Posts on Sustainable Development

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  • What is the “Greenest” Building? Making a Case for Building Reuse and Historic Preservation

    Carl Elefante, AIA, LEED AP, a prominent proponent of sustainable historic preservation, states, “The greenest building is the one that has already been built.”  Elefante’s declaration revolutionized the commonly-accepted theory that newer is better, both for society and for the environment. Elefante meant to dissuade public and private sectors [more…]

  • Biophilic Design, Part III: Cities

    Biophilic design offers solutions in the face of a world that is quickly urbanizing and taxing our health, our wallets, and our environment. Compared with more rural settings, urban environments make people more stressed, do greater harm to the environment, and cost their taxpayers more money. There are costs [more…]

  • Green Infrastructure 101

    In today’s changing climate, planning for natural hazard mitigation and the reduction of wet weather impacts is a top priority, particularly in coastal communities and flood-prone areas. Communities with growing populations face additional pressures, as more people and increased development strain existing water infrastructure and a place’s capacity to [more…]

  • The Smart Growth Program in North Carolina

    In September, my colleague Glenn Barnes shared resources from EPA on “smart growth” economic development. This approach to economic develop helps protect human health and the natural environment, while making communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse. Smart Growth can take many different forms, from planning and zoning [more…]

  • Solar Schools and Environmental Finance

    North Carolina is one of the leading states in the country when it comes to installing solar energy. The growth of solar in North Carolina has been a fascinating opportunity to study the impact of different environmental finance systems. While the financial incentives and environmental finance systems available to [more…]

  • EPA Resources on Smart Growth Economic Development

    Many small towns and rural areas had an economy that was built on a single economic sector (for example, logging, mining, or manufacturing) that has changed significantly by technology and/or market forces, leaving residents without jobs and governments without a healthy tax base.  Some communities respond with an economic [more…]

  • Mapping North Carolina’s Local Food Infrastructure

    Strengthening local food economies can be viewed as an important part of a holistic approach to community development. Local food can be a positive contributor to social capital, public health, environmental preservation, and overall quality of life. It also can be an important component of local economic development. In [more…]

  • 2016 Environmental Legislation: Place Matters!

    How much the last legislative session impacted environmental management in your community largely depends on where you live in the state. It was a “short” legislative session and relatively few bills were passed, but several of the bills that were passed contained significant provisions likely to impact environmental quality [more…]

  • Is Your Local Community Partner Ready To Go?

    In July 2013, I wrote a blog proposing a four-part framework for understanding if specific local organizations have the capacity to implement CED programs. How well does this framework hold up when actually used?  We answer this question using interviews with 31 local partners, over the past two years [more…]

  • Sparking Sustainability and Innovation

    This April, the North Carolina Department of the State Treasurer hosted a conference on “Sparking Sustainability and Innovation: Together, Let’s Build a Stronger Future”. The conference was designed to foster discussion around how innovation and sustainability are integral to creating and maintaining long-term stability for North Carolina communities. Successful [more…]

  • Live Long and Prosper: Does CED Impact How Long We Live?

    I often think about ways in which local government matters in the daily lives of citizens. This month, a major study was released showing how local conditions, and community and economic development, infrastructure, and planning in particular, may have a direct impact on the most basic quality of life [more…]

  • Community Food Strategies: Food System Network Building in NC

    As I have written about before, I see local food organizing as a powerful community building enterprise. Because everyone eats, local food efforts literally can have an impact on entire communities. And because local food organizing touches upon all aspects of community capital (social, environmental, financial, and so on), [more…]

  • The Blue Economy: Linking Water to Economic Revitalization

    Over the last several decades, the economy of North Carolina has undergone major transitions. Once home to thriving tobacco, furniture, and textile industries, we’re seeing more and more emphasis on high tech solutions to modern problems. We’re now a state of leaders in technology, education, manufacturing, green industry, and [more…]

  • How to Measure Job Creation from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs

      In past posts, we have discussed how governments can use financing programs to encourage energy improvements and how energy improvements can turn undesirable properties into economic opportunities.  In fact, economic development and job creation are some of the major benefits touted by governmental energy programs, even above and [more…]

  • The Triple Bottom Line in Local Government Community Economic Development

      A central tenet of community economic development is the belief that in fostering a healthy economy, we are working towards building healthy, vibrant communities. But many would contend that a healthy economy is only one piece of the puzzle. Local governments are increasingly paying attention to other elements [more…]

