VOL. 130 | NO. 68 | Wednesday, April 8, 2015
STARs Align for Sustainability In Memphis and Shelby County
By John Zeanah
Editor’s Note: This column will appear weekly throughout April in honor of Memphis and Shelby County’s Sustainability Month.
In 2008, Shelby County began the Sustainable Shelby planning process, seeking to bring together a cross-section of the community toward the development of actions to help better preserve our environment, resources and community assets for future generations.
This vision ultimately led to the creation of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability, in addition to the adoption of more sustainable practices through divisions of city and county government, the private sector and broader community.
Last week, the achievements of the city and county, with Sustainable Shelby, were rewarded when it was announced that Memphis and Shelby County achieved a prestigious milestone with respect to sustainability, being named a 4-STAR Sustainable Community by STAR Communities, a national nonprofit dedicated to evaluating, improving and certifying sustainable communities.
The 4-STAR recognizes Memphis and Shelby County for national excellence. Other 4-STAR communities include Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C. This award follows the recent designation of Memphis and Shelby County as a GOLD Sustainable Community by Tennessee Valley Authority.
The STAR rating system is comprehensive, considering achievements and actions across areas of health and safety, education, arts, and community, natural systems, economy and jobs, built environment, climate and energy, equity and empowerment, and innovation. Memphis and Shelby County did particularly well in the area of innovation, through efforts like MEMFix, Tennessee Brewery Untapped, the Shelby County Green Prisons Initiative, and the Mid-South Regional Greenprint.
Other notable achievements across the eight goal areas include: increase in fresh fruit and vegetable sales by close to 200 percent in the school nutrition program; more than 50 percent increase in number of structures designated as local historic landmarks, added to districts or rehabilitated; and the formation of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce.
Like the thorough process of working toward the development of Sustainable Shelby or Greenprint plans, or integrating sustainable practices into everyday life, the STAR Communities rating system allowed the Office of Sustainability, its Sustainability Advisory Committee, and the community to dive deep into more than 500 factors that can contribute to a more sustainable place.
While the marks of achievement are satisfying, the greater benefit from the STAR certification process is an understanding of where our community has the most opportunities to gain.
In our case, the STAR process provides a clear picture of where Memphis and Shelby County can improve with respect to sustainability, in areas of climate and energy, equity and empowerment, and built environment. As a result, the Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Advisory Committee have established three working groups to form around these topics to set objectives and direction for improvement over the next year.
We invite you to join us in one of these working groups to help shape the next steps for becoming a more sustainable city and county.
More information about the STAR Communities rating for Memphis and Shelby County can be found on our website: www.sustainableshelby.com/STAR.
John Zeanah is the Administrator of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability.