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“By the time the students leave here, they’ll have been affected in a deep way through their own lifestyle,” Howett says. “And when they go out into the world, they’ll live more sustainably.”
Ask Howett, the former director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Georgia and Alabama office, to run through the programs she’s overseen at Emory and her eyes light up.
Underground cisterns store 300,000 gallons of rainwater used to irrigate the campus’s landscaping and flush toilets. Large “heat wheels” ventilate buildings and trap condensate — 4 million gallons each year — to run through the university’s chilled-water system. All new buildings must be LEED-certified and existing buildings must be retrofitted to seal off ducts and save energy. New construction requires 85 percent of materials be recycled. The Cliff, the campus’s transit system, is the second largest people-moving system in metro Atlanta and runs entirely on alternative fuels — predominantly recycled cooking oil from campus cafeterias.
And the meals served in those cafeterias? The university has pledged to make 75 percent of its food locally or sustainably produced by 2015.
“That was really saying we’re going to the moon in four years,” Howett says of the pledge. “But I think there’s something really important when a university makes that kind of statement. It starts to shift things and shows farmers that there’s a demand.”
There are hurdles, however. Whereas other states and utilities offer incentives for colleges to promote energy efficiency, Georgia and its power companies, until recently, offered few such perks.
“We’re not getting state subsidies to build green,” Howett says. “We’re not getting utility subsidies to build green. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer [Research] Center in Seattle is LEED-certified. The difference is, in Seattle, they got $3 million in utility subsidies to build green. We did not.”
Despite the challenges, Howett says, she thinks other colleges — and even communities — can see the success and adopt similar models.
“It’s met the triple-bottom-line: Socially, environmentally and economically, it makes sense. And what a cool case study. If we can do it here, you can do it anywhere.”
Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds, Love Is Love Farm
On a recent Saturday morning at the Cathedral of St. Philip’s farmer’s market in Buckhead, Joe Reynolds opened an overflowing bag of fresh mustard greens, handed me a leaf, and asked me to take a taste.
The leaf snapped and released a mellow mustard flavor mixed with earthy greenness.
“Pretty good, huh?” Reynolds says with a smile.
The crop was harvested by Reynolds, 30, and Judith Winfrey, 35, two organic farmers who operate Love Is Love Farms in Douglasville. The two met while working side-by-side at Decatur’s Brick Store Pub. Soon after, Reynolds started interning on a farm and Winfrey took a job at Georgia Organics, a nonprofit organic farming and sustainable agriculture organization. When the owners of the Douglasville farm decided to retire, they asked the young couple to continue organic farming there.
“It was a perfect marriage of all of our interests,” Winfrey says of the 40-acre farm. “It’s activist work, it’s people’s work, it’s food work, it’s environmental work. It was a confluence of everything important to us.”
In less than two years, the two have become one of metro Atlanta’s burgeoning organic farming success stories. The two started a community-supported agriculture program in which they deliver fresh produce — garlic, carrots, beets, peas and strawberries are on the way — to metro Atlantans. If you can’t sign up, you can find their produce at the Local Farm Store, which they co-own, next to Star Provisions off Howell Mill Road.
They’ve also leveraged existing relationships with friends at Counter Culture Coffee and 5 Seasons Brewing in Sandy Springs into partnerships, using used coffee and brewing grounds to nurture the farm’s soil. And they’re planning an internship program to teach other young farmers how to grow organic food.
Winfrey, who’s a co-leader of grassroots group Slow Food Atlanta, says the Douglasville farm is a rarity in metro Atlanta, where most developable land has given way to subdivisions. But at a time when people are waking up to the fact that agriculture plays a major role in global warming — food travels an average of 1,500 miles over the course of a week to get from farm to plate — people need fresh, healthy options closer to home.
“We just hope that through personal example, and trying to connect with people who are in our age group, we let them know all the possibilities in terms of organic farming,” Reynolds says. “It’s meaningful and legitimate work.”
Mandy Schmitt, director of the city of Atlanta’s Sustainability Office
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