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August 30, 2017

Georgia Environmental Conference Wrap Up

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Last week, the Metro Atlanta Chamber Sustainability Team, Natalie and Heather, enjoyed a week full of learning, networking, and snake holding at this year’s Georgia Environmental Conference (GEC). GEC began on Wednesday, August 23 and ended on Friday, August 25. It featured key note speakers across multiple industries, and attracted audience members from 28 states. 

The program kicked off with keynote speakers Al Lee, Program Director for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division and Stan Meiburg, Director of Graduate Studies in Sustainability at Wake Forest University on the topic "Restoring the Connection Between Your Health and Your Environment." Lee discussed projects such the Savannah Harbor Expansion and many others the Army Corps are doing in the South Atlantic region. Meiburg dove into the link between water quality and disease and public health benefits from clean air regulations. 

Sustainability intern Heather's favorite session was "The Ray: A Project to Transform Transportation Corridors for the Future" moderated by Suzie Grams from USGA, and featured speakers Anna Cullen, The Ray; Tim Echols, Georgia Public Service Commission; and Anthony Coker, Hannah Solar. They discussed the eighteen miles of Interstate 85, which is the birthplace of exciting, innovative technologies. She especially enjoyed Anna Cullen’s words “Demand more of your infrastructure,” referring to The Ray’s plans of installing solar panels on noise barriers to double the structure’s value. The Ray is also working on solar pavement, pollinator gardens, bioswales, climate modelling, and much more.

Another staff favorite included the Trends in Managing and Communication Sustainability Data session, moderated by Mike Shoemaker from Wenck, and featuring Steve Tochilin, Delta Air Lines; Sami Namasse, Tennaxia; and Colin Block, RaceTrac. These leaders spoke about the recent push for companies to release their sustainability metrics such as their recycling efforts and carbon footprint. Sami Namasse noted that France, where his company is based, legally requires all companies with more than 500 employees to release these records. However, in the United States, there is no such law. Instead, the push has been coming from a surprising place - employees!

The City of Atlanta also made a memorable presentation when representatives shared their sustainability accomplishments during the Georgia Agriculture Going Vertical: The Search For a Sustainable Food System session.  The session was moderated by Jairo Garcia, the City of Atlanta’s Director of Climate Policies and Renewables, and featured speakers Jeffrey Landau, Blue Planet Consulting; Mario Cambardella, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability; and Stan Vanglider, Southern Company.  All three speakers elaborated on the Atlanta projects such as hydroponic farms and vertical agriculture, which are sure to reduce the number of food desserts in Atlanta, decrease the amount of space needed to produce food, and decrease production costs.