Atlanta: a great place for sustainability

Agriculture center at Truly Living Well Wheat Street Gardens, 75 Hilliard St., Atlanta.

Agriculture center at Truly Living Well Wheat Street Gardens, 75 Hilliard St., Atlanta.

‘Do something, then do something else’

By John A. Lanier

By its very nature, the Earth is resilient.

The Cuyahoga River, which famously caught fire 45 years ago, has recovered. Now more than 40 species of fish are found in the river, and bald eagles are able to nest nearby.

Ecosystems are quick to rebound from all types of natural disasters too.

Just think about how quickly new grasses sprout up in the cracks of Atlanta’s concrete sidewalks.

But the Earth is also finite.

My grandfather, the late Ray C. Anderson, had some thoughts on how we could do things better, and the example he set forth gives us an answer:

“Do something, then do something else.”

Ray was rather insistent with this call to action. And, like the Earth, Ray was resilient.

Ray was a small-town Georgia boy who created the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet, Interface. He also made it a global leader in sustainability.

Yet sustainability is still a stranger in most American homes. And concerns over the expense of sustainable methods mean that it has not yet won the allegiance of corporate America.

Will more businesses take the lead and inspire responsible planning? Will your family bring sustainability to its home and others?

We’ve seen companies prosper using sustainable methods. The result: less waste, lower expense, higher profit.

The ethical concern for sustainability is one that we feel has not received adequate attention.

Why should we care?

Whether you are motivated by a concern for the well-being of your children, aspirations for a higher yield for your business, or by religious beliefs, we all can discover our personal reasons for caring.

Atlanta is a great place to celebrate Earth Day. And it’s a great place to live. Consider:

• Trees Atlanta has been protecting Atlanta’s Urban Forest since 1985 and has planted 100,000 shade trees across the city.

• Fernbank offers UrbanWatch Restoration Field trips.

• Permaculture Design Certification programs teach Atlantans how to design ecosystems that improve fertility and abundance.

• Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead hosted a Caring for Creation Conference, a national conference promoting environmental stewardship.

These are just a few examples why our city among the trees can be the nation’s champion for sustainability. Let me cite a few more examples:

• A 2011 Brookings Institution study found that Atlanta is home to the most diverse clean metropolitan economy.

• Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business launched its Center for Business Strategies for Sustainability.

• Emory University’s Center for Ethics launched its new Culture, Religion, Ethics and the Environment program, or CREATE.

These are great initiatives. But we can make our sustainability efforts even smarter. A couple concepts we can support:

• Third-party solar financing would make our electricity bills cheaper, our environment cleaner.

• With the water challenges that we face in Georgia, rainwater harvesting makes sense.

(In just four years, rainwater harvesting systems are expected to meet their costs, sending savings straight to the bottom line).

Let’s do something together to improve our quality of life. And let’s start right here in the homes, neighborhoods, and businesses of Atlanta.

John A. Lanier is the director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation (

4 comments Add your comment

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

April 19th, 2014
2:50 pm

With regret I am reporting that recently employed Atlanta School Superintendant Dr. Meria Carstarphen announced that she will be a transformative leader. A transformative leader is another code word for the United Nation’s Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development.



April 19th, 2014
9:49 am

Two questions:

First, what of the cost? Who pays for all this? Who pays for making homes more “sustainable”? Who pays for the “third party solar financing”? Who pays for the “rainwater harvesting” equipment/system?

Clearly, in the mind of a Liberal enviromental crusader, all these wonders will be funded with OPiuM… Other People’s Money, a substance to which most Liberal/Progressives appear to be addicted. Or, hey, we’ll just pay more taxes and fees and fines! Or the government will just borrow or print some more money! (It’s easy to get excited about Saving the World when you don’t have to pay the cost yourself.)

Second… just what is meant and intended about making homes “more sustainable”? Does that mean driving up the costs of new homes with all sorts of new green-washing regulations and mandates to the point that ordinary people can’t afford their own new homes? (That would certainly mesh with the Liberal idea of controlling where people live…) Does it mean FORCING certain upgrades and renovations on people’s private homes, even if the homeowners don’t want them?

Does rainwater harvesting involve FORCING people to install expensive water-collecting equipment on their private homes that are their private property?

Solar power was mentioned… I have personally had Liberals tell me that every home should be fitted with solar power systems… and those liberals scoffed at me when I pointed out that homes are private property, not government property. Does Mr. Lanier’s ideas involve FORCING homeowners to install solar power systems on their private homes, even if the homeowners don’t want them?

Of course, Liberals don’t believe that there is such a thing as private property (except perhaps THEIR private property.) Mr. Lanier seems to express the attitude that all our homes really belong to The Collective, and the Collective should mandate all these wonderful things to “Save the Planet”, and to Hades with the notions of financial responsibility, control of the money one earns, and private property.

After all, you can’t “Save the Planet” unless you’re willing to make OTHER people sacrifice!

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

April 19th, 2014
7:20 am

Michael Shaw is the foremost authority on the United Nation’s Agenda 21, Sustainable Development, and the International Council For Environmental Initiatives, ICLEI.


Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

April 18th, 2014
10:31 pm

Oh no! Don’t tell me John A. Lanier wants sustainability for Atlanta. Michael Shaw has explained to citizens how collectivists have ruined his city, Santa Cruz, California. They have destroyed long standing American ideals of individual liberty and private property by promoting collectivism. The collectivist supports total control of individuals, private property, and local governments via councils.

The United Nations’ Agenda 21, aka, sustainable development, aka, ICLEI aka the International Council For Environmental Initiatives is bad news for Atlanta and all citizens who love freedom.