When you strip away the jargon, green politics and core Southern values do not make as strange a marriage as you'd think, says Rebecca Dunn Bryant, an architect-turned-consultant at Alabama-based Watershed, a company that specializes in "Green Consulting & Education for the Deep South."
Bryant, who is a Birmingham native, says she originally thought she would have to leave home to find work in the sustainable building industry. Her first mainstream LEED-certified building project was in Houston, a Unitarian church, which carried the clunky tagline, "We promote respect for the interdependent web of existence for which we are all a part."
The jargon aside, the interconnected idea hits home in the South. "My parents have this web of covered dishes and thank you notes -- all of these social ties and ties to the land run really deep, but they would never have called them that." Bryant says.
Bryant says she sells green building practices as being part of being a steward to the land, which is, in many ways, a Southern value.
"You see a lot of really great modern eco-buildings being showcased, but in Alabama, many people can't relate to it. But if it's about porches and a smart way to shade a house, that takes traditional architecture and merges it with new technology."
Bryant also emphasizes that builders in Alabama can use local materials, such as southern yellow pine.
Sustainability, at its core, is an apolitical issue, she says. "There are lots of different ways to get there, whether you're a hunter or somebody who likes to take a stroll through the
woods and read poetry." Or both.