Cleaner is cheaper

Taking a hard look: WNC’s sustainabi­lity report card

As we celebrate Earth Day 2015, we take a look at the status of the sustainability movement in WNC. How far have we come, and how far do we have to go? We asked local nonprofits and regulatory agencies to take us to school by examining our environmental efforts — from our air to our water, from our successes to our failures — and giving us an honest assessment of how we’re doing.

CALL ME HARLEY: After selling his house, most of his possessions and quitting his job, 58-year-old Henry Wasserman, under trail-name Harley, began his Appalachian journey on March 19. All photos courtesy of Wasserman.

Transforma­tive journey: Appalachia­n Trail thru-hiker reconsider­s his life path

On February 18, Xpress published “Tales from the Trail,” detailing the experiences of Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Gary Sizer. In the story, we met Henry Wasserman, who was seeking a transformative experience on the A.T. On March 19 Wasserman began his months-long trek north, trudging mile after mile through red Georgia clay.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Merrimon Avenue is a strong example of the challenges residents and transportation officials face to make major roads safe for pedestrians and motorists alike. Photo by Max Hunt

Merrimon madness: Addressing safety risks along Asheville’s major roadways

If you’ve lived in the Asheville area for any length of time, you know there are certain city roads that you simply avoid at key times of day. And with tourism booming and more people looking to move here every day, traffic concerns on already crowded city streets loom large in the minds of many residents, as well as city and state officials.

THE ORIGINAL MOTHERS: (left-to-right) Franklin Sides, Susan Sides, Bob Kornegay, Richard Colgan, Ned Ryan Doyle, Terry Krautwurst, Lorna Loveless (front), Jean Malmgrem (partially obscured in middle), Pat Stone (obscured in back), Kathleen Seebe (front), Beach Barrett (back), Richard Freudenberger, Marsha Drake (front), unidentified woman (obscured in back), Joanne Dufilho, Caroline Sizemore. Photo by Hannah Kincaid

Mother Earth News pioneers gather at Asheville fair

Some of Mother Earth News’ earliest “Mothers” — whose roots go back to the 1970s and 1980s — got together this past Sunday at the Mother Earth News Fair, which was held at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Nearly two dozen former employees and families met for brunch and to share their recollections from the decades past. I was one of them.

The Appalachian Studies Association held its 38th Annual Appalachian Studies Conference last weekend at Eastern Tennessee University. Photo by Max Hunt.

Mountain medley: Reflection­s on the 2015 Appalachia­n Studies Conference

In an ongoing effort to connect those dispersed communities, the Appalachian Studies Association held its 38th annual conference last month in Johnson City, Tenn. The one-of-a-kind event unites scholars and musicians, activists and academics, to celebrate the often misunderstood region’s distinctive heritage, culture and physical landscape.

ORCHARD PROJECT: Volunteers came out on a beautiful day to plant an orchard on a formerly vacant green space in the Hillcrest Apartment complex.

In photos: Hillcrest get an organic boost from GreenWorks

Asheville GreenWorks partnered up April 11 with volunteers to transform an empty green lot at Hillcrest Apartments into an orchard. GreenWorks received a grant to plant its sixth community orchard at Hillcrest, with 24 ball-and-burlap apple trees and 36 blueberries. The goal is to promote better access to food, greenspace, shade, community pride and jobs.

Southside Village Bill LaMée

EPA clarifies Southside Village status

The 74 homes in Southside Village are not part of the CTS of Asheville Superfund site next door, say several residents of the gated community off Mills Gap Road. In two recent letters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency backs up that assessment, saying it “does not believe contamination associated with the CTS of Asheville Superfund Site poses unacceptable risk to residents of SSV.”

Breathe it in: Conservation groups like Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy have protected more than 100,000 acres of WNC land from development.

Conservati­on in WNC — where we’re going, where we’ve been

From the Get It! Guide: Long before the age of Internet lists and online travel magazines, people came to Asheville and Western North Carolina for the intrinsic natural beauty. In fact, the beauty of our environment is what many say makes this place so special. But are we protecting what we have? What initiatives are underway to help ensure that the region remains a respite and a haven for generations to come?

The county's industrial and pollution control financing board will consider the approval of issuing $4.2 million in industrial revenue bonds to pay for new machinery at Plasticard-Locktech International.

County’s industrial board to consider approval of industrial revenue bonds

The Buncombe County Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Financing Authority will hold a meeting on Tuesday, March 31, to consider the approval of financing new machinery for the Plasticard-Locktech International facility at 605 Sweeten Creek Road. The meeting will be held at noon at 46 Valley Street in downtown Asheville.

A convenient illusion: On average, the city of Asheville produces 22,400 tons of trash a year. What's the cost of all that waste? Some say the things we throw away are affecting now just our environment but our culture as well.

The consequenc­e of waste: Buncombe’s discarded problem is piling up

From the Get It! Guide: A close look at the trash collected in Asheville was shocking — 26 percent of our waste is compostable matter, 18 percent is recyclable and 56 percent is true waste, fit only for the landfill. With the city alone producing over 22,000 tons of trash a year, what is the cost of all that waste. And what is it going to take for us to reduce it?

In 2010, hundreds of people marched down Tunnel Road advocating for the construction of a sidewalk between the Veterans Restoration Quarters and the VA Medical Center. That sidewalk has since come to fruition, but a report shows that Asheville is falling short of its goals.

Asheville tries to keep pace with rising demands for sidewalks, bike lanes

From the Get It! Guide: Asheville is faced with a rising interest in transportation alternatives, but the path to greater advances seems to be lined with historic neglect and budgetary hurdles. The city still has a long walk ahead to fulfill its 2004 goal of building 108 miles of sidewalks. In the last decade, Asheville has constructed only about 18 miles worth.

Sir Charles Gardner works in the Pisgah View Peace Garden, a community garden and commercial enterprise that grows food for — and employees — public housing residents.

Green developmen­ts: How Asheville’s public housing communitie­s are leading the eco-scene

From the Get It! Guide: Green jobs, lush community gardens, community cookouts and water quality testing — these might not be things many in Asheville picture when they think of public housing. But residents says Asheville’s public housing neighborhoods are investing in their communities’ welfare and leading a growing interest in “greening” up the neighborhoods.

EYES ON THE SKIES: UNCA students observe weather conditions near Ponca City, Okla., in 2013 during a Severe Weather Field Experience attended by Kelly Gassert, Katy Hudson, Massey Bartolini, Corey Lea, Duncan Belew, Bobby Taylor, Daniel Thomas and Thomas Winesett. Photograph by Christopher Godfrey

UNCA meteorolog­ical students look to the future

Students in UNC Asheville’s chapter of the American Meteorological Society use real-world experience, integrated with social media and technology, to feed their love for all things weather-related. There are weather balloons to release in the dark of night, mountaintop weather stations to maintain, snowfall to tweet about and, somewhere, a tornado or hurricane to track.