The New Charleston Green is Not for Sale

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When Stephanie Hunt contacted me about the article she was writing for Charleston Magazine, I was thrilled. It was yet another sign that Go Green Charleston was being taken seriously as a local environmental resource, and I was happy to help. I answered some questions and provided a list of local green organizations. I couldn’t wait to read the article – with all the amazing green initiatives going on in Charleston, it was sure to be a watershed moment for the local movement.

When I finally saw the issue on the shelf, I was practically drooling over the cover. I was stoked to see that we made the list of resources…after all, we’ve only been around for 5 months, and that felt appropriate. Stephanie certainly did her homework, and the article was packed with local names, places, quotes, and killer photos (cheers to Ben and Christopher!) But as I finished the article, a troubling pattern had emerged…

I was a little dismayed that the local green nonprofits had basically been shut out of the article, with the focus instead on green businesses. While I do believe these businesses are important to the green movement, I don’t think a sustainable future can be bought. We need help, not a itemized bill. A $359,000 green home in Mixson Avenue is not going to help the other 99.9% of us green up our existing homes. Eating organic grub at The Sprout is not going to help deliver leftover local produce to the less fortunate. Am I missing something here?

There are plenty of green organizations that are new and just starting to make their mark, including Fields to Families, The Little Green Bag Project, Charleston Green Drinks, and Go Green Charleston. But there are also passionate organizations that have been providing environmental leadership for years. Why aren’t they mentioned? Organizations like the Seewee Center, Lowcountry Earth Force, the Mount Pleasant Open Space Foundation, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust, and the Lowcountry Environmental Education Program (LEEP) certainly reflect the new “Charleston Green” as well.

Speaking of LEEP, Ian Sanchez has been doing amazing work with local kids for years and he’s the closest thing Charleston has to a green celebrity. But you’ll have search hard to find his name. It’s mentioned, just not in connection with LEEP. Instead, it’s in a one-page article about OM BioFuels, a for-profit business where he is a partner. If I were him, this would rub me the wrong way.

I really do believe that being green starts at home, with every decision we make. You better believe that when the time comes for my family to build a new house, I will definitely be looking at these local businesses to help me build green. But until then, I need to reduce my consumption, energy use, and driving. I need to recycle like a madman. I need to reuse items and repair others. But most importantly, I need to talk to, educate, and share ideas with everyone I know – and so should you. We’ll achieve a sustainable future by working together, not buying together.

The New Charleston Green starts at home, not the mall.

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