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    My Thoughts: There are many ways to join the trend to greener lifestyles

    Josh White - The Commercial Appeal -

    Memphis may not have realized its full green potential, but it's getting there. Grass roots are sprouting up everywhere.

    While our community has benefited from wonderful public green space for generations, like the sprawling acres of Overton Park and Shelby Farms Park, only in the last handful of years has the private sector joined forces with government to kick the city into sustainable high gear.

    Lately, green things seem to be coming together, and not just in the way a single good plan can come to be. Many of these good plans are weaving together and changing the way we live in our city.

    New and planned features like the Woodland Discovery Playground are changing the face of Shelby Farms Park, which now connects to the heart of Memphis via the Shelby Farms Greenline. Connecting cyclists to the city further, a growing web of bike lanes extend deep into new pockets of the city, where GrowMemphis' efforts have sown dozens of community gardens in formerly barren urban areas.

    A converted MATA bus christened the Green Machine will soon begin hauling fresh fruits and vegetables into our city's so-called "food deserts," part of a project that involves such disparate groups as advertising firm archer>malmo and the graduate program of city and regional planning at the University of Memphis. MATA itself has joined the fight, adding hybrid and biofuel vehicles to its fleet, with an ambition of going all-sustainable as soon as possible. The bike racks on the fronts of some buses are further proof of our city's collective commitment to a new future.

    I serve on the board of the Wolf River Conservancy, which has been responsible for protecting thousands of acres along the Wolf River watershed, continuing to ensure some of the cleanest drinking water in the country for Memphians and Shelby County residents. The conservancy has worked closely with city and county government to create the parks and trails along Wolf River Boulevard, and with Memphis City Schools to promote active lifestyles in our community's youth. Along with running, walking and cycling on the trails, the recreational activities on the river also provide a healthier lifestyle through paddling and other water use opportunities.

    There's a solar farm at the Agricenter and another on top of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation's parking garage, both sucking usable energy literally out of the sky. This month construction is expected to begin in Frayser on 34 homes, the first phase of a 300-home development that will be powered in part by solar cells integrated into the construction, providing up to 60 percent of the neighborhood's power.

    The city of Memphis' Solid Waste Management Center operates curbside recycling, yard waste composting, household appliance recycling and drop-off centers, none of which existed 15 years ago. International Paper actually has a branch of its business that collects recyclable waste from other businesses and uses it in manufacturing their products.

    Farmers markets are selling fresh, local produce at hot spots across the county, from the Agricenter to South Memphis and the train station Downtown to Memphis Botanic Garden. Margot McNeeley's Project Green Fork is changing the way we dine out, helping restaurants compost their vegetable scraps, recycle their waste and select greener products, and connecting them with regional food suppliers. In just a few short years, Project Green Fork has helped more than 40 local eateries go green and recycled almost 1 million gallons of plastic, glass and aluminum.

    The best part about these truly profound cultural shifts taking place in Memphis is the impact they collectively have on our kids. Children learn by watching adults, and the more they see greening and sustainability placed where they belong, at the core of how we plan and run our communities, the deeper the message will seep into their habits and behaviors. This sets up momentum that will quicken and become more massive with each generation.

    Adults can catch the green bug, too. Our city is full of grass-roots groups working together to make us more sustainable as a community, and volunteer opportunities abound. Pick a cause you identify with and join the fight. There's plenty of important work that needs to be done.

    I want my great-grandkids to live in the same green world that my great-grandparents did. Our air is all we have to breathe, our water all we have to drink. There is only so much we humans can suck out of the Earth before we must start putting back in. I feel like we, as a species, are about to crest the upward slope of the steady hill of eco-friendliness, and begin coasting happily down the other side, on a low carbon-footprint 10-speed bike, of course.

    Josh White of Germantown is vice president of landscape operations at Mid-America Apartment Communities.