Green in brief: Asheville falls behind carbon reduction targets

2019 Asheville climate protest skeleton
CALL TO ACTION: Demonstrators used bold artwork to demand that Asheville officials address local government's contribution to climate change at a December 2019 protest. The city's carbon emissions currently exceed target levels set by a 2011 resolution. Photo by Daniel Walton

While Asheville city government has steadily lowered its carbon dioxide output since establishing a 4% annual reduction goal in 2011, the city’s emissions cuts have failed to meet that target since at least fiscal year 2016-17. That’s according to a recent presentation shared by the city’s Office of Sustainability with the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment.

In fiscal year 2019-20, the most recent year for which data is available, the city emitted the equivalent of roughly 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Its target for the year was approximately 15,600 metric tons of CO2, about 15% less than the actual figure. The presentation to SACEE notes that the addition of new outdoor lighting at parks and greenways, an unstable biodiesel supply and aging city facilities all contributed to the higher emissions.

“The city of Asheville implements projects that support sustainability as funding is available,” wrote Amber Weaver, the city’s chief sustainability officer, in response to an Xpress request for comment. “Some years have more projects than others, which affects the carbon reduction goal.”

A study recently conducted by Lenoir Rhyne University also found that citywide carbon emissions increased by a little more than 1% between 2012 and 2019; Asheville’s population rose by roughly 8.5% over the same period. According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global carbon emissions must be slashed 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of warming.

In January 2020, Asheville became North Carolina’s first city to formally declare climate change an emergency, although as previously reported by Xpress (see “Taking the Temperature,” Feb. 3, avl.mx/as1), fulfillment of that resolution’s goals has been inconsistent. Weaver said the city has embarked on “the development of a road map to implement a municipal climate action plan,” with further details to be made available by early summer.

Southern Appalachian Whitewater Hall of Fame names first inductees

Over 50 whitewater competitors, teachers, boat designers and more were inducted into the Southern Appalachian Whitewater Hall of Fame Nov. 1. The hall, a project of the Asheville-based Southern Appalachian Paddlesports Museum, is meant to honor “the innovators, pioneers and leaders who have made it so that our region has become a worldwide mecca of whitewater paddling,” according to the museum’s website.

Nearly 40 members of the inaugural class are or were residents of Western North Carolina. Notable local names include Angus Morrison, an Olympian paddler and longtime guide for the Nantahala Outdoor Center; Lecky Haller, an international slalom canoe champion and current multi-sport coach at Asheville School; Marc Hunt, a former Asheville City Council member and co-founder of Sunburst Adventures; and Shane Benedict, the co-founder and lead designer of Fletcher-based kayak maker Liquidlogic.

MountainTrue releases results from 2021 E. coli sampling

Asheville-based nonprofit MountainTrue wrapped up its annual season of E. coli sampling in the French Broad River and other local waterways on Labor Day. The results, released Oct. 25, give mixed news for water quality throughout the region.

Whitewater areas on the French Broad in Madison County showed improvement over last year’s results, with sections at Stackhouse, Hot Springs and Big Laurel all regularly falling under the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for E. coli in recreational areas. And the Pigeon River in Hartford, Tenn., saw no E. coli throughout the majority of the summer.

However, several Buncombe County waterways continued to show substantial E. coli counts. The worst location, a creek running through the Shiloh community in South Asheville, had a seasonal average of 3,393 E. coli colony-forming units per 100 milliliters — over 14 times the EPA’s 235 cfu/100 mL limit. Hominy Creek in West Asheville was also highly polluted.

Opportunities knock

  • The Asheville-based Energy Savers Network is offering free heat pump repairs or replacements to low-income homeowners in Buncombe County. The work is an extension of the nonprofit’s previous efforts to provide weatherization and energy-efficiency upgrades. More information is available at avl.mx/aiz or by calling 828-585-4492.
  • Area growers have until Tuesday, Nov. 30, to submit soil samples for free testing through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. From December through March, the state lab charges a $4 fee per sample. Sample boxes and more information are available through local cooperative extension offices.
  • WNC farmers looking to diversify or expand their operations are encouraged to apply for grants of up to $8,000 from WNC Agricultural Options. The application deadline is Friday, Dec. 17; farmers can contact their local cooperative extension agents through Friday, Nov. 12, to set up an appointment to discuss potential projects. More information is available at WNCAgOptions.org.

