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United States Green Building Council: Arkansas Chapter, Green Drinks, GreeNWAy, Fayetteville Forward Green Economy Group joined forces to combine their passion for sustainability, drinks, and socializing as they hosted the “Greenovation” mixer on Tuesday, April 10, at The Iceberg in the Metro Plaza in Fayetteville. Members of the four groups along with green business owners and green energy fans mixed and mingled.

Chipotle Grill & US Pizza provided food. Greenovation was a great chance for people who are passionate about sustainability and the green economy to network and exchange ideas. Michele Halsell, of the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas, brought the four groups together.

“All the organizations had separate meetings, but similar interests,” said Halsell. “We wanted to bring them together to reach critical mass. It’s a great opportunity for networking—help build awareness and connections. We want the rest of the of the world to notice there is a green economy.”

Sarah Marsh, Facilitator of the Green Economy Group, echoed the sentiment. “Greenovation is all about brainstorming ideas to promote the green economy,” said Marsh. “We thought—wouldn’t it be great to get everyone in the room, give them a beer, and see if we can figure out how to grow our economy while addressing environmental challenges.”

The pinnacle of the evening was the Pecha Kucha, a presentation series where speakers has 20 slides and 20 seconds to present each one. Marsh kicked things off by discussing the Green Economy Group of the Fayetteville Forward Economic Accountability Council. She said the key to a green economy is balancing, “people with profits and the planet.”

Michael Lanier discussed the upcoming vote on May 22 to expand public transit in Washington County. He said that currently the transit system is underfunded and inadequate. “It serves those with no other choice,” said Lanier. “It needs to be geared towards people who want an alternative to cars.”

He cited an aging population, increased urbanization, and environmental and health concerns as reasons to expand public transit. According to Lanier, surveys show support for improved bus transit and a competitive disadvantage to cities like Austin, TX; Mobile, AL; and Gainesville, FL, who have a strong public transit system. He urged everyone to vote for the proposal on May 22. Part of the proposed changes include increasing the running times to 18 hours a day from 12, increase riders to 2.5 million annually, and ensure that 68% of riders are within a quarter mile of their jobs.

Neil Heller of Community By Design spoke on incremental urban sprawl repair. He said that mobile food vendors and boutique stores in trailers and trucks are the “pioneers of incremental sprawl repair.” He cited several means of improvement such as creating patios, using low-tech materials for building, constructing underpass parks, de-paving, and co-housing.

“One of the most important things we can do is support traditional, walkable, and livable communities,” said Heller. “If you move from sprawling to livable, you reduce the community’s carbon footprint significantly. A lot of incremental sprawl techniques are fascinating because they’re not done by professionals or planners but by anybody.”

Joanna Pollack of the Green Village Foundation spoke about how their organization is developing sustainability within African communities by partnering with the citizens rather than using “an imperialistic model.” Some of their initiatives such as expanding children’s education and increasing potable water are taking place in West and East Africa.

Josh Clemence of The Iceberg wrapped up the evening by discussing how the co-working facility increases sustainability environmentally, economically, socially, and culturally. According to Clemence, many items in the space have been reused and every resource is shared. Both are ways The Iceberg helps promote sustainability. Also, the co-working space promotes a community-centered culture that inspires positive economic growth.“People can come here to build, grow, and sustain a business,” he said.

The event was a success for the groups. “We feel great about the turnout,” said Keaton Smith, who moderated the Pecha Kucha. “We’re very proud of our presenters. They put themselves out there and took a risk. We look forward to doing it again soon.”

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