#ThursdayIdeas | GA Nature Conservancy and Ray Allen Foundation, Girl Scouts of Historic GA, HealthMPowers

October 08, 2015
| by Editor |

Georgia's drive-through innovation lab

In West Point at the end of June, less than a mile from the Alabama border, representatives from the Georgia Conservancy and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, and local government and industry leaders gathered to oversee the groundbreaking for a new electric vehicle charging station at the West Point Visitor Information Center. Not just any fuel pump, this state-of-the-art, solar-powered, rapid-charging Photovoltaic for Electric Vehicle (PV4EV) station, funded by a grant of more than $100,000 from local employer Kia, is the first of its kind at a visitor center in the Southeast—what Conservancy Senior Directo Allie Kelly calls “Georgia’s gateway to the west.”

The West Point PV4EV project is also the opening salvo in a long-term campaign, with worldwide aspirations, to make highways safer and more sustainable—a product of the Foundation’s drive, the Conservancy’s know-how, and their respective networks. Through their work, the Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway has become a 16-mile living laboratory known as the Mission Zero Corridor.

President Harriet Langford said the Foundation was established to maintain the environmental legacy of her father, entrepreneur Ray C. Anderson, whose company became a world leader in sustainable manufacturing. After his death in 2011, Anderson’s name was given to the stretch of I-85 between his hometown, West Point, and LaGrange, where he founded Interface, Inc. “The honor was a great one,” said Langford, “but the road itself made the Foundation uneasy. Highways are dirty. Ray would have asked, ‘How do we make this better?’ So we did, too.”

Funding a study by the Georgia Conservancy and Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture, the Foundation produced a blueprint for “the cleanest, safest, smartest, and most efficient highway in the world.” While attracting local support and cutting-edge technology from across the globe, said Langford, they’re also “adjusting to the learning curve, and figuring out how to implement all the great things that Georgia Tech students and others have come up with.”

“It’s a test model for the world,” said Kelly. “Data from the corridor will lead us to discover best practices that can be replicated everywhere. Sustainability, safety, reducing maintenance costs, anticipating climate change: these are universal infrastructure challenges.”

Scouting in the off-season

Girl Scout troop leaders are a dedicated bunch— but even the most determined volunteers need a break. That means summertime, when most troops are inactive, can leave scouts wanting. To bridge that seasonal gap, Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia (GSHG) put together the DIY Girl Scouts program, giving girls and their families a chance to direct their own educational adventures.

“Girls get fun lessons in health, nutrition, science, and the great outdoors they can explore with a parent, or other caring adult, while they’re waiting to re-join or become part of a troop,” said Communications Manager Jacki Gaytan. Offered only to members, GSHG has used the DIY kit to recruit 44 new scouts so far this summer: “For just 30 dollars, girls get two years of Girl Scout membership, two summer program activity books, and a grab-bag of goodies.”

Teaching classrooms to get moving

Answering the call of Gov. Nathan Deal to fight childhood obesity in Georgia, HealthMPowers developed a program to equip Georgia teachers with ways to make the school day more active, in the classroom and outside of it. Among students at the 39 Georgia elementary schools participating in their Health Empowers YOU! program, evaluators found increased aerobic capacity and higher activity levels, as well as a better understanding of their importance to health.

The program’s success has made it a model for the Georgia Departments of Education and Public Health, who have already introduced a program based on HealthMPower’s findings and methods, open to all Georgia elementary schools and, soon, to child-care centers, after-school programs, and middle schools. At the same time, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation will fund Health Empowers YOU! in 40 more elementary schools for the 2015-2016 school year.


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