The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (95)

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Volunteer bridge buildersVolunteers helped build this bridge on Sheltowee Trace in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  National Park Service

ONEIDA — Two popular trails were greatly improved with the help of volunteers during Big South Fork’s annual National Trails Day event, observed this year on June 22. 

Volunteers helped build a 40-foot-long trail bridge between Yahoo Falls and Alum Ford on the Sheltowee Trace (a designated National Recreation Trail), by assisting park staff in transporting lumber and tools as well as the replacement of decking boards and handrails on the entire bridge. Volunteers also assisted trail crews with vegetation, drainage and tread improvements on the Proctor Ridge Horse Trail. 

Volunteers are an important part of ensuring park trails are clear and well-maintained. If you are interested in learning more on how you can volunteer, contact the volunteer coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call (423) 569-9778.

Last modified on Saturday, 06 July 2024 23:53

IMG 0772 1 scaled e1718391630730 1024x577A parklet in Washington DC with brightly colored planters filled with local pollinator plants.  Molly McCluskey 

From pocket parks to large-scale projects, cities around the world are working to reverse a troubling trend.

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

Every June, cities around the globe celebrate Pollinator Week (this year, June 16-22) an international event to raise awareness about the important roles that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles and other small animals serve in pollinating our food systems and landscapes. These crucial species are declining worldwide, with many on the brink of extinction.

Cities have responded to this crisis with a variety of urban initiatives designed to foster pollinator habitats and in the process transform once-stark cement landscapes — as well as pocket parks, curb strips and highway dividers — into lush, welcoming areas for pollinators and humans alike.

In Washington, D.C., ambitious pollinator projects are abundant on rooftops of public, office and private spaces, ranging from the renovated D.C. Public Library’s main branch to National Public Radio’s headquarters, which hosts an apiary. Throughout the District of Columbia, municipal code requires buildings to maintain the tree boxes and curb strips outside their properties. This often leads to creative landscaping on the smallest of scales. 

Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2024 00:48

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.) collects pollen from Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis).A bumble bee (Bombus sp.) collects pollen from purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) in a pollinator plot on the Tennessee Aquarium plaza in Chattanooga.  Tennessee Aquarium

Aquarium celebrates Pollinator Week with activities and giveaways June 17-23

Doug Strickland is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

CHATTANOOGA — Pollinators. They’re kind of a big deal.

From iconic monarch butterflies and humble honey bees to fast-flying hummingbirds and acrobatic ... lemurs?! ... the animals that help plants reproduce are collectively known as “pollinators.” Whether intentional or accidental, the actions of pollen-transporting species contribute tremendously to the health of their respective ecosystems and are responsible for a shocking amount of the food we eat.

The benefits of the human-pollinator relationship are a two-way street. According to the Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the role pollinators play, pollinators are responsible for roughly one of every three bites of food we eat and propagate over 180,000 different plant species — including more than 1,200 food crops.

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 12:19

Less carbon, more chill: ORNL tech reduces refrigerator CO2 emissions by 30 percent

ORNLfridgeA novel technology developed by ORNL keeps food and beverages refrigerated with an advanced evaporator, phase change materials, metal foam, direct-contact defrosting technology and a low global warming refrigerant.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

OAK RIDGE — A technology developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory keeps food refrigerated with phase-change materials, or PCMs, while reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent.

More than 100 million household refrigerators in operation across the United States consume up to 2 kilowatts of electricity daily. These refrigerators contribute to energy consumption and carbon emissions by using compressors that cycle on and off day and night, pumping refrigerants across evaporator coils to maintain low temperatures for fresh and frozen compartments. 

(Hellbender Press previously reported on the development of new coolants and systems at ORNL).

ORNL’s innovation uses advanced evaporators with PCMs installed in each compartment for cold energy storage. PCMs are useful for heating and cooling because they store and release energy when changing from solids to liquids or vice versa. Researchers applied porous metals, direct-contact defrosting technology and a refrigerant with low-global-warming potential to enhance performance and minimize environmental impact.

“PCMs are integrated with evaporator coils to keep temperature constant, requiring one operating cycle and allowing refrigerators to operate almost 100% at nighttime, when energy use is lower,” ORNL’s Zhiming Gao said. “This reduces electricity demand, saves costs and maintains efficiency.”

— Oak Ridge National Laboratory

peerys mill damPeery’s Mill Dam on the Little River is slated for removal by the Army Corps of Engineers for environmental and public safety reasons.  Elan Young/Hellbender Press

Army Corps still committed to Little River dam removal for ecological and safety reasons, but timeline uncertain 

TOWNSEND — The remainders of two low-head dams on the Little River in Blount County, Rockford Dam and Peery’s Mill Dam, are slated for removal by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) following the release in July 2023 of a Project Report and Environmental Assessment that investigated the lower 32 miles of the Little River.

The Corps confirmed this week that plans are moving ahead to remove the two dams. 

Peery’s Mill Dam was the site of 4 separate drownings in the last 15 years, giving it the notorious reputation as the deadliest dam in Tennessee in the past quarter century. Late last month, three women had to be rescued from the churning waters there, prompting questions from the community about the status of the Corps’ removal effort. 

Little River Watershed Association president Andrew Gunnoe says that watershed advocates are eager for the dam removal project to move forward because doing so would provide both ecological and community benefits. 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 June 2024 18:21

IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville in this file photo. Moll tends to his natural habitat in keeping with city codes protocols.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

City: Overgrown lots don’t automatically qualify as wildlife habitat

KNOXVILLE — City government wants people to know that though “No Mow May” is a worthy observation there are still some protocols residents have to follow to avoid codes violations and potential fines.

