September 29, 2008

Sustainability a Worthy Goal

It's not as if nothing is happening in Memphis to demonstrate an awareness that the environment is fragile and natural resources are finite.

Somewhat predictably, however, the Bluff City ranks 46th among the nation's 50 largest cities, down from 43rd last year, on a list released this week by SustainLane ( , an online community dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability.

Local leaders are not sitting still. Last June, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton convened a "Sustainable Shelby Digital Congress" for members of seven volunteer committees that are working to make the community more walkable, bikeable and fuel-efficient.

Just this week, ground was broken in Shelby County for the latest in a series of buildings constructed locally according to standards developed by the nonprofit Green Building Council.

Forty percent of the energy consumed by the La Quinta Inns and Suites hotel at New Brunswick and Stage will be provided by a windmill and 800 solar panels on the roof. The building is among several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects undertaken in Shelby County and North Mississippi over the past few years.

The list also includes Greenland Place, a Midtown duplex customized to meet LEED guidelines and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division's EcoBUILD initiative with a rainwater harvesting system, a floor made from a recycled roller skating rink and other green features.

South of the state line, Industrial Developments International's warehouse and distribution center in Olive Branch, the first industrial building in Mississippi to achieve LEED certification, is designed to maximize energy efficiency and reduce water use while employees are encouraged to carpool and use fuel-efficient vehicles.

The first LEED-certified building in Downtown Memphis, a five- story mixed-use building called Court Annex 2 with a restaurant and living units, is rising from the ashes of a warehouse fire.

Green initiatives with the highest profiles in Memphis include the redevelopment plan for Shelby Farms Park, linear park developments with pedestrian and cycling trails along the Wolf River, Nonconnah Creek and an abandoned CSX Railroad line, as well as the Memphis Area Transit Authority's launch of a fleet of hybrid electric buses.

Memphis could do much better, however, in this test of its creativity and its conscience. Environmentally sound building practices, smart growth policies and energy conservation will preserve the planet for future generations and provide a better quality of life here and now.


City falls further behind

Finishing near the bottom of a list of the nation's largest cities should stir Memphians to think green.


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