Two people Mark connected with by phone before we got to Atlanta were Mandy Schmitt and Lynnette Young, both wonderful resources and great speakers for the environment. We interviewed Mandy and joined her for dinner, and then saw her again the very next day during our moving interview with Lynnette Young at Dynamic Dish (another all organic, mostly local, mostly vegan establishment), where owner/Chef David Sweeney gave us a moment. We were fortunate to get a few words from Rashid Nuri (Truly Living Well natural urban farms) who was dropping off collard greens to the kitchen. Rashid kindly accepted our offer of compost from the car (thank you, Rashid!) (The TLW website is so cool – Go see how they make little garden farms out of regular urban spaces, like people’s backyards!) And we also met James Harris, who owns Harris & Clark – a high-end boutiqe grocery located in the incredibly beautiful sustainable community of Serenbe, just south of Atlanta.
There was still an hour or so left of daylight when we rolled onto the picturesque roads of the planned community of Serenbe. We met Garnie Nygren at the Blue-Eyed Daisy Cafe where we downed warm brownies and milk. Garnie explained to us how her parents bought the farm, not sure what they were going to do with it, but knowing that they wanted to preserve as much land as possible, and possibly build homes for people looking to live in harmony with the planet. They searched the USA for a model of sustainable development that married conservation and thriving community but didn’t find one they liked so they went ahead and designed their own.
The Serenbe approach to land conservation and neighborhood development is different than most “sustainable” communities we have come across. Serenbe wants to build a network of real neighbors, not the usual isolationist suburbia. The biggest difference to me in the way land is used is that the houses are built right next to each other, no yards, and share an amazing unspoiled forest as their backyard. Each home has a lovely open front porch, inviting owners outside, everything is within walking distance, (parking behind the homes)… Here, everyone’s back door opens into this wonderful woods, and further connections are made by walking paths and trails…I have to mention this again – The houses are built green and super close together and the preserved greenspace is SHARED by everyone. Garnie says that 70% of the land is being preserved as greenspace that way. It is beautiful and very exciting to see. There are even stables and a working CSA on site!
The other aspect that Serenbe has going for it, in my opinion, is that it has a relatively diverse bunch of folks starting to live there. Not that there is anything wrong with crunchy granola, tofu, Birkenstocks and braids, but not everyone feels comfortable in a totally hippie environment. Serenbe seems to have found residents who really care about the environment but who also might like to clean up and get into the city for a night at the opera… It appeals to the cosmopolitan part of me that loves all of the fine things in life…not just the natural world…
One neighborhood is completely finished and the next is being built right now. A third is in the design phase. Garnie told us that there will be more little neighborhoods within the Serenbe community but that there is no real rush – they will unfold as time goes by. She says she can’t wait for us to return in a year and a half to see the 2nd neighborhood completed and thriving. Sounds like a lovely invitation that we can hardly pass up. *Note: While Serenbe may not be affordable to people like myself, I think that its concept is cool and important and well-worth being repeated. Just maybe for some slightly less-wealthy folks. In case this intrigues anyone, there is also a B&B at Serenbe for further investigation..
OH! HEY! before we left Atlanta, the Weather Channel found YERT! They interviewed us on the street about the journey, for tomorrow’s episode of “Forecast Earth.” We have no idea how much airtime we’ll have but we are pretty excited for Your Environmental Road Trip’s National TV debut! Tune in to the Weather Channel tomorrow at 7pm, or Sunday at 5 and 7pm.