True believer

Ray Anderson, chairman and CEO of carpet-tile-industry giant Interface, says he used to be “a plunderer of the earth.” Now, however, Anderson — a passionate advocate of sustainable development — is coming to WNC to help other manufacturing leaders see the light.

As the head of a $1 billion-a-year leader in the carpet-tile industry, Anderson says he “never gave one thought to what we were taking from the earth or doing to it.” That changed in 1994, when he read Paul Hawken‘s landmark work, The Ecology of Commerce. Hawken, himself a successful businessman, finds a great deal of common ground between commerce and the environment. The book, says Anderson in a Warren Wilson College media release, “invaded my soul.”

And while Interface remains an industry leader, the company has reportedly eliminated one-fourth of the nylon in each carpet tile, and is now designing compostable or recyclable carpets. Anderson will discuss these and other matters of the heart in two upcoming talks — the first at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 1999 Industry Appreciation Luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 16 (11:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Great Smokies Holiday Inn Sunspree Golf & Tennis Resort) and the second at the Quality Inn Biltmore on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 9 a.m.

The Chamber event will also recognize Manufacturer of the Year Award winners, honored for outstanding contributions to the community. Anderson’s second talk, billed as a “public dialogue,” is sponsored by Warren Wilson College’s Environmental Leadership Center, the Chamber’s Sustainability Force, and Biltmore Farms Inc.

To learn more about the Environmental Leadership Center, call Director John Huie at 298-3325, ext. 455. To make reservations for the Industry Appreciation Luncheon, call Denise Falls at 258-6134.

Food is love

Amid the mass orgy of chowing down that most of us engage in over the holidays, it’s easy to forget that many less-fortunate families require assistance to meet their holiday needs. To help make that happen, MANNA Food Bank’s annual “Ham It Up, Give Us a Turkey” program invites individuals, businesses, civic and charitable organizations to donate foods — particularly turkeys or hams — to the food bank.

Donations — which may also include chicken, roasts, eggs, or any other high-protein foods — will be distributed among the 350 member nonprofits involved in providing traditional holiday meals for people in need. These agencies include food pantries, soup kitchens, group homes, residential treatment and transitional-housing programs, senior centers, child and adult day-care centers, hospices, programs for the terminally and mentally ill, and shelters for the homeless and for victims of domestic violence across Western North Carolina.

Donations to the “Ham It Up, Give Us a Turkey” program can be delivered directly to MANNA (627 Swannnanoa River Road, in Asheville) Monday though Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In Franklin, bring donations to 193 E. Main St., Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Checks and gift certificates from vendors or retailers for the purchase of food are also welcome.

For more information, contact Resource Development Manager Leigh Dudasik at 299-3663.

Sibling revelry

Chances are, you’ve seen a sign around town proclaiming Asheville to be the sister of such exotic cities as Vladikavkaz, Russia; San Cristobal, Mexico; and Saumur, France. This is not just another PR gimmick, either: Asheville Sister Cities Inc., a 150-member volunteer group, has worked hard for years keeping these relationships productive, current and meaningful. They take the privilege of being a sister city so seriously, in fact, that ASCI recently severed ties with one uncommunicative sibling and is looking for another town somewhere in the world (not too dissimilar from our own) to fill that gap.

Karakol, Kyrgystan, was dropped from the program after failing to respond, despite years of mailing, e-mailing, phoning and faxing them, ASCI President Mary Lasher explained in a recent interview:

“Karakol is a very small, ex-Soviet Republic country, one of those newly independent states. The mayor from there had come here in the early ’90s to visit the U.S., and when she came to Asheville, she said, in effect, ‘This is a nice mountainous area, they have tourism, and we’d like to be a partner city.’ But, for a few years now, we haven’t had any contact with them. They’re next door to a country that’s having a civil war, and that’s probably spilling over into Karakol. And they’ve had two or three turnovers in their city government since then, and the ex-Soviet Union types are apparently not too interested in having pro-Western influence.”

Eventually, Mayor Leni Sitnick asked ASCI to formally terminate the partnership and start searching for another sibling. “We think that Asheville is big enough and cosmopolitan enough to support a lot of active exchange work with more than three sister cities,” noted Lasher.

Accordingly, the group is inviting local residents and community leaders to get involved. A search committee, chaired by former Mayor Russ Martin, has established criteria to help narrow the choices. They include such factors as sustainability (any potential city must have sufficient public interest and financial resources to assume a long-term relationship with Asheville); similarity (the city must be comparable to Asheville in size, economic development, general geographic features, etc.); and “linkages” (active cultural, civic, educational and economic groups with the community support to maintain collaborative exchanges with Asheville — a tough measure, to be sure). The full guidelines are available from ASCI.

“My only concern [about finding a new city] is that the process be very open and fair,” Lasher stressed. “We want to give everybody who wants to participate and do the work a fair shot.” That means anyone proposing a candidate city will have to do a fair amount of research and present their findings to the Sister Cities membership sometime early next spring. The group will then decide which cities to approach with a letter of inquiry. “It’s a process that might take five or six months, but it should be done very carefully and with great deliberation,” observed Lasher.

The payoff for all that effort comes when sibling cities actually start helping each other. This summer, for example, San Cristobal asked Asheville to help provide wheelchairs for a new wheelchair-basketball team. “We weren’t surprised when they asked us,” Lasher noted, “because emerging, developing countries are now beginning to facilitate the handicapped, and that’s wonderful. So we found an outfit in Iowa and Colorado that reconditions wheelchairs, [making] them like new.”

The wheelchairs were free, and ASCI managed to come up with the shipping costs for four of them, but two were left behind. How did they finally get to San Cristobal? “When Tom Sanders and I went down there recently,” confided Lasher, “Delta checked them as our luggage.”

For more information on ASCI, or to obtain a copy of the Sister City guidelines, call Mary Lasher (252-9822), or e-mail her (mel&

Having a field day

Once upon a time, logging was kinder and gentler — draft horses, not logging trucks, pulled felled logs from the forest. Those days are mostly gone, but they can be revisited during the Asheville School’s Sustainable Forestry Field Day, when foresters and school officials will spend the day explaining sustainable forestry and its application to the school’s 223 acres of woodland, set within the Asheville city limits.

Several years ago, consulting forester Rachel Wood prepared a plan for managing the school’s land, emphasizing opportunities for recreation, forest study, aesthetics, soil and water conservation, and wildlife habitat. The plan included timber-stand improvements, building a nature trail, erosion-control measures, and ways to control invasive exotic species that can threaten the survival of native trees. Now, that plan is coming to fruition.

As part of the school’s centennial celebration, the field day will showcase the school’s detailed plan for sustainably managing its hardwoods. A one-hour forest walk will focus on those areas slated for improvement cutting, offering a chance to see the draft horses at work, close up. There will also be demonstrations explaining tree identification, a forester’s tools, forest soils and ecology, and other topics. The event will be held, rain or shine, at the school’s West Asheville campus (off Patton Avenue) on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To learn more, call Ed Maggart at 254-2960.

— cold-heartedly compiled by Paul Schattel

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