By Hannah E. Jones
Sustainability is a word that’s often tossed around and can sometimes feel confusing and unattainable. But at the Southface Energy Institute‘s recent Sustainability in Action Roundtable, local energy experts worked to demystify the term.
“My favorite definition [of sustainability] means we’re living more lightly on the earth. Not that we’re perfect, but we’re better,” said Moderator Henry Slack, chief engineer of Slack Engineering.
On Friday, Aug. 25, Southface hosted a discussion about the latest innovations and technologies to make our homes and businesses more sustainable. The experts in clean energy led a conversation about best practices to tread lightly on the earth, while giving practical tips on ways to make buildings more efficient.
Speakers included Cynthia Curry, senior director of Smart Cities and Clean Tech Ecosystems with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Amelia Godfrey, project manager at Southface. The conversation was led by Slack, who was also Southface’s first treasurer. Attendees included representatives from local companies and organizations, along with interested residents.
The program started off with a look at how Atlanta and Georgia measure up to the rest of the country, and Curry shared a few metrics that she said show that the city and state are leaders in the nation’s clean energy efforts.
For example, earlier this year, the EPA ranked Atlanta as a metropolitan area with the third-most ENERGY STAR-certified buildings, with 376 buildings. Additionally, according to a 2023 report from Climate Power, Georgia has the highest dollar value of CleanTech projects in the U.S., attracting projects with a value of $15.27 billion.
Curry also described Atlanta as an electric vehicle hub, with a “beautiful circular EV economy.” She pointed to local electric vehicle manufacturers, chip makers and companies like Ascend Elements that are recycling end-of-life EV batteries. She highlighted the Mercedes-Benz Stadium as another Atlanta success story, which was recognized in January as the first professional sports stadium in the world to receive TRUE Platinum certification.
In an effort to make the most of these strides being made and continue to make Atlanta a greener city, the speakers gave reasonable examples of ways to make one’s home or building more sustainable.
Godfrey outlined a variety of products that Southface recommends, including:
- DC Motor Fans, which use up to 70 percent less energy than A/C counterparts.
- Automatic leak detector that alerts users if there is a water leak.
- WaterSense low-flow fixtures, which use less water compared to a standard fixture.
- Niagra low-flow toilet that reduces water usage by 20 to 60 percent compared to an older, inefficient toilet.
- Lomi composter, a countertop appliance that converts organic waste into compost.
In addition to being more eco-friendly, these solutions can make good financial sense, as well. For example, Godfrey’s gas bill last month was $36. Of that bill, she said only $2 was for the gas usage, the remainder was service fees that went to the gas company.
There are also opportunities to make your home more green through rebate programs offered in the Inflation Reduction Act. This legislation includes Home Efficiency Rebates that range from $2,000 to $4,000 for individual households and up to $400,000 for multifamily buildings. Additionally, churches and nonprofits can now qualify for tax credits for investments in solar energy.
If you’re interested in learning more about local sustainability efforts and ways to lighten your environmental footprint, check out Southface’s ongoing Sustainability in Action Roundtable series. The next program will be held on Friday, Sept. 29.