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VOL. 132 | NO. 67 | Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Earth Day Every Day: April Brings 30 Days of Memphis Clean-Up Efforts

BY LANCE WIEDOWER, Special to The Daily News

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On one hand, the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Memphis Clean by 2019 moon mission seems daunting. The goal is to restore the city’s status as the cleanest city in the U.S. by 2019, when Memphis celebrates its bicentennial.

Clean Memphis has planned numerous neighborhood and clean-up events throughout April in celebration of Earth Day, which is April 22.


The chamber has enlisted Clean Memphis, an organization that works to clean the city and remove blight on a neighborhood level, to serve as the lead community partner.

One of the many ways it pursues the clean goal is through the Earth Day 30 Days Straight effort, which puts a focus on cleaning Memphis every day of April to celebrate Earth Day on April 22.

Earth Day 30 Days Straight is in its third year. The event came about as Clean Memphis kept receiving requests to do clean-up projects on Earth Day. The organization had so many requests it became a struggle to accommodate everyone.

The first year saw 17 teams participate in various clean-up efforts around the city, with some sort of event taking place daily.

This year there are more than 25 corporate teams and 14 churches that will take on a variety of clean-up efforts across the city’s neighborhoods as well as at school properties.

“Because Earth Day is promoted nationally it’s a great way to reach more people,” said Janet Boscarino, executive director of Clean Memphis. “Once they get involved and off the sidelines and plug into a neighborhood it gets into their blood. They want to do it more. We want to get people thinking 365 days a year.”

Boscarino’s team has divided the city into 28 zones and works to identify stakeholders in each zone to help them organize.

Lynsey Freeman is the corporate marketing director at City Auto off Covington Pike Road. She’s part of the Covington Pike Collaborative that is focused on improving and beautifying that stretch of road several automobile dealerships call home. A number of dealerships have made improvements in recent years, and now it’s time to focus on the street itself.

“It’s important for this area to be clean, safe and vibrant,” Freeman said. “We’ve had tremendous support from Clean Memphis and the stakeholders on Covington Pike. We need to retain this as a vibrant commercial district.”

The collaborative had its first meeting in spring 2016. Goals include adding a median with landscaping and the possible addition of crosswalks.

The Covington Pike Collaborative will participate in Earth Day 30 Days Straight with a day of service on April 18. The dealerships and other businesses along Covington Pike will come together to clean the street, medians, remove trash and add landscaping. Food trucks will add to a festive atmosphere, Freeman said.

Whitehaven is another neighborhood that will participate in the Earth Day event. Much attention has centered on Elvis Presley Boulevard thanks to the improvements at Graceland. The clean-up effort is planned for April 11 in Whitehaven, but it’s just one day in a larger beautification mission for the community that will see volunteers return throughout the year.

“It has become this prideful moment and team-building effort among the community,” said Regena Bearden, vice president of marketing at the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It has helped us connect to other entities in the area like Medtronic and Smith & Nephew. Tourism is joining these other organizations.”

The Whitehaven event will see volunteers meet at the Visitors Center at Brooks Road and Elvis Presley Boulevard and branch out beyond the interchange to pick up trash. It also will show the importance of having Clean Memphis organize the event.

“Janet is the engine behind which people can organize and that makes it so helpful to an organization that doesn’t have the knowledge she has,” Bearden said. “There are a lot of layers. It’s not just put on gloves and pick up a trash bag. On those highways, Memphis PD will be there watching traffic. I never thought about that. I thought we’d just pick up trash. She has every layer of the plan in place on how to do all of it.”

Freeman doesn’t expect the appearance of Covington Pike to turn overnight. But participating in Earth Day 30 Days Straight is an important step.

“Someone takes a walk and picks up trash and then someone else sees them and suddenly you have more completed and you suddenly find out there is a real untapped interest,” she said. “It’s taking the initial step to get organized and be patient. Each piece builds on the next piece and over time you say, ‘Wow, we’ve really made strides and we now see we’ve made an impact.’”

It’s not too late to sign up to participate in Earth Day 30 Days Straight, or any clean-up effort in the city, for that matter. Anyone interested in taking on a project can go to the organization’s website at cleanmemphis.org where existing projects are listed. Groups can register for a project or connect to Clean Memphis to create a new one.

Clean Memphis tries to connect organizations to a geographic region that makes sense in hopes that it can lead to an ongoing relationship.

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