Charleston 2030 Project
What would a climate conscious Charleston look like?
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You wouldn't construct a building out of ivory. Load-bearing ability aside, you wouldn't be able to look at it without thinking of the elephantine suffering and destruction that it required -- its injustice is inherent.
But what if that applies to every building in Charleston?
Concrete cement production is as much as 5% of global carbon emissions: every new building hastens the climate crisis that will ruin hundreds of millions of lives. And that's not mentioning the energy our buildings burn through, tying them to the coal plants and fracked gas that are worsening the climate crisis and polluting our air.
But it doesn't have to be this way! We're researching carbon-neutral and even carbon-negative building material, so new construction can fight the climate crisis, not contribute to it. We're also agitating for wide-scale energy efficiency retrofits to existing buildings, which both saves money and lowers climate impact.
As we're transforming this sector, we can build climate-friendly affordable housing and invest in weatherization of low-income households, so our most impoverished aren't uniquely vulnerable to extreme weather events or paying $500 a month on utility bills.
Charleston has a car problem. Traffic gets worse every year, and the solution we keep pursuing, expanding highways, has been proven to do nothing to ease traffic. Our Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) are higher than equivalent metro areas. That means tremendous emissions from all the cars on the road. That means something needs to change.
Expanding public transportation will be critical to getting cars off the road. That'll require a more robust CARTA, with higher frequency routes and expansion to the many transit deserts in Charleston County.
Walking and biking infrastructure requires more investment, so people can safely travel emission-free. BCDCOG has put together a great walk-bike plan for the tricounty that just needs funding.
But it's not just alternate forms of transportation that need to be addressed. Our transportation infrastructure means we lay a massive amount of asphalt across the county. We should use alternative, porous, carbon-neutral materials for roads and parking lots to combat flooding and lower the enormous carbon footprint of our transportation infrastructure. And while we're at it, we should add solar overhangs to all the real estate being taken up by parking.
You may not know it, but one of the biggest climate polluters may be sitting in your trash can. The scientists over at Project Drawdown, in ranking the various climate solutions by carbon drawdown potential, have Reduced Food Waste at number one -- over solar, over wind, over everything.
Clearly, we need to take food waste seriously. We recommend municipal composting and incentivization through a Save as you Throw program, which would mean you pay less for your trash if more of it goes into composting and recycling. In addition, we should implement robust food rescue programs to connect perfectly edible food with our many hungry Charlestonians.
Unbridled consumption is a big part of why we're in this climate mess, so what we really need is a circular economy. We can shift from overconsumption to reusing, repairing, and producing goods locally. There's no need to drive more industrial combustion when we could do so much more with what we already have.