Sitnick’s seeing green in Asheville

Mayor Leni Sitnick is wearing green-colored glasses these days.

She’s not thinking just about greenways, or more motorists on the Blue Ridge Parkway — although those items might be included in her green dreams.

But Sitnick is thinking much bigger.

She imagines Asheville as the headquarters for America’s environmental businesses, the mayor said during a recent vision checkup by the Fund for Investigative Reporting.

To create more high-quality jobs, Sitnick hopes to lure environmental businesses that manufacture filters, scrubbers and other pollution-control equipment. Such companies make the products that keep the environment clean, and they would be encouraged to conduct their own business without polluting.

Sitnick wants Asheville to establish a National Institute for the Environment, which might include an environmental research center to lure research and development folks (like UNCA Professor Rick Maas) to study pollution, less-toxic processes and industrial materials, and innovative recycling programs. She wants UNCA to offer environmental-engineering classes and graduate programs. Outward Bound, Warren Wilson College and its Environmental Leadership Center would make natural partners in this effort.

At the turn of the century, Asheville was widely known as a health resort, Sitnick noted. We can return to those roots, if tourism officials promote Asheville as the spa capital of the East Coast. “We’ve already got the massage therapists, the herbal therapists and other services to pamper people who visit,” she said. “And we live in an area with a wonderful outdoors, where people could spend three weeks instead of three days.” Asheville might become known as the environmental-health capital, she said.

Sitnick would also like Asheville to have an eco-conference center, environmentally sensitive tourism, green consulting businesses, solar-energy shops and other environmental entrepreneurs.

Asheville could lead by example, asserted Sitnick, becoming the prototype green city, with energy-efficient buildings, vehicles and services. “We need to do much more about recycling,” she urged. “We need to encourage people to reduce, to buy things with less packaging, and to re-use.”

“Asheville is a beautiful, unspoiled city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” she declared, adding, “It’s time to market our strengths.”

This report provided by the Fund for Investigative Reporting, a western North Carolina news service.

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