By Kelsi Stubblefield Lewis, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Fall 2018
Most people in the United States drive to work alone every day. In the 2013 U.S. census, it was found that 76.4% of Americans travelled to work each day by driving in a single passenger vehicle. [i] For Nashville, and for Nashville’s ever expanding downtown area, the number of lone drivers is even higher.
“84% of downtown Nashville workers drive to work alone,” Nashville Connector Program Director, Miranda Clements said. Clements not only spoke about the current number of drivers, but also about the future of Nashville roads, as well. With approximately one hundred people moving to Nashville each day, the total number of drivers on Nashville roads is projected to rise exponentially. [ii]
“Nashville is growing.” Clements said. “The population is projected to increase by one million in the next twenty-five years, and downtown Nashville is changing as a result,” Clements said. She continued on to say that, consequently, traffic is increasing steadily, “what used to be a fifteen minute commute is now at least a thirty minute commute.”
To accommodate Nashville’s projected growth, Clements said, many building developments are in the pipeline. If all projected downtown developments come into existence, then 40,000 additional workers would be added into the downtown area, and downtown traffic could increase by as much as 45% over current levels.
With traffic already rising steadily, the addition of 40,000 or more cars could mean more stress and significantly longer commute times for many Nashville residents.
But Clements wants to inform Nashville natives that there may be better options out there. In fact, in a world of increasing traffic, there are many alternative commute options that are beneficial to mental health, physical health, and environmental health, and a new initiative called Nashville Connector, run out of the Metro Nashville Planning Department, can help Nashvillians find the commute that is right for them.
“Nashville Connector is the one stop shop for commute options.” Clements said. “We are a new resource for Metro Nashville to connect people to existing transportation options other than driving alone.” The Nashville Connector website houses a stockpile of commute information, including bus routes, bike paths, ride share information, and train schedules. Nashville Connector’s tagline is ‘Plan a Better Commute’ and the program provides a full list of resources to help Nashville residents achieve this goal.
Alternative transportation options such as carpooling, riding the bus, biking, or walking, have tremendous benefits for traffic congestion, for an individual’s health, and for the environment. “As driving becomes more expensive, less convenient, and more stressful, people find that their health and productivity go up if they’re taking other ways to get to work, such as transit,” Clements said, “there are also financial benefits. It costs an average of ten thousand dollars a year to own and operate a car, so a family or an individual can save a lot of money.”
Clements went on to say that she understands how the idea of switching to alternative forms of transportation can be overwhelming, so, to assist, Nashville Connector is hosting The Commuter Challenge this month, October 22-28. “The commuter challenge is a one-week challenge where we are asking people to try another commute other than driving to work alone, and that can be anything,” Clements said, “people can take the bus, ride their bike, walk, carpool, vanpool, or they can work at home for a day.
The week-long Commuter Challenge is hoping to foster a friendly competition between downtown employers, as each business attempts to get the highest number of employees to take alternative commutes for one business day. “After the commute we will recognize the businesses with the highest participation,” Clements said, “but people can also sign up as an individual.” Businesses and individuals across Nashville, including the Department of General Services Sustainability Division, are participating in the weeklong event.
The goal of the commuter challenge is to ‘break the ice,’ and get commuters to explore their possibilities for alternative transportation. “This is an easy way for people to try some other option.” Clements said. “If they don’t want to take the bus or are too far from the bus stop, then they can grab some friends and carpool. We just want to expose people to the different options out there.”
In an ever expanding city, increasing traffic means longer commutes, higher carbon dioxide emissions, and more stress for Nashville residents, and the need for change is apparent. “We feel that ‘one person-one car’ is not the future of downtown Nashville,” Clements said, and Nashville Connector wants to provide Nashville with the best commute options for each budget, location, and ability.
"We believe that knowledge is key," Clements said, "we feel that what Nashvillians need is encouragement and information, a service that Nashville Connector is ready to provide."
For more information about Nashville Connector, alternative transportation options, or to sign up for the Commuter Challenge, visit nashconnector.org.
By Kelsi Stubblefield Lewis, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Fall 2018
It’s a metallic green beetle no bigger than a penny, and while it may not look intimidating at first, this tiny insect could cause serious harm to Nashville trees.
