Children in West Charlotte plan their neighborhood’s future

The key to fulfilling a great plan is beginning with a bold vision.

Last week, Sustain Charlotte staff taught children at the Southview Recreation Center in West Charlotte what sustainability means and how they can help to make their neighborhood more sustainable. This follows our visioning workshop with teens last month at the nearby Arbor Glen Outreach Center.

Children in West Charlotte plan their neighborhood's future

Recreation Specialist Korey Townsend showed the children his drawing of a sustainable neighborhood. 

The children ranged in age from 5 to 14 years. Because of the wide age range, we shared sustainability ideas that could be easily implemented by anyone.

Most of the children told us that they live in apartment homes, like over 140,000 Mecklenburg County residents. I’ve also lived in apartments most of my adult life, and I know that renters face some unique challenges to living sustainably. Apartment homes are inherently sustainable from a land use perspective because many people can live in the same space that a single-family home might otherwise occupy. But renters often have limited ability to recycle, install energy- and water-efficient home fixtures, garden, and access outdoor recreation.

Children in West Charlotte plan their neighborhood's future

These kids were overflowing with enthusiasm and creative ideas!

We asked the children, “What can you do to live more sustainably in an apartment?” These are a few of the ideas they shared:

“Ride my bike and take the bus.”

“Put in light bulbs that save energy.”

“Pull the weeds out of our garden to grow food.”

“Build a fountain to make a place for birds and animals to drink.”

We presented them with a challenge: Draw what your neighborhood would look like if the people who live there made sustainable choices about land use, transportation, water, waste, food, and energy. The youngest kids sketched with crayons while the older ones drew with pen or pencil.

Children in West Charlotte plan their neighborhood's future

Gardens, transportation choices, recycling, and water conservation were common themes!

Each child then had an opportunity to share his or her picture with the group. Smiles abounded as they pointed to gardens overflowing with vegetables, parents pushing baby strollers on safe streets, apartment homes powered by solar panels, and buses carrying families around town.

The next tasks for the neighborhood are to choose a location for a bike rack and create original lawn signs to raise driver awareness about safe driving speed. West Charlotte is on the move towards a sustainable future!

Sustain Charlotte’s work with the West Boulevard community is funded by grants from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, UTC Aerospace Systems, New Belgium Brewing, and operating support grants from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and Park Foundation. Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation is partnering with us by providing meeting facilities, staff expertise and planning assistance, and promotion of workshops.

If you or your organization are interested in learning more about how to support our neighborhood work in low-income communities throughout Charlotte, please contact our Education and Outreach Program Director, Meg Fencil, at

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