Community kudos

  • Pratt and Whitney at Asheville GreenWorks
    GREEN BUILDING: Employees with Pratt & Whitney partnered with Asheville GreenWorks to construct a greenhouse for the nonprofit’s Urban Canopy Project. Photo courtesy of Pratt & Whitney

    The WNC Nature Center received a Significant Achievement Education Award from the national nonprofit Association of Zoos and Aquariums for its Young Naturalists initiative. The program trains over 80 area teenagers each year as environmental stewards and wildlife interpreters over the summer months. The center also renewed its AZA accreditation, a status it has held since 1999.

  • Transylvania County was listed among 2021’s Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories by Green Destinations, a global sustainable tourism nonprofit. The award, one of only four given to North American destinations, recognizes the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority’s Transylvania Always sustainability initiative and associated efforts, including the Leave It Better program for responsible outdoor recreation.
  • Asheville-based companies Deltec Homes and Red Tree Builders each received a Housing Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Energy in recognition of their energy-efficient construction practices. Additionally, Deltec was named the department’s 2021 grand winner for innovation in custom homes of less than 2,500 square feet.
  • Asheville GreenWorks partnered with employees from Pratt & Whitney to construct a greenhouse for 500 saplings that will be planted as part of the nonprofit’s Urban Canopy Project. The educational program, funded by a $25,000 donation from the aerospace manufacturer, will help teach local youth about urban forestry.
  • Mountain Meadows, an Asheville neighborhood located off Town Mountain Road, became the first neighborhood in the state to receive BearWise Certification. The recognition, awarded by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, notes the neighborhood’s commitment to eliminating bear attractants like unsecured trash cans and educating people about human-bear interactions.

Get outside

  • As of Oct. 1, veterans are permitted to fish all Mountain Heritage Trout Waters free of charge. Towns with these fishing spots in the Xpress coverage area include Burnsville, Hot Springs, Maggie Valley, Sylva and Waynesville. More information and locations are available at avl.mx/arl.
  • The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking volunteers to contribute early winter observations as part of the N.C. Bird Atlas, a community science project that seeks to catalog all bird species in the state. Roughly 100 bird species migrate to North Carolina during the season, making it a particularly critical time for observations. More information and registration are available at NCBirdAtlas.org.
  • Hendersonville-based nonprofit Conserving Carolina has opened its sixth White Squirrel Hiking Challenge, a self-paced program that encourages residents to visit eight trails throughout Western North Carolina. New hikes on the list include a recently opened section of Wildcat Rock Trail in Gerton and Pinnacle Trail in Brevard; those who complete the challenge receive a patch and a package of prizes from local businesses. More information is available at avl.mx/arm or by emailing Ericka Berg at Ericka@ConservingCarolina.org.
  • New interactive exhibits have been installed at the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the southwest of Maggie Valley. Displays including a 12-foot mural, funded by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, interpret the knob’s high-elevation ecosystem and geology.
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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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One thought on “Green in brief: Asheville falls behind carbon reduction targets

  1. blueridgeguvnor

    I was just watching a show about prehistoric Britain and how it was entirely covered in ice. Yet primitive Hunter gatherers managed to eke out an existence. Then there was a huge global warming event, the ice receded and humans established themselves fully on the island.

    Today’s generation have been made to feel hopeless and completely neurotic about a situation that while we need to address, is not a death sentence for the human race. It’s a really sad state of affairs driven by histrionic fear mongering.

    We need to continue improving our environmental policies, we all see the benefits of that. But, there is a future out there for everyone. Maybe skeptics would be more agreeable if the rhetoric was toned down.

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