Enhancing Sustainability in Small Southern Communities

Every day, we have the opportunity to hear about our members' innovative projects, recent successes, and exciting ambitions for building and implementing sustainability in their communities. Through our Workgroups, committees, surveys, trainings, and more, we also have the pleasure of receiving valuable feedback from our members about how their participation at SSDN continues to broaden their horizons and link them to key resources, funding, and partners that allow them to advance sustainability and resilience in their cities and counties. Below, we are delighted to hear some recent thoughts from Olivia Barone, Sustainability Coordinator at the City of Montevallo, Alabama:

"During SSDN's 2021 Virtual Annual Conference this past May, I was able to network with members from nearly 100 cities and counties in the Southeast, including fellow sustainability leaders in neighboring Birmingham, AL. 

From there, myself and the three Birmingham members had a separate meeting to talk about our sustainability work thus far. In Birmingham, it's mostly planners wearing the City’s sustainability "hat" -- they were able to share about their policies, natural landscape codes, and some other sustainability initiatives with me. Most significantly, they let me know about a program through the American Geophysical Union called Thriving Earth Exchange (TEE). This program pairs a volunteer scientist with community leaders, working together to solve local challenges related to natural resource enhancement and climate change.

Birmingham applied to TEE to conduct a project to 'provide scientific input and review to the development and implementation of robust and effective green or clean technology-based incentives for heavy industry that are both practical and sound. While the City seeks to mitigate impacts to air, water and land, this project will focus primarily on minimizing air pollution (CO2, PM, etc.)'. After hearing Birmingham’s successes with the program, Montevallo applied and was selected for 2021. Our project seeks to conduct a quality of life study on our residents and the impact of community assets, resources, and services. I partnered with another internal department leader who focuses on youth drug prevention as well. I would have never heard of the program, or even thought to apply, without the initial conversations we had through the Annual Conference's chat function via Zoom!

In the summer of 2021, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs was funding energy and water assessments for Alabama communities through a nonprofit out of Atlanta, SouthFace. SouthFace was having a hard time finding communities to apply for the studies -- so they reached out to SSDN to expand their potential applicant pool. Because of our membership in SSDN, Montevallo was able to work with SouthFace to conduct energy and water assessments on four municipal buildings, including our City Hall/Police Department Municipal complex. We used these findings to apply for a State Energy Program grant, through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), to install solar panels on the roof of City Hall - a success resulting from a key finding from the audit.

I could not have higher accolades for SSDN and how much it has helped a small southern community like Montevallo."