  • Can you feel it Coming in the Air? Rural Economic Development and Wind Farms

    Money may not literally grow on trees, but a glance at North Carolina’s rural economies reveals that cash crops sprout not just in our long-cultivated cotton and tobacco fields: they now also root in the steep hillsides of northwestern Christmas tree farms and navigate the waters flowing through the [more…]

  • Key Financial Indicators: Debt Service Coverage Ratio

    In previous posts, we have discussed where to find data to help make smart financial and managerial decisions. Another vital data source for any enterprise is its own financial statements, from which enterprises can calculate key financial indicators.  In March, we discussed operating ratio.  This post will discuss another key [more…]

  • Key Financial Indicators: Operating Ratio

    In previous posts, we have discussed where to find data to help make smart financial and managerial decisions. Another vital data source for any enterprise is its own financial statements, from which enterprises can calculate key financial indicators. Let’s look at key financial indicators from the perspective of a business-like [more…]

  • System Leadership and Community Development

    An article titled “The Dawn of System Leadership” was recently published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, and John Kania and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in community development. While the notion of system leadership is not new—it is getting at similar [more…]

  • Food Trucks, Waste, and Economic Opportunity

    How do you turn a small urban park into a massive culinary festival? Invite 45 food trucks to show up for the afternoon. Planning a sunny 50 degree day after a week of rain helps as well. “Food truck rodeos” have become a popular way of bringing people into [more…]

  • CDFI Profile: The Natural Capital Investment Fund

    A previous blog post discussed the role of Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, in North Carolina. CDFIs are typically smaller financial institutions that engage in mission-driven lending intended to expand access to capital in low-wealth and underserved communities in order to foster economic development and revitalization. CDFIs are [more…]

  • Where to Find Data for Smart Managerial and Financial Decisions

    Ever need to know how many single-family wood-framed houses were sold in the Midwest last year? Or the latitude and longitude of every farmers market in Wisconsin that sells herbs, flowers, and soap? What about the number of planes that sat on the tarmac more than three hours this [more…]

  • A Gathering of NC Food Councils

    Last week (December 4-5) I attended a remarkable event, perhaps the first of it’s kind. It was a gathering of people involved in local food system work from all across North Carolina, as well as some representatives from South Carolina and Virginia. The title of the event was “Connecting [more…]

  • Encouraging Property Improvements with Stormwater Fee Credit Programs

    Greentown, USA wants to join some of its large older city peers such as Washington and Philadelphia that are rebranding themselves as Green Environmental Cities. Greentown wants to become the greenest small town in the country and would like to encourage property owners across their town to plant more trees, convert their rain [more…]

  • New Tool Helps Communities Assess the Affordability of Services

    When the five small water systems in Hampton County, South Carolina decided to band together to create the Lowcountry Regional Water System (LRWS), they, like many other small water systems across the country, faced a number of managerial and financial obstacles. Among these challenges were a flat growth rate, degraded [more…]

  • Unrequited Demand in a World of Fixed Infrastructure

    It can be hard being a water utility when nobody needs you. Or worse yet, when you have to push people away. But the news seems rife with such stories of unrequited demand for service from water utilities that invested so much in the relationship, the infrastructure, now only [more…]

  • Community Food Councils: Questions and Answers

    On April 17, 2014 a webinar was held by UNC School of Government, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and the NC Community Transformation Grant (CTG) on food councils. Community and regional food councils (sometimes called food policy councils) are rapidly emerging as important mechanisms to stimulate the kind of dialogue and concerted action [more…]

  • Taxing Toilet Paper —Wastewater Finance Savior or Regressive Burden?

    Many government-owned wastewater systems in the United States are enterprise funds.  That is, they are business-like units within the overall government that should be self-sustaining, taking their revenue from the rates and fees charged to wastewater customers rather than from taxes.  Ideally, wastewater utilities base their rates and fees [more…]

  • Food Councils and Food Hubs

    This post is a follow-up to a webinar held April 17, 2014 on community food councils. A question was posed during the webinar: What is the relationship between food councils and food hubs? This post addresses that question.

