What Is Sustainable Norcross?

Do you recycle, compost, xeriscape, use rain barrels? Would you like to learn how? Are you interested in organic and locally grown produce but cannot find it? Do you admire the fabulous tree canopy in Norcross? Ever wondered how to certify your yard as a Wildlife Habitat? Are you concerned about the quantity and quality of our water? Is it better to use paper or plastic bags at the grocery? What natural products are safe but effective? Ever considered sustainable alternatives for flooring, clothing and other products? Where can you discard old electronics?

Well, let’s learn together.

Starting a new organization can be a daunting task. Then an online training manual advised:

"Don’t wait - Get started without funding, expertise, or fear of adverse consequences.

Seek useful resources - Information on the web, in literature, in the community, in person, from experts.

Seek ways to scale up - Transform successful solutions into a movement of local significance.

Have fun projects – enjoy doing. Your efforts can result in important benefits, and you can have a good time while you’re at it!"

And that is exactly what a group of like minded citizens did. The organizational meeting was held June 1, 2008 and we've been busy ever since.

Learn more about us here on our blog or contact us now.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Part 2 - You Gotta Look Where You’ve Been to Know Where You’re Going

After our long look back a day or so ago, it’s time to peer through the windshield, crank up the ole GPS and try to figure our where we are going and especially how we are gonna get there.

During our organizational meetings last year we mainly tackled some of the basic housekeeping details such as who, what, when, where, how and why. We did a pretty thorough job on the who, what and why. When is often a result of what. And…Who’s on first?

Back up a minute. Let’s try that again in plain English. Sustainable Norcross members participated in several brainstorming sessions sharing what is important to them; things they would like to learn about and do, expertise they are willing to share. All of that was distilled into the Goals of the organization, using categories found in the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Green Communities Certification Check List http://www.atlantaregional.com/documents/env_green_comm_checklist_102208.xls
the City of Norcross 2030 Comprehensive Plan http://www.norcrossga.net/page.php?page_ID=1186086012 and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Quality Community Objectives. http://www.dca.state.ga.us/development/PlanningQualityGrowth/programs/downloads/PQGAssessment.pdf That is our “What”.

We will focus our attention and efforts in the resulting areas. To figure out exactly what and how, we will use some guidelines.

So Guideline #1: Stick to our knitting! Things that the group decides to tackle must fit in one of these categories. Don’t worry, they are very inclusive.

Which leads me to Guideline #2: Narrow down. We have wonderfully creative and diverse people involved. No doubt if turned loose we will come up with a million and one exciting and productive things to do in these categories. But to actually stand a chance of getting somewhere that we want to be and to maintain our sanity during the trip, we must choose wisely.

Guideline #3: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Let’s not waste our energy and other precious resources creating from scratch something that already exists. Lucky for us that tool is available. It is a road map. A play book. A manual. (See http://www.atlantaregional.com/documents/env_green_comm_manual_010709.pdf
) It guides us straight to certification as a Green Community. This coveted designation is becoming a recognized measure of success among municipalities specifically in the 10 county metropolitan Atlanta area. Although similar programs are popping up all over the country. And this is year one for the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) award. We could be among the first at the award ceremony in the fall.

Guideline # 4: Pick low hanging fruit. Based on my height, I am hard pressed to pick anything but. So we will be concentrating on the quick successes, the easy wins – those checklist items that we can reasonably accomplish and document by June 30. I know, I know, that is only five months away. But don’t you get more done when you have a deadline?

Guideline #5: Divide and conquer. We have divided the 10 categories among the 5 Sustainable Norcross Commission members. Each has been challenged to become the Champion of their categories. That means they will be the drivers of activity, the conduit of information between the interested parties related to that topic. It does not mean they have all the fun; just that they become the funnel.

The “Funnels” stack up like this:

Trees and Green Space, Recycling and Waste Reduction – Kathy Nau

Green Building, Energy Efficiency – Heather Royston

Green Power, Land Use – Chuck Cimarik

Water Use Reduction and Efficiency, Education – Jim Scarbrough

Transportation and Air Quality, Innovation – Connie Weathers

Guideline #6: It Takes A Village. Not just to raise a child, but to grow an organization. Each and every one is important and necessary for the success of our endeavor.

Exactly which endeavor was that again? This journey that we all started together on June 1, 2008. The drive toward preserving our future by living smarter today.

Load up!

Watch for details of our first general meeting (par-dee) in 2009.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Speaking of Birthday Bashes…

What do you do with those leftover party things? You know, the extra napkins, plates, cups, silly hats, party favors, etc?

Well, I keep them. You never know when they might come in handy. Waste not; want not. Never mind that there are not enough to actually use for the next similar social gathering. And more than likely I won’t be able to find more just like them to purchase enough to cover the guest list. Or gasp, what if someone notices that I am using the same theme or color scheme as last year?

And I’m not just talking about birthday stuff. Around here at our ages, we try to let those days just slid on by with as little attention drawn to them as possible. I mean all those special occasion paper goods. The Halloween napkins, New Year’s hats and noise makers, Super Bowl XXVIII plates, Star Wars stuff. You get the picture. Are you tired of holding on to them? But they are too good to throw out? And besides you can’t throw them out cuz your new year’s resolution is to contribute less to landfills.

Boy, do we have an opportunity for you! Sustainable Norcross is planning an “open house/birthday bash/new year/coming out party”. Being a non-profit grassroots organization, and a new one at that, we have nothing, zero, Nada. In the way of material possessions and money to acquire them, that is. We are rich in other ways. And you have all those perfectly good party things just looking for a good time.

So how about you donate your unused party stuff to us? And we will be sure to say “Thanks” to YOU at our upcoming social. The items must still be sealed in original packaging for us to use. No product recalls or health scares for us. And won’t you feel good knowing you found a good use for all that stuff you have squirreled away?

Now, we could go with an eco-friendly party like room mom Robin Fosdick did at her daughter’s fall school event. She challenged herself to plan and recruit other parents to help her provide a zero-waste party. And they came pretty darn close with almost nothing sent to the landfill! Wow! http://www.sustainablepeachtreecorners.com/2008/10/whats-in-box.html
Or we could buy biodegradables, non-toxic inks, locally produced, etc. But we have no money. L :(

This is a different kind of challenge that may actually be new to some: Use what you’ve got. Make do with less. Let go of things cluttering up your space. Look at things in a new light. Rethink. Repurpose. Reuse. Reduce. And then Recycle.

If you have some party items that you wish to contribute just email
sustainablenorcross@gmail.com. We’ll figure out a way to get them from you. Maybe even set up a drop off point to make it convenient for everyone.

Remember the items must be unused and still sealed in original packaging.

Then watch for your invitation. We’re having a par-dee!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Gotta Look Where You’ve Been to Know Where You’re Going

Well, not technically. Especially nowadays when you just set your GPS to start from wherever you are and move forward. But it does help every now and again to look at where you have been in order to better chart where you want to be and how to get there. And what better time than January? A new year, fresh opportunities, renewed optimism that all things are possible…

Oops, STOP RIGHT THERE. That’s one of my weaknesses. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I tend to take on more than I can shake a stick at. Some of you know what I mean. Meryl Wilkerson, are you reading this? Can you believe I am actually admitting it?

So I need your help. Yes, YOU. Let me lay out where we’ve been and YOU help figure out where we are going and how we can get there. You can be my GPS, Global Positioning System for Sustainable Norcross, that is.

So far (since June 1, 2008 I might add) you have:

*Chosen a name

*Crafted a mission statement and objective

*Decided on goals

*Selected a custom designed logo (Thanks millions, Mike Lorey!)

*Applied for and earned the Away From Home Event Recycling grant for the city July through September (Thank you to former City Manager Warren Hutmacher for allowing us to imagine Norcross a recycle city, and Joe Dunlop of Georgia Department of Community Affairs for helping us navigate the process and having a grant to shoot for.)

*Recruited Julie Foster in July as Sustainable Norcross liaison to Tixie Fowler’s local and organic farmers’ market team. They are “The Incredibles”!

*Conducted beta tests and dress rehearsals of Event Recycling at the City’s July 3 Celebration (appreciate your assistance Craig Mims, John Davis, Jennifer Francis and City Pubic Works Department), September 5 Concert in the Park (fabulous Rip Robertson, just fabulous), September 6 British Car Fayre (Edna Berkshire thanks for welcoming us) and first annual Hopewell Healthy Living 5K on September 27 (Paisha Girtmon and Dr. Ben Pennington, you put on a quality event)

*Presented programs to Norcross Garden Club’s morning and evening groups in September (Carol Edwards and Amanda Gainer, thanks for inviting us. The gasoline money went to defray SN expenses.)

