SustainAtlanta is currently working on two projects designed to enhance the sustainability of our region.
Oyster Recovery and Recycling
Atlanta area restaurants generate an estimated 1,464 tons of discarded oyster shells annually. Ideally, these shells would be recycled back into the waters they came from. As a keystone species, oyster reefs provide habitat for numerous other animals, produce cleaner water by filtering algae and pollutants, and serve as a buffer against shoreline erosion. Oyster shells function as critical habitat for the free floating oyster larvae that require these types of hard surfaces to latch onto and mature. An individual adult oyster can filter pollutants out of 50 gallons of water per day; that’s more water than the average person will drink in 70 days. Furthermore, the scarcity and diminished size of the reef habitat that is increasingly becoming the norm can lead to overcrowding of larvae and poorly developed adult oysters, as well as reduced ecological resilience and eventual population collapse.
Currently, oyster shells are being disposed of in landfills. Creating a closed-loop system in Georgia where trucks shipping oysters to Atlanta restaurants could transport discarded shells back to coastal areas would encourage the return of shells to their native environments.
We are currently working the University of Georgia’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant (MAREX) to research and implement policies that will encourage the development of recycling programs in Georgia.
Native bee populations are declining primarily due to habitat loss and habitat fragmentation resulting from agricultural intensification as well as pollution, pesticide use, disease, and climate change. Native bees represent critically important keystone species that we rely on for many of our favorite foods as well as the promotion and maintenance of overall biodiversity and ecological resilience. Many plant species from which we derive foods or medicines are mutually dependent upon bees for survival, as they rely on the insects for pollination services.
Although efforts should also be undertaken to protect honey bees, native pollinators are much more critical to our local environment and their ecological services are vastly more important. Worryingly, our more efficient native bumble bee is increasingly being used in place of honey bees for the commercial agricultural pollination services that have already proven to contribute to honey bee population declines.
We are currently working the Georgia Native Plant Society to research effective means for conserving and protecting the resources necessary to support health native pollinator populations in the Atlanta region.
Please read out article on all the ways we can protect native pollinators in our urban areas.