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Gatton Academy student to present poster on sustainability project

Thomas Choate, a student at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky at WKU, will present his work on sustainability indicators at a poster session as part of Posters-at-the-Capitol in Frankfort on Jan. 28.

As part of the event, Choate and 23 other WKU students, will have an opportunity to meet with state legislators in their offices about their research.  Members of the Kentucky House and Senate are also invited to attend the afternoon poster session and accompanying reception.

Choate’s applied research was conducted during the summer of 2009 under the supervision of Nancy Givens, Sustainability Programs Development Coordinator with the WKU Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability.  A presentation of this work to the Bowling Green City Commission was arranged through City Manager Kevin DeFebbo and made on Oct. 20.

Tim Gott, director of the Gatton Academy, was pleased about Choate being accepted to the Frankfort event. Choate is the son of Robert and Connie Choate of Bowling Green.

As cities move toward the future in an era of declining budgets, limited resources and high demands for services, sustainability indicators is a tool some cities are using to set goals and assess progress toward building a more healthy and sustainable community.  Sustainability indicators recognize the essential links between the economic, social, and environmental aspects of a community, and are used to identify problem areas and develop solutions that impact all areas. For example, poor air quality (environmental) may affect asthma rates (social) and worker productivity (economic). By improving air quality, cities can positively impact social and economic factors in the community as well.

Within a sustainability framework “development is about improving aspects of the community and the environment that contains that community without detrimental effects to other aspects; it is not about growth beyond our means or growth at the expense of others or our environment,” Choate said.

Important criteria for sustainability indicators as identified by Choate are that they be relevant to the community, easy to use by all members of the community, repeatedly measurable and relevant to recent developments and available quickly enough that action to address change is possible.  Sustainability indicators may focus on education, healthcare, employment, environment, population, and transportation goals, among others.  Some examples of sustainability indicators that have been used by other cities are “ratio of parks to population” (per capita green space), “proportion of recycled materials diverted from landfill” and “ratio of the average cost of a single family home to median household income.”

From his research, Choate concluded that The City of Bowling Green and the surrounding community should consider adopting goals toward a sustainable community and indicators to measure progress towards these goals; that by incorporating existing information and collecting new information, we can establish baselines for many factors which we may seek to improve through directed efforts in the future; and, that if the City doesn’t do so, it may find itself not taking full advantage of the opportunities it has to develop economically, environmentally, and socially for its citizens.

Contact:  Nancy Givens, 270-745-2842, nancy.givens@wku.edu.

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