solar farm six miles northeast of the airport. A couple of extra miles west, utility chief EPB’s solar-share area sparkles solely blocks away from the metropolis’s charging station for its free electric-powered buses.

Businesses throughout the county have a distinctive alternative to steer in sustainability, benefitting their communities and boosting enterprise.

Volkswagen’s solar fields are Tennessee’s largest. Volkswagen’s unique $1 billion Chattanooga funding grew to become the first Platinum LEED-certified automobile plant in the world. In 2018, Volkswagen introduced a Chattanooga plant expansion to construct electrical automobiles.

Major Chattanooga employer BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will full set up of 10,000 solar panels in summer season 2019 at its Gold LEED-certified headquarters. The solar panels will offset a median of 25 p.c of utility power and on peak manufacturing days will contribute again to the energy grid.

Tennessee Valley Authority, serving 80,000 sq. miles in the Southeast, expects to triple its solar portfolio by 2021 as utility-scale solar turns into more economical.

Solar panels and electrical automobiles characterize a bigger story of people that prioritize sustainability as they handle utilities, companies, authorities and nonprofits in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.

The Chattanooga instance

Chambers of commerce are positioned to provoke large-scale endeavors by collaborative management. Chattanooga’s Velocity2040 initiative collated what hundreds of Chattanooga residents need their group to appear like in 20 years. The resulting vision prioritizes sustainability and good progress by schooling excellence, financial mobility, inclusion and collaboration.

Velocity2040 consists of a “20 minutes or less” purpose to supply the regional group with green transportation to get from level A to B in lower than 20 minutes. Green journeys addresses this by a $600,000 three-year program encouraging extra environment friendly transportation by schooling, incentives, carpooling, biking and telecommuting.  

It takes critical funding, planning and communication to align assets. The extra group members at the desk, the extra everybody helps create an oasis of sustainability.

Every time Chattanoogans fly house and glimpse the Chattanooga Airport’s solar fields, they see a visible illustration of the area’s resiliency. If Chattanooga can flip issues round, fellow communities in the Southeast and past can too.

Together, we’re constructing a sustainable future for companies and folks to thrive.

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Christy Gillenwater is President and CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.

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