Piedmont Environmental Alliance NC created a paid Executive Director position by hiring recent Duke University Nicholas School of Environment graduate Charles Adair in September. Terri LeGrand formerly served as the director in a voluntary capacity.
At only 24, Adair already has seven years of sustainability education under his belt. He was first drawn to sustainability as a high school senior and pursued the field fervently throughout his undergraduate work as an Environmental Science and Economics double major at William & Mary. In May, Adair wrapped up his master’s degree at Duke and found his way to the Piedmont through the NC Conservation Network.
Though Adair was hired in large part because the Piedmont Earth Day Festival has grown so much over the last few years, he will also focus much of his time on educational programs for community members. “We need to use the resources we have to continue building our resource base so that down the road, we have all that we need at our fingertips,” he said.
To further this end, he has been working on updating the web site and developing a Speaker’s Bureau. This will serve as a catalogue of local sustainability experts so that PEA can easily connect interested community organizations with experts in various fields.
“We are really pushing to show our community what we have available. Our product is information, but that is sometimes overlooked,” Adair said.
One of the biggest challenges to this goal is helping other people understand the importance of environmentalism as more than just saving the environment. According to Adair, his high school AP Environmental Studies teacher, who first sparked his interest in the subject, said it best. “People were asking worst case scenario questions about what would happen if we continue to harm the earth. My teacher said ‘Oh, I’m not worried about the earth. Even if we destroy everything, the earth will still be here, but we won’t.”
Adair’s personal sustainability focus is on water conservation, but his favorite tip for those interested in making an initial lifestyle change is dietary. “Eat less meat,” he says simply. “Food is one of the easiest, most accessible things people can do, to have a big impact. We have to help people relate and to do this, people must understand that we benefit from the environment all the time. That’s what PEA is trying to make visible.”
Editor’s note: Charles Adair moved on from PEANC as of Spring 2011.
By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern