Our project focuses on the development of sustainable communities and motivating a group of people to foster sustainability in their own community. In the Atlanta area, there is a lack of significant sustainability effort, especially in comparison to other places around the globe, and especially in Germany. Additionally, Atlanta’s current sustainable projects lack a genuine engagement from the communities and neighborhoods in which such projects exist. We began our research by asking why people were not engaged in a sustainable community, not just in Atlanta but anywhere. We developed a survey and distributed it via social media; over 250 people from all over the world responded. Their responses helped us focus on the most common obstacles to developing a sustainable community, such as the lack of information regarding the planning and development of such communities. Still, over 50% of the respondents expressed a willingness to volunteer and/or financially support a sustainable community development project.
With the data we gathered from the survey, we began to focus on ways to address the obstacles identified in the survey that would build community spirit. After much research and debate, we decided to begin our work in a space that is the quintessential example of environmentalism and community: a park. The question then became how to create a community within an already existing park, such as Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Our park would refurbish an underused area of Piedmont Park so that no new ground would have to be used. A community garden in that area would engage residents and help educate the public about ways to conserve water, plant a self-sustainable vegetable garden, etc. We developed a model house to fill the information gap that our survey respondents identified regarding community sustainable development projects and accessible, sustainable practices. Our team also wanted to ensure that this program would continue – or be sustained – through generations. We focused on connecting with younger generations by creating fun games to learn about sustainability during an after-school program in the Power Park. The program would not only allow us to teach kids about sustainability; it would also give kids the tools to take this information home and share it with older and younger generations.
No community development effort will be successful without funding. Several major companies located in Georgia, such as Coca-Cola, have already given more than $1 billion to communities and are willing to help fund sustainability projects like ours. We also developed a campaign to share information about our project with the public to elicit financial support and buy-in from the community. Using social media, flyers, and word of mouth, we will inform the community where the park is located and what its purpose is. We will post updates of activities happening in the Power Park. We will also work with groups like 4H (an agriculture and sustainability-based youth group), where students work to earn volunteer hours in the community.
This model of sustainable community development can be adapted anywhere. For example, an area going through a food drought can focus its Power Park mainly on planting vegetable gardens in the community. Areas facing poverty or overpopulation could focus more on sharing resources through a thrift store or a community center in the park. The point of each Power Park is to address the specific sustainability needs of the community. Each community can run its own Power Park and thus empower residents to develop their own sustainable future.