Mecklenburg Livable Communities Plan

Heidi Pruess, Mecklenburg Community Plan and Sustainability officer, lead a very informative review and discussion at our September monthly meeting. Below is a description about the plan as well as copies of the draft Strategy Matrix and the draft Actions and Successes. If you would like to provide feedback on the plan or schedule a listening session for your neighborhood organization, house of worship, or other group, please contact Heidi.


Mecklenburg Livable Communities Plan

The Mecklenburg Livable Communities Plan is a joint initiative between Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, surrounding towns, the Foundation For The Carolinas and our community partners to develop a unified vision that incorporates community-wide goals centered on how we live, work and play today and in the future. This collaborative effort provides an opportunity to review existing plans and identify commonalities that encourage and support a vibrant and healthy quality of life in our community.

The Mecklenburg Livable Communities Plan is offering to come to your organization for a “listening session” this month to ask such questions as, “Are we on the right track? Will the priority strategies and actions we developed help us reach our vision?”

For more information on the Mecklenburg Liveable Communities Plan, click here.

If your neighborhood organization, house of worship, or other group is interested in scheduling a listening session, please contact Heidi Pruess, Community Plan and Sustainability officer, at

Click below to download and review the draft Strategy Matrix and the draft Actions and Successes.

Meck Livabality Plan Draft StrategiesMecklenburg Livable Communities Draft Strategies


Meck Livabality Plan Draft Actions and SuccessMecklenburg Livable Communities Draft Actions and Successes


Sierra Club NC Chapter Volunteer Recognition Award – Congratulations Mary Lou Buck!

At the September 28th Sierra Club NC Chapter Executive Committee meeting, our tireless Central Piedmont member Mary Lou Buck was awarded a North Carolina Chapter Volunteer Recognition Award for here work on the Solarize Charlotte program. If you know Mary Lou, you know that she has contributed to the Club in many, many more ways. We’re so lucky to have volunteer leaders like Mary Lou. Please join me in congratulating Mary Lou!


Mary Lou Buck Award


How Green Spaces Are Saving Humanity

Great article from  Sierra Magazine!

Need to get your green on and recharge your humanity? Check out our Mecklenburg Park & Rec Nature Preserves. You’ll be glad you did!

How Green Spaces Are Saving Humanity

It’s like The Giving Tree, but in real life.
Park bench on a summer day

Thanks, Mother Nature.

Parks and green spaces are little oases nestled in a city’s fabric, offering respite from stressful bustle and ideal spots to picnic or walk. But urban green spaces—parks, gardens, or simply the trees that line sidewalks—also afford a host of less visible health benefits. Even living around leafy areas can provide perks you don’t even realize you’re getting, from lower blood pressure to lower crime rates.

1. Green spaces make you less stressed.

Anyone who’s ever sat in a park after a harrowing day of work knows that trees just have a way of making you feel better. Scientists have backed up this phenomenon, with studies that found lower blood pressure and heart rates, as well as lower levels of cortisol, a marker of stress found in saliva, among people who spend time in green spaces.

Trees are there for you during the harder times, too. Dutch researchers surveyed over 4,500 people going through stressful life events, including the death of a loved one, serious illness, or financial hardship. The ones who lived within 3 kilometers of green space reported higher levels of well-being and fewer health complaints in the face of their struggles than those who didn’t. And several studies have shown that people who live near green spaces are much less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

2. You’re less likely to die from stress or pollution-related problems.

These positive effects can go a long way. A study of 575,000 urban residents of Ontario, Canada showed that who lived near trees had lower rates of mortality, and were especially less likely to die of respiratory disease. This makes sense: Trees are air-filtering workhorses, taking in pollution and pumping out that sweet, sweet oxygen.

Another vivid study in 2013 used a natural experiment to confirm this trend. Scientists tracked the emerald ash borer, an invasive green beetle, as it demolished tens of millions of ash trees in Michigan and the northeast U.S. Over a period of five years, they found that in the areas the beetle hit hardest, about 21,000 more people had died from lower respiratory tract illness and heart disease than those who lived where ash trees survived.

3. Spending time in nature makes you a better employee.

Hanging out with trees during your lunch break can give your brain a rest by replenishing attention, say researchers at the University of Michigan. Unlike urban environments that require focused attention (say, dodging a speeding car), natural environments are filled with “intriguing stimuli” that modestly grab your attention—a funky-looking insect, the wind rustling through leaves—letting your higher concentration faculties rest. When you get back to work, you’ll be refreshed and more prepared to make savvy, career-advancing decisions.

4. Trees make inner-city neighborhoods safer.

Trees can even fight crime, according to a study by the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Researchers analyzed police crime reports from a Chicago public housing development to discover that buildings with greener surroundings had fewer reports of crime, both property and violent.

The idea that trees can act like leafy Batmen is cool enough, but how does it happen? In a later study, the same researchers found crimes in low-income areas often occurred because people were constantly mentally fatigued or stressed. Since the mere sight of trees is restorative, as we know, being surrounded by vegetation helped people recover from their stress, check their aggression, and keep the peace.

To top it all off, research has shown that these psychological benefits are even more pronounced when a park contains more biodiversity. Researchers from the University of Sheffield, England quizzed park-goers about their psychological well-being and how many bird, butterfly, and plant species they thought lived in the parks they frequented. The parks’ species richness, the scientists found, correlated with the people’s well-being. Moreover, the visitors themselves were able to tell on some subconscious level which parks were more diverse. That knowledge, it seems, did them good.

Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers.

Runoff from stormwater is a major contributor to water pollution. Watch this short video- “Storm Water Pollution: The Unknown Assailant” to learn about the issues involved (thanks to the Catawba Riverkeeper for posting this on their website).

Check back for more information on this issue this week.

See you on Sept 22 at the City Council Meeting!

Partner for Parks – 6th Annual Awards Event

This is a great event for a great cause -supporting our Mecklenburg Parks! Make plans to attend or make a donation.


Partners for Parks is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. In Mecklenburg County, we partner with the Park & Recreation Department which preserves and maintains over 200+ parks and facilities covering almost 20,000 acres of parkland. Partners for Parks strives to sustain the legacy of recreation by providing a safe place to raise funds – offering grant assistance to area organizations. We also facilitate community outreach and education to bolster the trails, the parks, the playgrounds, the recreation centers and the natural areas saved and created. Our goal is Breathing Life Into Our Community and ultimately enhance the gifts of beauty and quality of life for the people in our region.

Partners for Parks 2014


New EPA rules on carbon will benefit economy

Thanks to Joel Olsen, president at Cornelius-based O2energies Inc., for speaking out in the Charlotte Business Journal opinion – New EPA rules on carbon will benefit economy!

Won’t you stand with Joel and others from across the state and speak out tomorrow, September 9th, at the Charlotte Citizen’s Climate Hearing (see flyer below for more information)?

Citizen’s Climate Hearing
September 9th
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Myers Park Baptist Church
Heaton Hall
1900 Queens Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207

Free Solar Tours preceding the hearing – 5:00 and 5:30 PM

Hearing Format
•    Please limit oral comments to 3 minutes (typically 400 – 450 words)
•    Please bring a copy of prepared comments for the court reporter (optional)
•    Written comments may be of any length and submitted without public speaking


New EPA rules on carbon will benefit economy

VIEWPOINT – Sept 5, 2014
Joel Olsen

With the recent announcement of new federal rules to reduce carbon dioxide, market opportunities will open for clean energy, which is good news for North Carolina.

Our already booming solar industry ranks second in the nation for utility-scale capacity. Our state hosts more than 18,000 full-time jobs in the clean-energy sector.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s rules create an opportunity for renewable-energy and energy-efficiency businesses, as well as natural gas and nuclear, to play an increasingly important role in the transition to a low-carbon future.

The EPA rules also will help level the playing field both nationally and on the global stage where U.S. industry must compete.

Take our automobile industry as an example. When lax domestic regulations allowed automakers to produce cars with lower fuel efficiency in the U.S. market, they quickly found that those cars could not be sold in foreign markets with higher fuel-efficiency standards. Instead of boosting efficiency, the U.S. auto industry lost market share, jobs and investor confidence as it tried to protect itself from being held to the regulatory requirements of its global competitors.

The new rules set national standards to reduce emissions from the generation of electricity, the largest source of carbon in the country. These stricter requirements will promote innovation, investment and jobs in America for clean-energy business while reducing emissions that cause pollution and global warming.

For O2energies, a developer and owner of solar farms in the Southeast, the new rules provide a clear market signal to our investors, suppliers and contractors that they should invest in projects, manufacture products and add jobs.

Thanks again Joel!


Charlotte Citizens Climate Hearing

2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

At our August meeting we had a great presentation about the Sustain Charlotte 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card – “What would your parents say if you brought home this report card?”

Our September meeting on Wednesday the 24th will feature Heidi Pruess, Environmental Policy Administrator for Mecklenburg County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, as she provides an Update on the Mecklenburg County Livability Plan (Click link for meeting information).

If you haven’t had a chance to review the 2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report, I highly recommend that you do so before the meeting. You can also click the link – Listen – to hear a discussion of the report from a WFAE Charlotte Talks show.

See you on the 24th for our monthly meeting!


WFAE Charlotte Talks: “Mecklenburg County Environmental Report Card” (from March 25, 2014)

Every two years Mecklenburg County does an environmental assessment and delivers an environmental report card of sorts. The report card for the last two years has just been released and we’ll meet with two officials to see how our region fared in Air, Land, Water and Waste use and efficiency. In most aspects the county has fared well but the recession did have an impact in some areas. We’ll find out which ones, what aspects of our environment passed with flying colors and what has room for improvement. We check the county’s environmental grade.

Heidi Pruess
– Community Plan and Sustainability Officer for Mecklenburg County
Jeff Michael – Director, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

The State of the Environment Report (SOER) has been used as an informative tool for understanding the current environmental state of our region while identifying strategies and recommendations to maintain and enhance our quality of life by ensuring clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land on which to live and recreate.

This 2014 SOER expands on the traditional identification of priority environmental indicators in Mecklenburg County by providing a trend analysis for each environmental indicator during recent history. Each SOER chapter button below provides a list of recommended actions for addressing these priority environmental indicators as well as informative and fun videos.

Visit Air Quality's Chapter Page Visit Land's Chapter Page
Visit Water's Chapter Page Visit Waste's Chapter Page

Environmental Indicators
Environmental Indicators can be found through the chapter buttons above or via the table below. This website will be updated as either the indicator trend changes or as new information becomes available.

Environmental Indicators Key

 Air indicator
Overall Air Quality
Particulate Matter
NOx, SO2, CO, Lead
 Land indicator
Climate Change and Wildlife
Nature Preserves
Facility Planning
 Waste indicator
Commercial Waste
Yard Waste
Residential Waste
Household Hazardous Waste 
 Water indicator
Public Involvement 

If you are interested in exploring trends back to 1987, you are encouraged to read the 2008 SOER. If you are interested in learning more about how Mecklenburg County’s State of the Environment reflects on our region, you are encouraged to read the 2010 SOER or the 2012 SOER.

Mecklenburg County is fortunate to have County staff with both the technical expertise and practical knowledge to produce the information contained in this 2014 edition of the State of the Environment Report. Please join me in thanking them for their determination and skill in producing this exceptional report!

Additional information at