hydrail conference dinner

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Holly Fesperman LeeSalisbury Post
Community leaders gathered at Food Lion’s customer support center Monday night to celebrate Salisbury’s environmental efforts.
Monday’s dinner comes during the Third International Hydrail Conference happening this week at Catawba College’s Center for the Environment.
The North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club named Salisbury one of only 19 “Cool Cities.”
Chuck McGrady, former national president of the Sierra Club, talked about the goal of the Cool Cities program, saying “the idea here is to let cities like Salisbury take the lead in addressing the global warming issue.
“Salisbury’s leadership sets both a great example for small cities in this area and across North Carolina,” he said.
McGrady presented the Cool City Award to Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz.
“This is a very exciting night in Salisbury. This is so thrilling for us … and we’re so very proud,” she said.
Kluttz told audience members about some of the things the city is doing to help save the environment.
The city has hybrid and electric cars in its fleet as well as vehicles running on bio-diesel fuel. The city also received a grant recently to implement a program offering free bus rides.
Residents can ride the bus free of charge on days when ozone levels are code orange or red. “We are amazed at the increase in ridership we’re seeing,” she said.
Kluttz also talked about some of the environmental partners Salisbury has, such as Food Lion and Catawba’s Center for the Environment.
During a reception before the meal, Food Lion officials got a chance to talk about things the company is doing to help the environment.
Gina Rye, a Food Lion energy manager, announced that the company had reduced it’s energy consumption by 27 percent in the past six years.
“We are the only grocer in the country so far to win the Energy Star Award six years in a row,” she said.
Rye explained that all Food Lion stores recycle cardboard and plastic, and all equipment installed in Food Lion stores undergoes energy testing.
The new “green” customer support center has lights that automatically dim when the sun is producing more natural light, explained Clarence Ballard, construction manager.
The building’s roof is Energy Star-rated and all restrooms and break areas have water-saving fixtures installed.
Catawba’s Center for the Environment honored Food Lion with an Outstanding Leadership Award for it’s sustainable business practices.Rye said Food Lion was honored to receive the award and “every meeting we have like this is one step closer to protecting our environment and saving our planet.”
Stan Thompson, a man Center for the Environment Director Dr. John Wear called “The Godfather of Hydrail,” was also on hand.
Wear explained that Thompson was responsible for bringing people from all over the world to Salisbury to talk about hydrogen rail possibilities.
Thompson said that railways are the easiest application of hydrogen to transportation.
“It’s the low-hanging fruit of the hydrogen revolution,” he said.
About five years ago, Thompson started the hydrail project and told colleagues he wanted to have a hydrail line from Charlotte to Mooresville.
Through the annual conferences, Thompson is working to help make the first hydrail in the United States a reality.
William Ross, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said when you hear Thompson’s plan “Well, first you think … ‘What?’ But then you think, ‘Yeah, I want to be on that train!’ ”
Ross talked about three threads ó leadership, partnership and innovation ó that could be woven together in a fabric of change to make a new world.
“Do we need a newer world? The one we have now just isn’t working,” he said.
Ross told the crowd as he was talking about leadership that he remembered a quote from Margaret Mead: “Some doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Partnerships are a way to get things done that can’t be done alone, he said.
“You don’t have to wait for the federal government to make change,” Ross said.
“To me, partnerships are the way things are happening, the way things are getting accomplished these days. I’m impressed with what you all are doing to weave the fabric of a newer world,” he said.
Wear reminded everyone that while the group recognized large environmental leaders in Salisbury, it’s important to keep in mind the citizens who are working so hard to do so much.
“You are that small group of thoughtful leaders working together, and you are making changes. Don’t forget that.”