Greetings, Socket fans! My name is Michelle Hamman, and I am the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Specialist in the Department of General Services’ Sustainability Division. Last month, I traveled with my daughters to New York City. While there, I saw many interesting examples of urban sustainability, which I’d like to share with you.
The most dramatic change since my last visit about five years ago was the public space reclaimed from the streets. In several places in the city, such as Times Square, sections of road have been blocked off from traffic and transformed into pedestrian-friendly spaces with seating and walking paths. Previously unusable pieces of land, like the medians of roads and old, out of use railroad tracks, have found new life in the form of bike lanes, sidewalks, and green spaces. I also noticed that all of these public spaces have recycling with good signage. Elsewhere in the city, I saw solar trash compactors.
Many Nashvillians recently heard about these upgrades. NYC activist and planner Janette Sadik-Khan came to Nashville and spoke about the streetscape overhaul she oversaw in New York. See video of her presentation here.
Compared to Nashville, there is a great deal of bike infrastructure in NYC. There are bike lanes throughout the city, and many of them are painted green to increase their visibility and create a visual divide between the cars and bike riders sharing the streets. Even with all of these bike lanes, I noticed that there were not a lot of people commuting by bike. This was surprising, as it was perfect weather for biking! I didn’t see a lot of bike racks - most people just lock their bikes to a tree - and I wondered if the lack of safe storage places could be one reason for low ridership.
Here in Nashville, a city ordinance prescribes that new commercial, office, and multifamily residential buildings install bike parking as a part of construction. This law aims to ensure that bicyclists can securely store their rides while out and about. Wondering where all the bike racks in Nashville are located? Find them on this bike parking map.
The bike infrastructure wasn’t the only green transportation option. My daughters and I used the extensive network of public transportation in both NYC and nearby New Jersey to get around. While in the city, we took the subway from place to place, and when we ventured out of the city, we took the train rather than using a car.
As someone whose job is all about energy efficiency and renewable energy, it was hard not to notice the many places using renewable energy sources like wind and solar. I saw solar panels on top of a FedEx building and mounted on telephone poles throughout New Jersey. One of the more creative uses of renewable energy was a parking space converted into an outdoor seating area with a wind turbine to power the lights.
Here in Nashville, eight of our Metro Nashville buildings have solar panels, which produce a total of more than 140,000 kWh of electricity annually. That’s equivalent to taking more than 20 cars off the road for an entire year. (EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator)
It is exciting to hear about and see what other cities are doing to improve resiliency, save money, and clean up the environment. We have a lot to learn from what others are doing, but thanks to strong leadership and investments in our future, Nashville is well on its way to being the greenest city in the Southeast!
Socket would like to wish all dads a Happy Father’s Day this Sunday! No matter how you choose to celebrate the day, there is no more quintessential father-child activity than fishing. What a great way to spend time with dear dad and enjoy the natural beauty of Middle Tennessee’s waterways!
Tennessee boasts 61,075 miles of rivers that contribute to the existence of many thriving diverse ecosystems. (Wild and Scenic Rivers) In fact, our state has the most diverse collection of freshwater fish species in the nation, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has a "Fishing in Tennessee" guide, with information on many of our fish species.
The first step to a successful fishing adventure is to obtain a fishing license for everyone who is 13 or older, and you can do so through the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s website.
When getting your fishing gear ready, there are a few steps you can follow to ensure that your trip will be as sustainable as possible.
First, avoid tackles and fishing sinkers that are made out of lead because if waterfowl swallow them while searching for food, these animals can suffer from lead poisoning. Furthermore, if enough of these lead-containing objects remain in the river, they can dissolve and cause elevated lead levels, harmful to the many plants and animals living in that habitat. (USGS)
Second, consider purchasing biodegradable fishing lines so that if your line ever breaks or you need to cut it and let it sink into the water, it will not stay in our environment polluting the waterway for centuries to come. While a conventional petroleum-based line takes 600 years to fully break down, a biodegradable line can degrade in 2 to 5 years. (EnviroGadget)
Socket’s third and final tip is to choose a non-motorized boat if possible to reduce the carbon emissions associated with your fishing trip. Plus, rowing is a great exercise!