The Emerald Ash Borer is a small, invasive Asian beetle whose larvae burrow into and feed on the inner bark of ash trees. Likely originating in Asia and transported to the United States via wood packing material, it is estimated that Emerald Ash Borers have been present in Davidson County since 2014 and in Tennessee since 2010. [i] [ii]
“Nashville has many beautiful native ash trees in parks, on school grounds, along city streets and in private yards.” Nashville City Horticulturist, Jennifer Smith, said. “Sadly, the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest, will kill all of them by 2025-2030 unless the trees are treated. No ash tree is immune to the devastating effects of this insect which is now in Davidson County. The progress of the infestation and resulting tree death is swift.”
Ash Trees at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Credit: Patricia Miller
In Tennessee, Smith explained, the typical life cycle of an Emerald Ash Borer looks like this:
In May or June, the adult Emerald Ash Borer beetles fly in the tree tops for about two weeks looking for mates, sometimes up to 18 miles from where they originally hatched. After mating, the female beetle lays 40-70 eggs on the bark of the ash tree. When the eggs hatch in two to three weeks, the tiny larvae bore into the tree layers just below the bark to feed. When eating the wood under the bark, the larvae leave behind distinctive S-shaped tunnels. Larvae continue development into early fall, getting larger, going through four stages before the pupa stage. One to two weeks into the spring season, a new generation of adult beetles emerges from the tree through small D-shaped holes, ready to begin the cycle again.
The effects of the larvae’s feeding are devastating. Ash trees infested with Emerald Ash Borers need to be treated as quickly as possible, as infested trees can die as soon as one to three years after symptoms occur.
Is my tree infested?
According to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Works and The Metro Tree Advisory Committee, the following are signs of Emerald Ash Borer infestation:
A declining top (crown) with leaf loss and dying branches is often the first visible symptom.
Distinctive pencil sized D-shaped exit holes in the bark. Other native borers leave more roundly shaped exit holes.
When the bark is peeled back, larvae are found feeding underneath or have left s-shaped serpentine galleries.
Apparent “blonding” on the outside of the tree from woodpeckers stripping off bark in attempt to feed on the larva inside.
Small sprouts growing from the tree roots or trunk. [ii]
Smith stresses that if you find out that you have an ash tree, now is the time to take action. Don’t wait until an infestation becomes apparent. Often by the time an ash tree has lost 30% of its crown, treatment may no longer be effective. “Be sure to follow recommendations on how to hire an arborist who can determine the health of your tree, offer removal alternatives, and treatment options,” Smith advises, “the sooner decisions are made about how to deal with your tree, the less expense will be incurred.”
If you discover that a neighbor has an ash tree, or that their ash tree is infested, let them know as soon as possible. They may be unaware of the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic. If you suspect an ash tree in the city right-of-way to be infested, call hubNashville at 615-862-5000 or 311 to report it.
When asked who should be concerned about the Emerald Ash Borer Epidemic, Smith’s answer was simple: everyone. “Nashville’s trees are very important to us,” Smith said, “trees improve air quality, conserve energy and reduce energy costs, reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, and many other benefits. They add natural character to Nashville and give neighborhoods a sense of identity. It is estimated that ash trees make up approximately 10% of our urban forest canopy. A loss of 10% of our trees will affect all of us.”
Jennifer Smith had one final piece of advice to offer in response to the epidemic: “Plant trees! Our valuable and loved city’s forest will need help in recovering from the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic.”
The Landscape and Green Infrastructure Manager at the Department of General Services, Treff Alexander, spoke about how his team has been heeding Smith’s advice and planting trees to combat the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic. Alexander stated that there were approximately 12-20 ash trees on the city properties managed by the Department of General Services, and all but one have been removed. Some of the trees were displaying telltale signs of infestation, Alexander said, such as sprouts at the base and rot, so the trees were removed as a safety precaution, with the goal of preventing them from becoming a fall hazard. Plans are in place to replant different species of trees in place of the removed ash trees.
To learn more about tree planting, the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic, and how you can protect ash trees visit trees.nashville.gov.