The month of May is hyped as a prime time to refrain from cutting your grass or portions of your lawn to allow pollinating plants and the pollinators they support to get six legs up late spring and early summer nectar season. It’s also an occasion to consider the fact that traditional lawns are largely ecological deserts.

“No Mow May” is a quick and catchy name for a movement that aims far beyond not mowing the yard for a month,” according to Bee City USA, a proponent of keeping your yard real and wild when and where it is practical.

“It’s more than long grass and dandelion blooms. It’s a gateway to understanding how we share our lawns with many small creatures.”

It goes beyond bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects. Many ground-nesting birds are on the decline due to loss of grassy habitat. Native grasses also serve as habitat for small mammals such as rabbits and mice, which in turn provide a buffet for raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles.

Hellbender Press has reported on cultivation of such natural landscapes and habitats within the city limits. Groups such as the Native Plant Rescue Squad can also provide plants and guidance.

Last modified on Thursday, 16 May 2024 15:31

reginasantoreRegina Santore with the Wild Ones Smoky Mountains Chapter puts garlic mustard into a bag during an April volunteer event along a greenway in Oak Ridge.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

Volunteers fight exotic and invasive garlic mustard on Oak Ridge greenway 

OAK RIDGE — Plants from around the world are overrunning the Southeast’s wild places, causing problems for native flora and fauna.

It’s a problem that’s grabbed the attention and work of dedicated organizations. One of them, the Tennessee Invasive Plant Council has many strategies to solve this problem: volunteer weed-pulling events, guides to help gardeners find native plants from which to choose, and even legislation. Its vice president, Jamie Herold, has many thoughts on the issue. She was eager to share them over pizza after a morning of pulling one such invasive, garlic mustard, at an event in Oak Ridge organized by Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, and Greenways Oak Ridge

The event involved pulling garlic mustard, a plant originally from Europe, from the edge of the woods behind apartments on West Vanderbilt Avenue. This area includes the Wildflower Greenway, a trail full of wildflowers that locals have been eager to protect from the garlic mustard’s domination. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 April 2024 01:14
Thursday, 25 April 2024 08:49

Want to help wildlife? TWRA to host huge habitat-improvement event

TWRA logo


CROSSVILLE The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency invites the public for a day of free education and fun at BIRDS BEES BUCKS AND TREES.
The event is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 29 at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, 1398 Livingston Road in Crossville. Registration and more information is available here.
Whether you’re a hunter, gardener, nature enthusiast, farmer or just have a love of the outdoors, there’s something for you.
More than 30 vendors and sponsors will have information on how to create and restore healthy habitat for the benefit of pollinators, birds and other wildlife. 
TWRA wildlife biologists and experts will have presentations on everything from tiny critters to large mammals and everything in between.
Partners include the Natural Resource Conservation Services, Cumberland County Soil and Water, TWRA, Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.
Last modified on Saturday, 29 June 2024 19:52

Sharing the love: Grayson Subaru presents $39K check to Ijams Nature Center

Ijams Jerry Weaver Hailey Manus Jennie McGuigan Amber Parker Sarah Brobst JC Marquardt Melanie Thomas Gianni Tesfaye Joseph Bailey Joseph Mack Ben NannyGrayson Subaru presented a check for $39,000 from Subaru of America’s 2023 Subaru Share the Love Event to Ijams Nature Center on April 24. Funds will be used to expand the popular Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve and the Mead’s Quarry Lake swim area.  Ijams Nature Center

KNOXVILLE — Grayson Subaru gave $39,000 to Ijams Nature Center to expand the popular Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve and the Mead’s Quarry Lake swim area.

The local retailer chose the nonprofit nature center as its hometown charity for Subaru of America Inc.’s 2023 Subaru Share the Love® Event. From Nov. 15, 2023, to Jan. 2, Subaru and its retailers donated a minimum of $300 for every new Subaru vehicle purchased or leased at more than 628 of its retailers nationwide to several national charities and a hometown charity chosen by each retailer.

“Subaru of America and Grayson Subaru are committed to the communities we serve,” Subaru Sales Manager JC Marquardt said. “We do that by showing support in ways that make a meaningful difference, and we’re incredibly grateful to our customers, who share our values and are committed to doing the same. This is a proud day for all of us.”

Work has already begun on Phase 2 of the Ijams Nature Playscape.

“Thus far, Ijams staff have scouted the new trail and, with the help of 115 trained volunteers, removed invasive species from about one acre of the new section,” Ijams President and CEO Amber Parker said. “This is the most time-consuming part of the process, because there is a more diverse mix of invasive and native species, and removal has to be done by hand.”

In addition to preparing the upper section of the 13.46-acre property, Ijams is planning a new feature to Phase 1 of the playscape after conducting a survey of the people who were using it.

“We learned that people wanted a way to cross through the mushier spots of the floodplain in an area we call the ‘Soggy Bottom Room,’ so we’re creating a narrow path of wood over utility poles to make a bog walkway,” she said. “We recently salvaged a large palette that was mired in the mud along the Tennessee River and will use that reclaimed wood in the project. There are perks to having an Ijams River Captain keeping our waterways clear!”

Parker said improvements to the Mead’s Quarry swim area will start at a later date.

Tuesday, 23 April 2024 00:25

Chattanooga Earth Day Week continues

Last modified on Sunday, 28 April 2024 22:27
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