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OWENS: Small things add up for big environmental impact

When it comes to making changes in our community, I really believe that it takes a series of small actions we do that add up to the overall big changes.

One of the most winning basketball coaches, John Wooden said it best: “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Today, in preparation for the celebration of Earth Day next week, I want to look at the little things that the Savannah tourism community is doing to affect change for our environment. Who knows? Maybe one of these ideas will spark action in what you’re doing.

The Thunderbird Inn on Oglethorpe Avenue added solar panels on its roof, harnessing the renewable energy of the sun to power this retro-chic hotel. They also show their eco-consciousness with the electric car charging units outside their property.

“We think ‘Earth is worth getting nostalgic about.’” says Mark Thomas, general manager at The Thunderbird Inn, the popular 1964 motor lodge in downtown Savannah.

Adventure Tours in Motion uses zero-emissions Segways and electric bicycles to conduct tours with a smaller environmental impact.

In this ever-changing market, many hotels have undergone renovations to give themselves a new look. In some cases, the old furniture has not been thrown away, rather it has been donated to the Habitat ReStore, which also collects and sells building supplies from renovations at discounted prices, all funding Habitat for Humanity’s mission of attainable homeownership.

Starlandia Supply is shaking up the art scene with its business model by saving unused art supplies from landfills by allowing people to trade in their supplies for store credit. Supplies are then sold at reduced cost, making arts and crafts affordable for all.

Green Truck Pub makes it part of their mission to buy local whenever possible, from sourcing their meat and produce from nearby farms to salvaging the furniture used in their restaurant.

The Coastal Heritage Society has implemented several programs that encourage gardening and healthy eating in our community, including Cooking Matters and the Charlie Cart, which they take into schools to teach students about sustainable eating habits.

Several downtown lodging properties have bicycles available for their guests, reducing the number of cars traveling the streets. Some of the hotels include The Brice and Comfort Suites Savannah Historic District.

Grow-Eat-Repeat partners with many local restaurants to set up composting pickup. After the compost is picked up, they return a share of nutrient-rich soil perfect for growing more fruits and veggies. Some of their partners include Green Truck Pub, The Florence, The Collins Quarter and Atlantic.

You may remember the trees and planter boxes that once graced Broughton Street.

Thanks to a partnership between Ben Carter Enterprises and the Savannah Tree Foundation, these cypress trees were transplanted to Savannah Christian Prep School, and the boxes were given to the Coastal Center for Developmental Services to use in its garden.

Ever wondered what happens to the bars of soap in hotels after you check out? Several Savannah lodging properties participate in a program through an organization called Clean The World, which recycles the soap and distributes it to people in need.

These are just a few small steps that some of our tourism partners have taken to be more environmentally friendly. We’ll be celebrating this on the TLC Facebook page this week, and hope you join us in coming up with ideas that help all of us. Maybe there’s something you do that helps our world. Share it with us. Maybe we will all get some good ideas of what we can do to make a difference.

Michael Owens is president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, the largest non-profit trade organization that supports and represents the tourism community. Contact Owens at michael@tourismleadershipcouncil.com or by calling 912-232-1223.

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