The EAB Speaker’s Bureau, presented by the Metro Tree Advisory Committee, offers free informational presentations about the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic for organizations, workplaces, or places of worship. To schedule a free EAB presentation, register at trees.nashville.gov or contact Metro Horticulturist, Jennifer Smith at 615-862-8708.
A free, public talk about the Emerald Ash Borer is being held October 18, register now at https://crc.kindful.com/register/river-talk-october-18-2018.
The third Friday of each month, the Nashville Farmers' Market stays open late with a special Night Market. Join Socket for the October Night Market on Friday, 10/19 from 5-9pm. With special food, drinks, and activities, this event is free and open to all. https://www.nashvillefarmersmarket.org/night-market/
Join Socket at Nashville's Drive Electric Week celebration! Test drive or ride in electric cars, bikes, and scooters and get all your questions answered. This free event is open to all. Saturday, September 15th from 9am-noon at Nissan Stadium's Lot R. https://driveelectricweek.org/event.php?eventid=1554
By Kelsi Stubblefield Lewis, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Fall 2018
Years ago, a little girl with a messy ponytail trekked through the woods with her friends, each of them clutching a trash bag in one hand. As they walked with their moms, the girls chatted and casually picked up abandoned cups, cans, and bottles. Eventually the trees grew sparse, and as the lake’s edge got closer the girls began to find empty bait boxes and sunscreen bottles, as well.
It was “Lake Cleanup Day,” an annual tradition that everyone took very seriously, but none more so than the girl with the ponytail. When the moms would glance away, they would turn back to see that she had run off to check the edges of their route or had fallen behind combing through shrubs making sure that they had found all the trash. At the end of the day, the girl with the ponytail turned in her big bag of litter to the collection table with an equally big grin.
On the drive home, she looked out the window at the sparkling lake and the towering trees. She thought about the deer, the foxes, and the fish that lived there. She thought about the families that hiked, swam, and fished there, too. She liked to think that because of something she had done, life was a little bit better for all of them. She felt good. She felt like Superwoman.
My dad and I hiking through the "Garden of the Gods" in Illinois
That little girl in the ponytail grew up in a small town next to that lake and those trees. She went to high school and joined the Outdoorsmen’s Club, where she learned how to better protect the nature that was very much still a part of her. As she got older, the girl found a new passion in reading and writing. Suddenly, her weekends were filled with not only family hikes, but with books and stories, as well.
When she turned eighteen, the girl decided that she wanted to move to Nashville and study writing at Lipscomb University.
That girl was me! I did move to Nashville in 2015, and continued my journey to find “green” again.
As an English major, I was a student with a serious love of language, both reading it and composing it. I loved my classes and took pride in my work, but throughout my time at Lipscomb, I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. When I thought about the future, or when I tried to picture what I wanted to do with my life, it was as if the picture wouldn’t quite come into focus, like one, tiny dial hadn’t quite clicked into place.
I fought with this feeling until last year, my junior year of college, when I walked in to one of my general education classes. As I sat down, our professor announced that a guest speaker would be presenting that day.
The speaker announced that she was a professor from our university’s Department of Environmental Sustainability. She had come that day to tell us about some exciting new ways that people were saving our planet’s resources. As she spoke, I hung on to every word. She said that our waters, our air, our land, and our trees were in danger, but there were so many amazing things that people were doing to help, and we could do them, too. For a moment, I was the little girl with the messy ponytail again.
A few days later, I declared my minor in Environmental Sustainability, and something (that felt a little like a tiny dial) clicked into place.
Since that click, I have had some incredible opportunities. I have studied environmental law, as well as many sustainable practices in the areas of agriculture, food, energy, and transportation. I found myself particularly interested in a sustainable agriculture practice called silvopasture, and I was able to present research on it at Lipscomb University’s Student Scholars Symposium this past spring.
My Scholars Symposium poster presentation on silvopasture, an agricultural practice that combines forestry and grazing
I have also worked with Lipscomb’s chapter of The Food Recovery Network, where we take leftover food from our university’s cafeteria and donate it to local nonprofits. I feel fortunate to have also had the opportunity to intern with The Nashville Food Project and to currently be interning with Socket, the Metro Department of General Services’ sustainability outreach program.
