Western North Carolina’s top 2019 sustainability threats

Dawn Chavez
Dawn Chávez, executive director of Asheville GreenWorks. Photo courtesy of GreenWorks

While Western North Carolina’s rivers and mountains remain inspiring sources of natural beauty, Dawn Chávez, the executive director of Asheville GreenWorks, found many threats to the region’s sustainability in 2019. Here are the top five of her worries.

  1. Development: Construction of new development does not have to mean destruction of the natural environment. However, unregulated development can lead to negative impacts and threaten environmental sustainability.
  2. Loss of urban tree canopy: Asheville lost 6.4% of its tree canopy between 2008 and 2018. That’s about 18,000 trees, or 890 acres of trees, within the city limits. Losing tree canopy means losing the benefits trees provide in cleaning the air, cooling the surrounding environment, soaking up stormwater and providing habitat for wildlife.
  3. Single-use plastic: Things like grocery bags, takeout containers and cups are meant to be used at most a few times and then thrown away. These items cannot be recycled in curbside recycling. While some places take them for special recycling, most plastic bags, containers and cups will end up in the trash — or worse yet, in our waterways.
  4. Litter pollution: In 2019, GreenWorks volunteers collected over 60,000 pounds of litter in Buncombe County. That’s the equivalent of five elephants! Plastic litter breaks down into smaller pieces to become microplastics, which can be ingested by fish and other wildlife.
  5. Increased population without proper infrastructure: Asheville and surrounding communities are burgeoning with new residents and tourists. Infrastructure improvement projects might meet current needs when they’re eventually completed, but will they meet the future needs of an even larger population 10 to 20 years from now? Investing in green infrastructure like trees, public transportation and renewable energy will help our region handle the influx of new people.

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One thought on “Western North Carolina’s top 2019 sustainability threats

  1. Lulz

    Meanwhile the sheer number of homeless camps along the French Broad and the amount of trash within them of course don’t end up in the river. The falling leaves exposed at least 10 camps last time I drove down there. Easily seen because of all the garbage out in the open,

    I guess banning straws makes up for it though lulz.

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