Sustainability

Years ago when we were trying to develop a positioning for the revitalization of Downtown Durham we settled on placing a lot of emphasis on arts and entertainment. The reason was that that was the relative strength at the time. The Arts Council had been renovated, the Carolina Theater was coming on board and Brightleaf Square was a thriving restaurant and upscale shopping area only a block or two from where the redevelopment was to be focused.

There was some resistance to this idea from people who wanted to announce a much broader scope in the message.  They argued for arts, entertainment, office, retail, government and residential.  Education may have been in there too.  Well of course everybody wanted all those things but that dilutes the message. Going with our strength, building on it and letting it pull along everything else proved to be a smart way to go.

Most vibrant towns do have something that they become known for. Nashville for music, for instance, or Portland for fitness. Many towns’  identity is tied up with an industry like Detroit and automaking, or Dallas with energy, or Los Angeles with movies. For a while, Durham tried hard to establish itself as the City of Medicine; it was also known for a while as the obesity capital of the world because of the obesity treatment facilities that were established here. And, of course, if you look back far enough, Durham was the tobacco capital of the world.

But no city or community can endure on just one thing. Sooner or later your positioning can’t pull along everything and various intertwined threads have to take on a life of their own. The burgeoning business start up activity now taking place in Downtown is one of those things.  Organizations such as The Chamber of Commerce,  the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and Bull City Forward are pushing these trends along so far quite well.

The Springtree Agenda is all about highlighting the different threads that weave so much texture into our community. One of those threads is generally defined as sustainability. Sustainability has a goal of leaving the planet better off or at least no worse in everything you do in order that it can support future generations.

Arizona State University a few years ago established what they call the Global Institute of Sustainability. Part of the Institute is their School of Sustainability which they describe as a “transdisciplinary focus on finding real-world solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges.”  I love that word “transdisciplinary.”  But I hope it doesn’t make this idea seem like it is the sole province of academics and large organizations.  In fact, much is, and can be, done on an individual and small group basis.

There are a couple of reasons that “sustainability” is being made a blog category on SpringtreeTerritory at this point in time. The first reason has evolved out of a friendship with two clients who educated me in the basics of sustainable organic urban agriculture. The organic orchard and gardens that they created on a half acre lot in Duke Forest are amazing. It also happens to be very beautiful.

The second reason is that I recently attended a green building seminar  at the North Carolina Solar Center on the campus of North Carolina State University. So impressions of that experiences will be one of the first Sustainability posts in the blog here.

Suggestions for posts on sustainability projects in SpringtreeTerritory are always welcome.