Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Environmental Design and Planning


Ellis, Clifford

Committee Member

Nadenicek , Daniel

Committee Member

Williams , Sean

Committee Member

Nocks , Barry


As environmental issues have gained media prominence, a majority of Americans now consider themselves to be environmentalists. Producers of real estate development have responded with communities, branded to differentiate themselves from their competition through sagas, imagery, and symbols that communicate the values and identities that align with those of their targeted consumers. Host to a rapidly expanding population, the Southern Appalachians are home to a wealth of new communities, many of them branded as 'green.' Building on theoretical foundations in visual design, environmental rhetoric, and landscape interpretation, this research utilizes a collective case study analysis to illustrate how texts, images, and the built environment are used to appeal to consumers' green identities. Secondarily, challenges to implementation of sustainable development are identified, within the social, economic, and environmental context in which rural mountain development occurs. Data sources include documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, and physical artifacts.
Selected cases located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains include communities located in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Selected cases were chosen for detailed study based on their ability to provide interesting and meaningful variations of several dimensions, grouped into primary and secondary contrasts. Primary contrasts, include the following dimensions: inclusion of golf, adjacency to public or other protected lands, lot sizes, apparent partnership with conservation or other 'green' organization, and inclusion of significant waterfront. Secondary contrasts include: project size and number of units, diversity of housing types, and price.
Included in the systematic examination of printed promotional materials, are concurrent inventories and analyses of image and textual content and meanings. Additionally, textual analysis of environmental rhetoric related to deep, preservation, integrative, and ecological environmentalism is conducted. Supplementing data collected through examination of promotional materials, site visits to each case include documentation of the built environment and structured interviews with the producers of each community. In addition to illustrating how communities are branded as 'green,' challenges to implementation of sustainable development are identified, providing a foundation on which future research into the actual sustainability of 'green' branded developments can be constructed.