*Printed business cards in time for mingling at Norcross Business Association September meeting. (Chuck Paul, thanks for letting us visit.)

*Introduced our website (Way to go Amanda Gainer! Nearly 500 hits and they are not all from me, really.)

*Rolled out Event Recycling at the premier annual event, Norcross Art Fest held October 4 and 5 (Art Fest Organizers, thanks for having faith in us. Alice Hinterschied, the Hospitality Suite rocked! Robert Katz, volunteer wrangler at Norcross High is also the GC&B contact, Interact Sponsor and yes, most importantly, teacher. And you SN volunteers who made all this happen, you are awesome!)

*Participated at Art Fest with an informational booth and celebration of Recycling and Waste Reduction, including an official City proclamation (Thank you, Mayor Bucky Johnson. Hey Buster, the Brown Thrasher a/k/a Anthony Kontaxis, have you recovered yet? Art “Captain Recycle II” Geist, you are a hoot!)

*Designed our first T-shirt for active volunteers, underwritten by Advanced Disposal and the original caped crusader, Captain Recycle Steve Edwards.

*Supplied volunteers to assist in the city sponsored Electronics Recycling Day October 11 (Phil Robertson you read our minds by adding this for our citizens.)

*Conducted Rivers Alive Stream Clean Up on October 18 at city owned Johnson-Dean Park (Andrea Ward, I couldn’t have survived without you! Kyle Evens, Webelos Scouts and dads of Alpharetta and Milton, thanks for reminding us that Community is bigger than our city limits.)

*Spun off a group of volunteers to work on a sustainability advisory panel to the city which achieved official city designation November 2 as Sustainable Norcross Commission (Thumbs up Chuck Cimarik, Kathy Nau, Heather Royston, Jim Scarbrough and Connie Weathers.)

*Started accepting donations in October of aluminum cans and other metals which are recycled for cash to fund organizational expenses. (To Power Engineering’s Belinda Fleming, our inaugural and monthly donor, thanks. What a great idea!)

*Started accepting donations in January of used ink and toner cartridges to recycle and credit toward SN purchases at Office Depot. (First contributor and SN volunteer Andrew Hixson of Streetsmart, a division of RBC knows one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.)

*Received first official cash donation in December in honor of active member Bill Posey. (Generosity squared.)

*Joined Sustainable Peachtree Corners in January in the 1000 Healthy Lawns Challenge. (Robin Fosdick, Judy Knight and Karen Ford, don’t show us up too bad.)

*Debuted blog on January 27 (Will wonders never cease?)

*And today January 29 announced the 2008 Volunteers of the Year: Barbara and Jim Rentz. Otherwise we’d have to list you in nearly every bullet above. Can we clone you?

And I am surely forgetting something and more importantly some-body. Please forgive me. Although I’m saving a few of you for future postings.

Collectively YOU are a mighty force of energy to be channeled for the good.

What I see in the rearview mirror looks pretty darn impressive!

Let’s talk about where we are going next time.

Happy Birthday!

January 28, 19 something, something did not begin like any other day. My water broke and we were on the way to the hospital for the birth of our first child. Thus started the amazing journey of parenthood - an odd mix of joy and pain, discovery, new beginnings and a whole new world of possibilities.

Today on my son’s birthday I cannot help but think of the parents, OK the mother especially, of the octuplets. Can you even imagine? Think of how many people will become an integral part of the lives of these 8 kids and their parents in the coming years. It took a team of 46, well 48 if you count the parents, just to bring them in to the world. Nannies and neighbors, teachers, soccer coaches, ballet instructors, Scout leaders, preachers, politicians, public safety personnel, bus drivers, well the list is endless of who will be needed to help raise these kids. It really takes a village but the outcome is worth it.

All this birthin’ babies stuff has me musing about how similar the experience is to bringing a new organization like Sustainable Norcross in to the world. I cannot really say when the idea was conceived, but the organizational meeting was held June 1, 2008, a birthday of sorts. 16 people were in attendance and many more sent well wishes. Since that time our baby has grown like Topsy.

