Shan Arora is a project manager with Southface’s Sustainable Communities Team. An environmental advocate since an early age, he transitioned into sustainable community development after working in the international trade and tax fields for a decade.
How does an international tax attorney find his way to Southface?
In 2007, I decided to transition into a career that aligns with my passion for the environment. To increase my knowledge of sustainability issues in Atlanta, I served as a Stakeholder Committee Member for the Connect Atlanta Plan, Atlanta’s first comprehensive transportation plan. I also volunteered with Sustainable Atlanta and the Congress for New Urbanism. When a position opened in the Communities Team at Southface, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to transition into a career in sustainability.
What is your role at Southface?
Since joining Southface in 2010, I have worked on community sustainability planning, helped create a framework to promote transit-oriented development in the Atlanta region and led a team that created GeorgiaEnergyData.org, Georgia’s first interactive website that maps renewable and nonrenewable energy sources across the state. Southface has a long history of promoting sustainability at the building level, but has more recently begun to promote community level sustainability.
How does the effort differ at the community scale?
The same principals apply. Integrated design is key. In the same way that a building owner, plumber, architect and electrician must work together to construct an efficient building, government must work with municipal employees, business owners and citizens to form a comprehensive and feasible community sustainability plan.
What drives your passion for sustainability in the built environment?
A huge part of our impact depends on where we live and increasingly, we live in urban areas. Therefore, we must reassess how we build and operate cities in order to reduce our collective environmental impact.
Describe what Atlanta would ideally look like in 20 years.
First, the City of Atlanta will have a considerably larger population. Second, metro area residents will have more transit options and will have greater control over where they get their energy.
What needs to happen for this to become a reality?
Currently, only 10 percent of the population of metro Atlanta lives inside the city limits, which creates challenges for some sustainability initiatives. In order to increase population, Atlanta must attract more businesses and address the real and perceived issues that prevent people from living in Atlanta. Suburban developments will have to be built with transit in mind. And finally, state laws must be changed to allow private property owners and communities to obtain energy from distributed sources such as solar.
What can readers do to become involved in sustainability efforts?
Everyone can be an advocate. Voice your passion to your elected officials and vote with your purchasing power. Focus in on the segment of sustainability that interests you most and seek out volunteer opportunities in that area.