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/
May 1, 2017 marks the 7th anniversary of a natural disaster that devastated Nashville, mourned 11 lives lost, saw $2 billion in damage, and ultimately brought our community closer together. Out of the rain that fell seven years ago – 13.5 inches in 36 hours – was born a greater resiliency, an engaged citizenry and stronger social cohesion.
Socket was curious about the origins and impact of Earth Day, so we did a little digging! (But not enough to uproot the tulips!)
When did Earth Day begin?
The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970 when 20 million Americans demonstrated for cleaner air, land, and water. Thousands of locations, including several colleges and universities, participated in the event.
When was Nashville’s first Earth Day?
2017 marks the 16th Nashville Earth Day celebrated in Centennial Park. Before that, Nashville Earth Day celebrations we held throughout the community at places like the Cumberland Science Museum (now Adventure Science Center), Radnor Lake, the YMCA, and many more!
Why do we celebrate on April 22?
The date of April 22 was chosen because on many university calendars, it falls between spring break and final exams. Since college students were targeted to champion the movement, this date accommodated their schedules.
What impact did the first Earth Day have?
By the end of 1970, “the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.” Source: EarthDay.org
When did Earth Day go global?
On Earth Day’s 20th anniversary April 22, 1990, the event went worldwide, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries to celebrate the planet.
What about now?
Today, Earth Day has the distinction of being the “largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.” Source: EarthDay.org
I want to know more!
I want to participate!
Socket can’t wait to see you at Nashville’s Earth Day Festival this Saturday, April 22 at Centennial Park from 11:00am – 6:00pm. Visit Socket’s booth to meet our mascot Socket, enter the kids’ art contest, pick up a free coloring book, and enter to win a backyard composter. Our booth, #38, is at the end of our row, right across the walking path from the "Green Market" vendor area.
… Save precious water
… Reduce stormwater runoff
… Mitigate flooding and drought
… Reduce pollution to local streams and rivers
… Save money on your water bill
Can you believe all of these benefits begin with just one barrel? Socket will show you how!
Rain barrels are a simple, inexpensive, yet effective piece of green infrastructure that you can easily add to your home. A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams. They come in a few shapes and sizes, but all of them save you money and help protect your health and the health of the environment.
Here in Nashville, we experience both floods and drought. Rain barrels can help mitigate both. During a flood event, the ground becomes saturated with water and waterways are overwhelmed. By capturing some of the rainfall, rain barrels slow down the rate at which water must be absorbed by the environment. During dry times, your rain barrel will collect valuable rainfall to be used to quench thirsty plants around your home.
Rain barrels are also good at preventing water pollution by capturing stormwater. Socket did some research, and found an EPA blog, which states: “As stormwater flows over the surface of your property, driveways, parking lots, roofs, etc, it picks up lots of sediments, such as animal droppings, tire residue, motor oil, brake dust, deicing compounds (in the winter), fertilizers, pesticides, trash, heavy metals and other pollutants and carries them to the nearest storm drain. … From there it often goes directly into nearby streams, ponds or another water body.” (https://blog.epa.gov/blog/tag/rain-barrels/) Rain barrels can help!
Photo: waterway littered with garbage
Finally, who doesn’t want to save on their water bill and treat their outdoor plants to a treat? Socket does! Rainwater that collects in your rain barrel is free of chlorine, is slightly acidic (just the way plants like it), and contains nitrates, an important maco-nutrient for plants. Your plants will appreciate a drink of rainwater over water from the hose. Meantime, you’ll be reducing your costs for water by using what falls from the sky!
With all of these positives, why not resolve to install at least one rain barrel at your house this spring? It’s easy and inexpensive!
Ready to take the plunge?
Socket found a deal for you. You can buy a fully built rain barrel from Nashville nonprofit Cumberland River Compact for only $40. For installation and maintenance tips, Metro Water Services has you covered. Visit their website for easy steps for installing and maintaining your new rain barrels!
Want to learn more?
Check out this EPA video for a primer on rain barrels.
The Department of General Services delivers an array of services to all departments and agencies of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County so that they are able to focus and achieve their own missions.
In addition to the services that are so integral to other agencies achieving their missions, General Services maintains a focus on serving citizens. The department directly serves the public with its ADA compliance, Sustainability program Socket Unplug Nashville, and eBid Nashville programs. Regardless of program area or whether service is being provided to other Metro departments or directly to citizens, DGS staff are guided by a commitment to excellent service, environmental responsibility, conservation and cost reduction.