While many communities are pursuing environmental sustainability and going green, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) possesses assets that few other communities can claim. For one thing, it has been important to the Cherokee people for many hundreds of years that they be stewards of the land. Generations Qualla reflects traditional Cherokee values and behaviors, and illustrates how the Tribe strives to strike a balance between natural, cultural, spiritual and economic needs, now and for the next seven generations.
Another important advantage is that the EBCI is the primary developer for commercial and residential buildings on tribal lands. Unlike most places where there are many developers working independently, most of the development on tribal lands is managed by various Tribal departments, which all report to a common management. That makes it much easier to get a strategy implemented on the Qualla Boundary, the homeland of the EBCI, than in other locations.
In 2008, Cherokee Preservation Foundation launched the Generations Qualla action plan for environmental improvements on the Qualla Boundary. Energy efficiency and conservation is a key component of the program.
Grants from the Foundation supported energy audits of tribal buildings to identify significant ways to reduce energy use. Up to 30 percent reduction in long-term energy use is expected after additional Foundation dollars were matched by more than $600,000 from combined EBCI and federal government support to implement changes in 20 buildings and two streetlight projects. All the buildings are getting programmable thermostats and routine HVAC maintenance, as well as a changeover to new, energy efficient lighting. Many will get replacement heat pumps, low-flow bathroom fixtures, replaced or added insulation, weather-stripping and door and window seals, added storm windows and occupancy sensors that control lighting, heat and air. A community facility that promotes tribal health is getting solar panels to heat its pool.
In the coming year, several demonstration projects will be implemented to educate tribal members about renewable energy and other energy efficient options available to them individually and to the tribe as a whole.
Recycling is another important element of the Generations Qualla effort. The EBCI community has been inspired by youth leadership from the Cherokee Youth Council and the Go Green Team. The young members of the Tribe have led clean-up and recycling awareness efforts on the Qualla Boundary and have set a great example for other members of the community.
Cherokee Transit has also been a leader in the work to green the Qualla Boundary. Grants from the Foundation has enabled the creation of more trolley and bus stops, thus encouraging visitors and local people to park their cars and use public transportation.
Keep your eye on Generations Qualla. The effort is growing and will be a model for other communities.