  • Taxes and Environmental Finance

    In the span of a week, Americans witnessed two important days – Tax Day on April 15th, and Earth Day on April 22nd. While we saw many celebrations on Earth Day, on the infamous day that tax forms are due, moods were likely less cheerful as individuals throughout the [more…]

  • Less Consumption, More Production – Energy Efficiency Programs

    It seems like everywhere you turn these days, someone is talking about climate change and the effects of high energy consumption. No matter what your stance on the subject matter, the data concerning energy consumption and the cost of supplying its demand throughout North Carolina is shocking. A 2010 [more…]

  • Councils, Common Purpose, and Collaboration

    I read a terrific blog post at Harvard Business Review (HBR) the other day about collaboration. The author explained that “purpose is collaboration’s most unacknowledged determinant.” Community collaboration has never been more important as today’s challenges are too complex and interconnected for any one organization–government or otherwise–to handle alone [more…].

  • Understanding the Financial Position of Households Using the American Community Survey

    In previous posts, we have talked about publicly available data on inflationary measures including the Consumer Price Index and the Construction Cost Index as well as on commercial energy use from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the US Census.  The US Census also has a rich set [more…]

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: February 2014

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates. The North Carolina Department of Commerce continued to move [more…]

  • Change or Die: Why Big Electric Needs to Think Small

    The business model of electric utilities has remained largely unchanged in nearly 100 years. Until now, this capital-intensive industry has primarily recovered revenues through the sale of energy units, or kilowatt-hours: a use more, pay more approach. Most electric utilities operate as state-regulated monopolies because of the amount of [more…]

  • Food Deserts and Development Finance Options in North Carolina

    On January 27, 2014, the North Carolina General Assembly’s House Committee on Food Desert Zones heard testimony about food deserts in North Carolina. A “food desert” is defined in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 as an area “with limited access to affordable and nutritious food.” Maps [more…]

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: January 2014

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates. North Carolina Economic Development Board releases its strategic plan [more…]

  • The Buying Power of a Dollar, for Christmas Gifts and Beyond

    Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing… If you are like me at this time of year, busy with last-minute gift shopping, you may have the sinking feeling that every year it costs more and more to buy presents for our loved ones.  [more…]

  • Local Foods as Community Development, Some Questions and Answers

    Earlier in this Fall I reported on a webinar co-sponsored by the UNC School of Government and the Center for Environmental Farming System (CEFS) on local food and local government. The purpose of the webinar was to educate local government officials about how the local food movement can be an [more…]

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: November 2013

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates. Cabarrus County NC bows out of economic development ‘incentives [more…]

  • Can Environmental Regulation Promote Economic Development?

    In response to pressure from the state’s new data centers, Duke Energy recently filed a pilot program with the North Carolina Utilities Commission requesting approval to directly sell renewable energy to “new” industrial customers in the state. This pilot program seems directly targeted to the new data centers in [more…]

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: October 2013

    Law review article on economic development incentives in North Carolina by faculty member Tyler Mulligan: bit.ly/1akGKCO More details about the future of the Rural Center: State Budget Director reports that $85 million in existing grants and $24 million in Rural Center assets are to be transferred to state control, [more…]

  • Why Local Governments Should be Thinking About Local Food Systems

    Last month I hosted a webinar here at the School of Government, in partnership with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (or CEFS for short),  on the topic of local foods and local government. I was fortunate enough to have with me a who’s who of local foods experts [more…]

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: September 2013

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates. Southern Growth Policies Board releases its final Report on [more…]

  • Wind Energy and Property Values

    There is a popular notion that people find living near energy generation facilities undesirable.  There are concerns about health, odor, and aesthetics, to name a few.  But does living near electricity generation impact property values?

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: August 2013

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates. Changes at the North Carolina Department of Commerce and [more…]

  • Book Recommendation on Civic Leadership

    A new book by David Chrislip and Ed O’Malley titled For the Common Good is a highly recommended source of ideas on how civic leadership can facilitate meaningful change in our communities. The title captures how the authors argue we should redefine civic leadership. Rather than being motivated by [more…]

  • What @sog_ced is reading on the web: July 2013

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates. North Carolina Auditor’s full report on the North Carolina [more…]

  • Does Your Community Have the Capacity to Undertake Community Economic Development?

    Say you have learned of a community economic development (CED) program that seems to be a perfect fit for your area.  The need is already there and well documented, the program provides the right mix of projects, and all the program financial resources are available and already approved.   All [more…]

  • Connecting Growth to Downtown Revitalization

    Vacant buildings, condemned residences, underutilized commercial property – all are familiar characteristics of many downtowns throughout eastern North Carolina’s small towns.  Ironically, these characteristics are becoming all too familiar in towns experiencing tremendous growth. Within one North Carolina coastal county, two small towns nestled along Highway 17 grew by [more…]