Now that you’ve got your license and gear, you may be wondering where the best fishing holes are. Our Tennessee State Parks have a wealth of angling opportunities, and Percy Priest Lake off of I-40 and Old Hickory Lake are also great spots!
We hope you and your family get the chance to enjoy Tennessee’s waterways. Don’t forget to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable state by packing out trash and leaving no trace.
Happy Father’s Day, from Socket!
We’ve all heard of Earth Day, but there is another day designated to remind us that taking care of our planet and its natural resources is important. June 5th is World Environment Day (WED), an idea that started in 1974 by the United Nations and has brought attention to different environmental issues ever since. WED has been hosted by many different nations, from Bangladesh to Brazil, and from Japan to Italy. For 2017, Canada, a nation that is very proud of its natural heritage and diversity, was selected to hold WED’s main celebrations.
Each year, the UN chooses a different theme for WED, ranging from “Melting Ice - a Hot Topic?” in 2007 to “Water: Vital Resource for Life” in 1976. In 2017, the theme is: “Connecting People to Nature.” Socket the dog knows how important getting outside and moving around is. Join Socket this World Environment Day in enjoying the great outdoors!
With the accelerated advance of technology and the changes in lifestyle experienced throughout the past couple of decades, the amount of time the average American spends outdoors is on a sharp decrease. According to a study conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association, on a daily basis, approximately one-third of Americans do not spend time outdoors. Of those who do, about half of them spend less than 30 minutes outside. With this in mind, the UN hopes that this year’s WED will encourage us “to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it” (UN). You’ll find lots of tips on how to stay active and connect with nature on Socket’s website.
Due to excessive burning of fossil fuels to power our economy and other anthropogenic actions that lead to the degradation of our environment and its wildlife, the challenges Mother Nature faces are real. With individuals choosing to spend more and more time indoors, with their phones and other technological gadgets as a source of entertainment, many of us seem oblivious to nature’s call. But hopefully, this year’s WED entreating us to connect with nature will inspire more of us to take responsibility to care for the world around us and to ensure that future generations can celebrate WED for many Junes to come.
So take it from Socket: this summer, get outside and explore the natural beauty that surrounds us. Need some ideas on where to start? Here is a website with some ideas of where to go around Nashville: Tennessee Outdoor Leisure. As you plan a longer getaway, consider a visit to one of our 59 National Parks, located across the U.S.
Socket wishes all moms a happy Mother’s Day! While we celebrate our moms every day of the year, this is their special day.
Just as our own mothers nurture and nourish our bodies and minds, so does Mother Nature play a leading role in our physical and mental wellbeing. Today, as we each honor our “human moms,” take a moment to consider all that is provided by the complex planetary ecosystem all around us.
All 7.4 billion of us on the planet rely on clean water, clean air, and healthy food for our survival. The quality of what we drink, breathe, and eat is directly influenced by the environment from which it came. Pure water, clean air free from pollutants, and fresh food that is free from toxics support our physical growth and development.
Our biology dictates that we spend time outdoors. In fact, the best source of essential nutrient vitamin D is sunlight hitting our skin. Yet few foods in nature contain vitamin D, and more than 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in the nutrient.[i] As the world population migrates to cities and we spend more time indoors, this public health problem is likely to intensify. Luckily, getting your D is very doable – choose to spend 5-30 minutes in midday sun twice per week, take a supplement, and/or enjoy milk fortified with vitamin D, plus eggs and fatty fishes.[ii]
It is not just our physical health that benefits from time outdoors. City dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas.[iii] Studies show that spending time in nature benefits our mood and mental health and can even reduce symptoms of depression.
As you can see, there are many things to be thankful for from the natural world. Socket says, this Mother’s Day, honor the mother who raised you, and your Mother Nature!
And remember, if you’re thinking of buying mom flowers or chocolate for the big day, consider making the sustainable choice. It’s all explained in our Green Valentine’s Day blog.
