Inch-By-Inch: Watching Alabama’s Environmental Garden Grow
Courtesy of Pat Byington, The Green Register Editor
Recently, I visited a new community garden in Montgomery, Alabama. Neighbors and students from the nearby Montesssori School at Hampstead worked together, got their hands dirty, put in some sweat equity, and created a beautiful garden that blooms, grows, and feeds the community.
While slowly walking through their garden, I couldn’t help but hum that old folk song, aptly titled, “The Garden Song.” The lyrics go like this: “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow, gonna mulch it deep and low, gonna make it fertile ground.”
Earlier this year, the Green Resource Center for Alabama released its 5th Annual Green Progress Report for the state. The report documented nearly 100 environmental accomplishments in 2012 and described how people from all walks of life in Alabama are slowly, intentionally, inch by inch, planting and growing, in so many ways, their own environmental gardens.
Inch-by-inch, Alabamians are restoring our coast. In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and subsequent coastal devastation, people are working together to bring back our communities and delicate coastline. Several weeks ago, the group called, “100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama”, organized over 565 volunteers to spend a Saturday picking up and hauling 10,000 interlocking concrete blocks, weighing 30 to 40 pounds each. Volunteers used these blocks to create a 224-foot living shoreline along Mobile Bay.
Inch-by-inch, Alabamians are cleaning up our environment. The number of dumps and amount of garbage littering our coastlines, roadsides, forests and neighborhoods is staggering. But people are stepping up, taking responsibility and literally cleaning up our state’s mess. Alabama’s Coastal Cleanup enlisted over 5000 volunteers in 2012 to pick up over 100 tons of trash and debris on one day. During the last ten years, over 50,000 participants in Alabama Power’s Renew Our Rivers program have removed more than 10 million pounds of garbage surrounding our lakes. ADEM’s “illegal dump and scrap tire cleanup” programs have respectively cleaned up 800 illegal dumps, including the removal of 7 million old scrap tires.
Inch-by-inch, Alabamians are planting trees. After the April 2011 tornadoes, Alabama was left with uprooted swaths of forests spanning more than 100 miles. The Arbor Day Foundation and the Alabama Forestry Commission stepped forward, planting 30,000 trees in 16 North Alabama counties. In our capital city of Montgomery, Montgomery Trees, a local tree urban forestry advocacy group has organized planting 2000 trees in downtown Montgomery.
Inch-by-inch, Alabamians are constructing greener buildings. Today there are 87 “Green” LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings across the state. That number will actually double within a couple of years with 154 LEED registered projects currently pursuing certification. At Fort Rucker, near Dothan, the army built their first “net zero” facility, a building that uses only as much energy as it produces on site (the building has a solar array producing energy). The facility also recycles and reuses all its waste. On the other end of the state, the Huntsville Botanical Gardens constructed a new “green parking garden”, a parking lot with the latest energy efficient lighting and rain gardens surrounding the lot.
Inch-by-inch, Alabamians are building trails and saving special places. Last year, Jefferson County established the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System. Civic groups, such as the downtown Rotary Club, and local governments throughout the region, adopted trails and pathways. In 2012, three new Birding Trails were established, including the Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail, West Alabama Birding Trail and the Wiregrass Bird Trail. And of course, last November, 75 percent of Alabamians who voted in the last general election, said “yes” to extending Forever Wild, Alabama’s popular land conservation program.
Inch-by-inch, Alabamians are working on greener laws and policies. The Alabama legislature is tackling a number of pressing environmental issues. There is a legislative working group tasked with proposing a comprehensive water plan for the state. ADEM is reviewing landfill and solid waste policies. And in the area of energy conservation, Gov. Robert Bentley has directed all the state’s agencies to reduce their energy usage 35 percent by 2015.
Planting Alabama’s environmental garden is hard work. Sometimes folks who care about Alabama’s environment feel like they are working alone in the garden, not making much of a difference. But, they are making a difference. Through our collective efforts building shorelines, picking up trash, planting trees, taking a child outdoors or writing a letter to an elected official, our environmental garden is growing in Alabama, inch-by-inch… making fertile ground.
Image Credit: Keith Bozeman / Shutterstock