In less than eight short months all these wonderful people have pitched in to give our baby a name, the sound foundation of a mission, goals and priorities, and then has quickly gotten down to business. We discovered the top two areas of interest among the participants are recycling/waste reduction and improving the local food supply. Sustainable Norcross earned a grant for the city that includes special recycling containers and a trailer to transport them to events. Volunteers successfully implemented their use at the fabulous Art Fest in October.

Sustainable Norcross devotees have actively participated in the planning of the Whistle Stop Farmers’ Market that is coming to town June 2 and each Tuesday through out the summer and early fall. There is lots of excitement about this first for Norcross and you will be hearing more about it as the time nears.

Early on we realized that we were not alone. Unbeknownst to us at the time we selected our name, other little Sustainables were being christened: Sustainable Dunwoody http://www.sustainabledunwoody.com/, Sustainable Peachtree Corners http://www.sustainablepeachtreecorners.com/ and Sustainable Alpharetta http://www.sustainablealpharetta.com/. All parented by truly amazing people.

Godmother to us all is Pattie Baker. She got the whole blog ball rolling and has molded us in to a loose family called the Sustainable North Atlanta Alliance http://sustainablenorthatlantaalliance.tumblr.com/. Thanks to my neighbor and former Peachtree Corners resident Julie Foster, we discovered triplets, Robin Fosdick, Judy Knight and Karen Ford. Well OK, they are not really birth triplets, rather co-creators of Sustainable Peachtree Corners. Incidentally Karen really is the mother of triplets. And where would we be without Logo Man, Mike Lorey, graphic artist, masters degree student, gardener, husband, oh and in his spare time Sustainable Alpharetta blogger. We have him to thank for taking our multiple goals and creating the great logo for Sustainable Norcross.

By November Sustainable Norcross Commission was officially named as a citizen advisory board to the Norcross City Council. These five folks have been busy, so stay tuned.

And I’m not even getting in to the Hopewell Healthy Living Run, Rivers Alive Stream Clean Up, Electronics Recycling Day, informational booth at Art Fest, meetings, well, you get the idea.

So I’m thinking it is time to celebrate our new beginnings and milestones with an open house. Get all our volunteers and supporters back together after our holiday break. Yeah, after a busy but satisfying fall we all needed some time off. It is time to talk over our aspirations for our baby and get our eyes back on the prize. Our toddler is ready for a Birthday Bash!

Watch the calendar at www.sustainablenorcross.org for details.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Mike!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Begin at the Beginning…Or Not!

Frankly, I don’t know where to begin. This is my first blog, but my grandchildren and others are dragging me kicking and screaming into the 21st century. “You can do it! It’s easy. Just say what comes in to your head. Keep it real.” Uh oh, they have no idea what they are in for.

So I’ve finally summoned the courage (or taken leave of my senses) enough to give it a whirl and start a blog about our new grassroots group Sustainable Norcross. Hummm, now where to begin?

My late mother would advise, “Just begin at the beginning.” My late father, being a sometimes journalist would say “Get to the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of the matter.” My creative sister would jump right in the middle and talk about the relationships and off beat stuff. She’s the one who travels and never visits the tourist highlights but gets holiday cards from all over. My fiscally conservative accountant brother would counsel that the numbers tell the story. But me, what do I say? Surely I have a little bit of all my family in me.

Well, I say my favorite dining venue is the covered dish supper. You may call it a pot luck dinner or something else. But I cannot resist a little taste of everything, especially when each cook has prepared their specialty to share. And based on my age, and the sage advice of those who arrived ahead of me, I may even go for the dessert first!

So let me share something sweet with you. This whole sustainable city thing is really taking off! I have been pleasantly surprised at the number and quality of volunteers who have given so much, the service projects completed and the warm reception of our municipal government, neighbors and even strangers. It is thrilling and down right inspirational to discover so many like minded people, capable and energetic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, generous and focused; people who get things done and share the vision of preserving our future by living smarter today. People like you.

And it has all happened in really short order. But rest assured there is plenty more on the menu. Join me here from time to time or check out
www.sustainablenorcross.org. Together these e-tools will give you a good glimpse into our sweet beginnings and the flavor of things to come.