Two new projects from The Ray showcase the ways in which one of Georgia’s most unique nonprofits is continuing its mission of sustainability for America’s roads. The 18 miles of I-85 between LaGrange and the Georgia-Alabama border is named for Ray C. Anderson, a Georgia native and business leader who transformed his company Interface into developing a zero environmental footprint. That goal would eventually spin off The Ray, a net-zero highway testbed which specializes in limiting the environmental impact of roads and the various erosion, air-quality and other issues that can arise with a busy motorway.

In October, The Ray announced a new partnership with Baldwin Paving and Liberty Tire to pave the newest neighborhood in Serenbe, itself a sustainable-focused development on the south end of Fulton County. Liberty Tire’s SmartMIX technology will be used for the paving. The SmartMIX is a paving composite material made from used tires, diverting nearly 1,300 tires from Georgia landfills.

“Serenbe sets an exemplary model for creating thriving and eco-conscious communities through the development’s integration of nature and regenerative practices that showcase the transformative power of sustainable living,” said Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe. “By demonstrating the benefits of rubber-modified asphalt, this partnership inspires other communities, state agencies and local governments to explore environmentally safe initiatives that contribute to a more sustainable future.”

As is often the aim of The Ray, the project will act as a sort of proof-of-concept for broader use.

“The Ray’s pioneering work in sustainable transportation infrastructure is moving other sectors to innovate,” said Allie Kelly, Executive Director of The Ray. “By integrating the latest rubber-modified asphalt technology, The Ray and Serenbe aim to establish long-lasting, eco-friendly roadways that minimize environmental impact and enhance community safety,”

In 2021 alone, 274 million tires were discarded in the United States, part of the worldwide landfill mass of more than 4 billion tires. The technology from Liberty Tire has double the lifespan of conventional asphalt and is more resistant to cracking, not to mention reducing road noise and improving skid resistance.

“We are extremely excited about our partnership with The Ray and Liberty Tire. Building a road that is more reliable, more sustainable and will last longer is a big step forward for our community and the environment,” states Matt Collins, Serenbe’s Development Director.

In addition to the Serenbe tire project, The Ray also just announced that it is working with Agrela Ecosystems and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to deploy Agrela’s plant and soil monitoring technology, PheNode. The project marks the first time for the monitoring on a highway roadside, collecting air and soil data, as well as monitoring wildflower meadow plots along in The Ray outside Lagrange. PheNode collects temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind, light, air quality and soil data, allowing for constant tracking of projects and their impact.

“With the addition of the PheNode® monitoring technology, these initiatives not only bring advantages to the local vicinity but also establish a hub of innovation that can be scaled regionally and nationally, aligning with The Ray’s mission to create net-zero transportation infrastructure across the county,” said Allie Kelly, Executive Director of The Ray. “State DOTs across the nation can maximize sustainability and productivity of America’s roadways.”

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