By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – Newly graduated Madison Kluge from Catawba College became the city’s first sustainability coordinator earlier this year, and she stepped up to help transform the goals of a more sustainable lifestyle into reality.
Kluge, 21, graduated from Catawba College earlier this year with a degree in environment and sustainability. She began an internship with the Salisbury Public Works Department in February before assuming a full-time role as Sustainability Coordinator in May. In 2020, she also completed an internship at Bread Riot, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting local farmers and providing access to locally produced food. Kluge said she was still a volunteer for Bread Riot.
Also during his stay in Catawba, Kluge did an internship at the school’s Environmental Center for over two years. She said her teachers helped guide her to the position she currently holds, which suits her well as she enjoys coordinating and collaborating with multiple groups.
Kluge, from Maryland, said she was living in Mocksville when her sister decided to attend Catawba College, which resulted in several trips to Salisbury with the option to explore while her sister was in class.
“I fell in love with the city, the culture it has here, the possibility of growth and the good people,” Kluge said.
Much of his work now requires him to strengthen relationships with city, county, and nonprofit organizations, in addition to strengthening environmental education and awareness of sustainable living.
Kluge is working with city staff to help draft the Forward 2040 plan, which aims to frame priorities and decisions over the next 20 years as Salisbury. In addition to this, Kluge is responsible for working on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals of Salisbury City Council.
“I help steer the city towards a sustainable mindset,” Kluge said. “And put the goals they have in mind into perspective and make them come true.”
In March, board members adopted a set of goals for 2021 following a goal setting retreat in February. Among the priorities for the city’s infrastructure and human capital was the focus on reducing waste and promoting efficiency as well as improving infrastructure to promote foot and bicycle transport. In addition, council members have indicated that they want to support public transit for neighboring communities and explore alternative modes of transportation.
Also this year, the city used an amount of $ 818,000 Volkswagen Public transportation / facility shuttle program gdiatribe from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to purchase two electric buses for Salisbury Transit. Kluge said finding and applying for such grants is another part of his job. She is currently working to obtain a community subsidy for waste reduction from the NCDEQ.
Kluge told Salisbury that much of the thinking “towards sustainability” is already in place among residents and staff, which is part of what attracts him to the position. She said she is often pushed by older residents and colleagues who want to see Salisbury flourish with things such as increased use of electric vehicles and improved air quality.
“It is really my colleagues and community members who inspire me to help Salisbury follow this green vision,” she said.
Although her role falls under the Public Works Department, Kluge said she often works with communications and planning staff.
Current projects include a new Sustainability Salisbury newsletter, the first edition of which will be launched in January. This newsletter will provide more information and education for a sustainable lifestyle in Salisbury. She is also working to roll out more sustainability education through social media apps like TikTok and Instagram.
Other initiatives Kluge is working on include increasing awareness of waste, recycling, composting and waste prevention during the holiday season, promoting city and county parks, and working with neighboring schools to implement more sustainability-oriented programs. In 2022, the city will launch a nature city challenge in the spring on the occasion of Earth Day. City Nature Challenge is an event that takes place across the country, where local residents take photos and make observations of nature in their area and support the city’s naturalists.
Among its long-term goals is establishing a more robust internship program where students from Catawba, for example, can intern with the city to conduct research on sustainability, which is beneficial to the community. both for the city and students interested in careers related to sustainable development.
Eventually, Kluge said she would like to see the city’s composting program expanded to accept more types of waste. Creating a carbon inventory to assess how much carbon the city sees is another long-term goal that requires a lot of training that it is currently undergoing.
Additionally, another goal is to work with businesses to create a business alliance and neighborhood alliance with established sustainability goals, including increased recycling and waste reduction initiatives.
Kluge suggests that city residents take advantage of the free compost available at the Grants Creek Composting Facility, located at 1955 Grubb Ferry Road. Residents can pick up the compost generated from the previous year’s yard waste on Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, contact [email protected] or call 704-638-5260.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.