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Council locks in new sustainability plan

The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman University.

Last updated February 27, 2023

By Tina Underwood

In February, the City of Greenville adopted its first-ever sustainability plan, as reported by The Greenville Journal. The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman University contracted with the city to help craft the language and initiatives for the Sustainable GVL Plan, which aims to protect natural resources, improve the health of the region’s watersheds and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

white woman wearing red shirt, Laura Bain '02

Laura Bain, The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities.

The plan is intended to work in concert with the GVL2040 comprehensive plan and the Greenville Development Code, now in draft form and looking forward to approval in spring 2023.

To help draft the Sustainable GVL Plan, The Shi Institute worked with City Sustainability Coordinator Michael Frixen and the Green Ribbon Advisory Committee (GRAC), which advises City Council on sustainability and environmental issues.

Sustainable GVL is divided into sections and recommendations that cover the built environment, climate and energy, air and water, transportation and mobility, goods and services and community engagement.

“We wanted to make sure that Sustainable GVL wasn’t just pie in the sky, so we tried to tie the strategies and recommendations to existing plans or frameworks, like GVL2040 or the Development Code,” said Laura Bain ’02, associate director of sustainability assessment at The Shi Institute. “Ideally, if the Sustainable GVL recommendations are well-integrated, it streamlines implementation and makes tracking progress easier as well.”

Frixen believes the kind of partnership the city has with Furman is not typical.

“The natural tendency for a lot of schools is to focus inwardly, Frixen said. “And for universities to go outside their comfort zone and really engage with local governments is a pretty noteworthy achievement. You don’t see that very often,” he added.

Bain said Sustainable GVL is a first step toward a more comprehensive climate action plan where specific yardsticks are established for inventorying greenhouse gas emissions, sharing those results publicly and then setting specific long-term carbon reduction goals.

Bain hopes the city will again turn to Furman for expertise in formulating a detailed climate action plan.

“We want to be a good partner to the city, and we want to use the knowledge and expertise that we’ve developed over the years at Furman to help the city achieve its goals,” she said. “We are Greenville’s university. This is one way we can contribute to our university’s home.”

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