Me cutting fruit in the prep room at The Nashville Food Project
When I think about all of these opportunities and how they have shaped me, I am always humbled to trace it back to that one small moment in class.
Looking towards the future, there are still no specifics, but what I do know is that the picture of my future, much like the picture of my past, is green. What I do know is that I want to spend my life doing something akin to picking up trash from my hometown lake; I want to do something that improves life for others in this world.
I’ve also come to accept that I’ll never save the world on my own. I’ll never be Superwoman, but that little girl in the messy ponytail still lives in me, and she’ll never stop trying.
Socket loves a good romp outside as much as the next dog. But when Socket hears thunder or spots lightning, it’s tail between the legs and run for shelter! 2018 has been an extraordinarily deadly year for lightning strikes in Tennessee, with three deaths in less than two months, which is more than the previous 11 years combined.[i] Climate change is already affecting Tennesseans in far-reaching ways. Certain types of extreme weather events with links to climate change have become more frequent and/or intense.[ii]
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family from lightning? Follow these simple tips and precautions from Wikihow.com[iii] to be storm-safe this season.
Stay away from open fields or hilltops. Lightning often strikes the tallest object in the area, so avoid open fields or any hilltops. Look for a low-lying area like a valley or ravine, preferably obscured from the rain. Take refuge here until the storm passes. Crouch down with your heels touching and your head between your knees: this will make you a smaller target.
Do not lie down flat, and minimize your contact with the ground. Lightning can be fatal up to one hundred feet away from the initial strike.
Avoid swimming or watersports on rainy days. Check weather forecasts early in the day, and avoid going to a swimming pool, river, lake, or beach on rainy days. If you find yourself in open water during a thunderstorm, return to land immediately. If you are in a boat and cannot return to safety, drop anchor and crouch as low as possible.
Do not return to the body of water until thirty minutes after the last lightning strike. Any earlier, and the storm may not be over.
Indoor swimming is equally unsafe. Avoid all large bodies of water during a storm.
Don't stand near trees or tall isolated objects. Taller objects are more likely to be struck by lightning. Wherever you are, don't become the highest object anywhere. Avoid standing under trees in a lightning storm, and stay away from tall objects like light posts.
If you're in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
Umbrellas can increase your risk of getting hit if it is the tallest object in the area.
Avoid metal objects, like fences or exposed pipes. Metal conducts electricity, and you are much more likely to get hit. If you are carrying large metal objects, let them go. Small metal objects, like piercings or electronic devices, do not carry a large risk and are safe to hold.
Add a lightning rod to your roof. Lightning rods do not attract lightning but do provide a path of least resistance if lightning hits your house. This can prevent the electric current from damaging your home. Do not install a lightning rod yourself: find an electrician certified to install lightning systems.
Avoid bathing, showering, or using the sink as much as possible. During thunderstorms, lightning can travel through water pipes if it strikes your home. Do not bathe or shower until the storm has passed. If you have to use the sink, only do so in emergencies.
Turn off and stay away from wired electronics. Using electronic devices that plug into the wall is dangerous during a lightning storm. Avoid using TVs, washing machines, and corded phones during thunderstorms. Wireless electronics, like cell phones, are safe to use unless they are plugged into a charger.
Keep your windows closed. Avoid standing next to open windows or doors during a thunderstorm. Although rare, lightning can travel through windows during storms. Glass is a good insulator, so it is unlikely that the window will be struck if closed.
Run to your vehicle for safety. When your choice is either outdoors or inside a car, your car is always the safest option. If caught in a thunderstorm, remain inside your car until the storm passes. Close your windows, and put the top up in your convertible.
Place your hands in your lap. Most cars are safe from lightning, but the metal exterior or any metal objects are not safe to touch. If lightning strikes your car, the current will flow from the car's outer metal cage and into the ground below. Keep your hands in your lap and avoid leaning on the car doors or touching any exposed metal.
Don't handle the radio or your GPS system. Some portions of the current can travel through the wired areas in your car. Don't touch any of the vehicle's electrical systems during the car, including your radio, GPS system, or cell phone charger.
Pull to the side of the road in heavy storms. If driving in an outage area, pull over and turn on your hazard lights. Areas with outages are dangerous to drive in, especially if the traffic lights have shorted out. If you must continue traveling, treat intersections with shorted traffic signals as a four-way stop and take extra caution.
Socket says: Be sure to follow these practical tips to stay safe while enjoying the incredible beauty our city and state have to offer!
Department of General Services' Jerry Hall contributed to this blog.
By Maryam Muhammad, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Summer 2018
Before I was even born, it was decided that I would be vegetarian. Fast forward 20 years later and here I am, stirring turmeric and chia seed muffin mix with one hand (recipe below) and searching for the latest nutrition breakthroughs with the other.
My version of a prank is posting a picture of myself eating a "burger" (veggie sandwich) from Five Guys on Facebook and watching my friends freak out!
My parents primarily had health in mind as the basis for our family being vegetarian. Having switched to the lifestyle in their twenties, they hopped aboard the health train early and haven’t looked back since. We lived in southern California for the first 9 years of my life, but when we moved to Middle Tennessee when I was 10, I often felt like a vegetarian in a steakhouse.
Through elementary up until high school, I was the kiddo with the crazy vegetarian lunches. I found myself constantly fielding questions about the things I ate (“No, Alicia, I don’t eat grass”) and explaining the concoctions inside my Tootsie Roll tin lunch box (“Yes, chili can be made without beef”). As frequent as these interrogations were, I felt pride in my lunch creations (I have been cooking since I can remember) and confident in the choices I continued to make.
It wasn’t until the end of high school that I learned the impact that eating more fruits and vegetables – and fewer animal products – has on the environment. While I had always focused on the human health benefits of a plant-based diet, I’m now learning the many benefits it has for the health of our planet. My internship with the Department of General Services Division of Sustainability this summer has given me the opportunity to dive into this research. Here are some highlights.
If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs).[i]
Livestock production contributes nearly one-fifth of all global GHG emissions.[ii]
Sector emissions could be reduced by 70% through adopting a vegan diet and 63% for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs.[iii]
Adoption of a vegetarian diet worldwide would save 7.3 million lives by 2050.[iv]
So it seems that I have a host of reasons to continue to make the choices that I do and to encourage others to do the same. Just as taking shorter showers, composting, and taking the bus are proven methods to reduce your impact on the environment, adopting plant-based diet – or simply cutting back on your meat consumption – can be a profound step in your individual effort toward protecting the environment.
Oh, and did I mention… it’s delicious! Below, find two of my favorite recipes for healthy, tasty 100% vegetarian treats. Bon apetit!
Vegetable Stir Fry:
1 large pan
3-4 T olive oil
1 onion diced
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 bell pepper diced
1 large broccoli crown chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in pan at medium-hi heat until hot. Add garlic, onion, and bell pepper and reduce temp to medium. Once onions are translucent, add broccoli and carrot. Cook until broccoli and carrots are tender (about 10 mins) and add salt and pepper to taste.
Try adding these flavors:
Sweet Chili: 2 extra garlic cloves, 2 T honey, 1 T red chili paste, juice from ½ Lemon, 1 T white wine vinegar
Sesame: Substitute 1-2 T olive oil with sesame oil, 2 T honey, 1.5 T Soy Sauce, 2 t ginger, 1 T white wine vinegar
Chia Seed Muffins:
4 cups oats
4 t cinnamon
2 t nutmeg
2 t cardamom
1 T turmeric
¼ cup chia seed
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
2/3 cup of milk (of your choice)
2 t vanilla extract
¼ cup blackstrap molasses
Add anything you want: dark chocolate chips, a mashed banana, dried cranberries, dates, shredded coconut. Mix everything in a bowl, drop them in a 12 yield muffin tin, and pop them in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 mins. They aren’t sweet, so I substitute them for toast in the morning and top with almond butter and honey!
Join Socket and the Department of General Services as we partner with the Metro Planning Department and Tennessee Department of Health to help transform Broadway's parking spots into mini-parks, filled with seating, games, and more. Learn more about this annual tradition here: https://www.civicdesigncenter.org/events/parking-day
Socket the Dog has some helpful hints as we celebrate summer. These hot tips will help keep you and your family cool all season long!