Since 2005, we have witnessed some incredible milestones in our region, and Sustainable Sandhills has been there every step of the way. Here are some ways that Sustainable Sandhills has impacted our community for current and future generations.
• We received a $100K grant from the Foundation for the Carolinas to perform climate-related public health education in Cumberland and Robeson Counties. Our focus was flood mitigation following hurricanes and significant rain events. We educated over 200 residents about mold identification, treatment and remediation and established a lending library of items such as dehumidifiers and fans that residents could borrow to remediate mold growth in their homes and businesses. We also received a $38K grant from the NC Department of Health and Human Services to perform similar work on flood, heat and wildfire smoke mitigation in Hoke, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland Counties in summer of 2022.
• Our litter and illegal dumping abatement programs have improved waste management in Cumberland and Moore Counties. The litter index in the City of Fayetteville has decreased from 2.7 to 2.2 (a significant decrease) in the year that we have been coordinating monthly neighborhood litter collection events and county-wide litter collection events such as Fayetteville Beautiful. Our recycling efforts have improved public education about proper recycling procedures. Our last electronic waste recycling drive diverted nearly 9 tons of electronics from the Cumberland County landfill. We are also working with advocacy organizations to reduce single use plastics at a state level and with state-wide services to bring waste management options such as composting to the Sandhills.
• We partner with over 150 small businesses in our region through our Sandhills MADE program. We connect these farmers, artisans, crafters and entrepreneurs with a customer base through events which include two regular markets in Cumberland and Harnett Counties. The Sandhills MADE program also provides residents with access to fresh, local food – which is optimal for our public health and environment.
• We create connections between our civic partners and serve as a liaison between Sandhills residents and other agencies at Federal, state and local levels. For instance, we connected the Cumberland County Schools Academy of Green Technology with Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation to perform drone mapping of threatened and endangered species sites at parks in Fayetteville. We also connected Methodist University with the NC Forest Service to develop a conservation management plan for the University’s 96 acre “Monarch Forest,” a tract of land along the Cape Fear River.
• We have been instrumental in developing sustainability plans for the region including the EPA Ozone Action Plan for the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Cumberland-Hoke Hazard Mitigation Plan (which is necessary for municipalities in the Sandhills to secure FEMA funding in the wake of natural disasters). We have also served as advisors to our municipalities on policies such as the City of Fayetteville’s recycling ordinances.
• We have assisted municipal agencies with grant funding as well. For instance: we assisted the Fayetteville Area System of Transit with a federal funding proposal to purchase electric buses. We also educate our partners about funding opportunities through the federal Volkswagen Settlement for projects such as electric vehicle chargers through our air quality program.
• Over the past 10 years, our Go Green Initiative in Cumberland County Schools has achieved a cost avoidance of $5 million through resource conservation programs and has educated hundreds of thousands of students about sustainability by incorporating environmental education into the STEM curriculum. We host the Earth Day activities for students in kindergarten through 12th grade as well.
• We are the mid-basin point of contact for the GenX Exposure Study, a program of North Carolina State University’s Center for Human Health and the Environment. We have worked with over 30 universities, research institutions, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders to educate residents impacted by fluorinated chemical contamination in the Cape Fear River. We have assisted the study with human health clinics and water sampling field studies for nearly 200 residents in Cumberland and Bladen Counties. We have also provided free water testing for residents who are not officially part of the study. In addition, we are working with advocacy groups to encourage our legislators to pass laws that regulate the use of PFAS and other “forever chemicals” in consumer products, that encourage the manufacture and use of safer chemicals and that hold industries more accountable for pollution.
• As a direct result of our air quality programs in partnership with the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO), the region has been in attainment of federal standards for air quality since 2008. The air in the Sandhills is some of the cleanest air in NC. We are one of the region’s major proponents of bicycle and pedestrian access in our cities, greenway development, innovative connectivity and electric vehicle infrastructure.