As usual, there is no shortage of things to do in Nashville this weekend. Why not treat your mom to a special mother’s day jazz brunch at City Winery, enjoy free performances by the Blair Children’s Choruses, or relive childhood wonder with the closing performance of "Goodnight Moon" at the Nashville Children’s Theatre on Sunday? Happy Mother’s Day!
[i] Cure for Vitamin D deficiency? More sun, less block: study 5/2/17 http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/cure-vitamin-deficiency-sun-block-study-article-1.3130619
[iii] Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature 6/30/15 http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/
Sometimes it takes an outside force to make us look at things in a new light. When Nancy Whittemore became the Director of General Services in 2003, she was faced with not only changing the course of the operational side but the overall attitude of its employees.
With few procedures in place, Whittemore went on to redirect the course of General Services.
Whittemore and her team essentially changed the mantra of the department. “Our goal is to provide high performance buildings,” said Whittemore, “as well as improve job satisfaction and employee performance.”
As with most businesses, Whittemore and her team were charged with lowering operating costs. This meant creating standards for preventative maintenance, energy efficiency in the buildings, and more. “Honestly, we didn’t even call it ‘sustainability’ but that’s what we were doing. As long as you are doing the right things and put in the right business principles, it doesn’t matter whether you call it ‘going green’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Whittemore.
Incorporating sustainability within General Services came with the standardization Whittemore and her team were putting in place by addressing problem areas. At the time, there was no preventive maintenance plan in place, so the team had to figure out how to save money to replace mechanicals.
Funds were tight, but the department found areas where costs could be reduced with a better plan. “We found that where Metro was putting most of their money was around environmental issues,” said Whittemore.
Air quality, dampness and mold, low-performing mechanical equipment – these were all concerns that in the past had just been patched up. “We came up with a solution versus just a Band-aid,” said Whittemore.
These solutions included conducting a trash audit to justify a recycling program, data collection and physical inventory for each building. So when General Services was given the responsibility of building management, they were already on the right path.
But as with most solutions, it takes a group effort to make General Services run smoothly. Whittemore empowered her staff to try new things to save costs; whether they worked was secondary. “It’s OK here to say you tried this and it didn’t work,” said Whittemore.
Now with all hands on deck, General Services can continue to champion the cause of sustainability in Nashville.
When the Green Ribbon Committee was launched back in 2008, Nashville was set on course to let sustainability guide the city’s future.
With that came the decision to require new buildings over 5,000 square feet to become LEED®-certified.
Today, the Mayor’s Livable Nashville Committee and General Services’ new Sustainability Division plan to continue that work and continue to incorporate LEED into new and renovated Metro buildings.
The LEED® rating systems were established by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, and were developed through an open, consensus-based process led by LEED® committees.
LEED® certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, LEED® provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
In November 2010, General Services completed construction on its first LEED® facilities, with a major renovation to the Howard Office Building and Lindsley Hall. The renovation included a 30 kW solar photovoltaic system with a display in the lobby showing the public the electricity produced from the panels.
With Lindsley Hall, General Services was able to maintain the historical features of the building while achieving significant building performance gains. The campus parking lot includes low impact development measures, such as pervious pavement and natural plantings.
The Howard Building served as a school until 1969. Metro acquired the building in 2000 and utilized the space for several city services including Social Services until renovation began in March 2008. The $39 million renovation of the building took nearly four years to complete. The 145,00 square feet building also houses the city's Technology Information Services and Finance Department in addition to the county clerk and property assessor's office. Home to three elected officials, two Metro departments and the Center for Responsible Energy (CORE), HOB is a leader in environmental performance.
Now General Services manages over 21 LEED®-certified facilities and continues to renovate and construct new buildings to the rigorous LEED® standards. Learn more about our LEED® facilities here.
DGS has eight facilities with solar panels for a total of 480 solar panels generating approximately 140,000 kWh for calendar year 2017. Track the Department of General Services' live solar feeds by clicking on the facilities below.