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    Guest column: Celebrating sustainability in our community

    Citizen interest is high and the rewards to our community are great as we join together to protect our environment and improve the quality of life for all.

    By Mark Luttrell and A C Wharton, Special to The Commercial Appeal -

    We are pleased to designate April 2012 as Sustainability Month for the Memphis and Shelby County.

    Events emphasizing sustainable lifestyles include Earth Day, which will be celebrated both locally and around the globe. In addition to communitywide Earth Day activities, we will lend our support to other scheduled events and activities that help us foster and protect our natural resources.

    Our joint Office of Sustainability will mark its one-year anniversary during our monthlong observance.

    As individuals, we can choose to be good stewards of the resources we share, providing both for the needs of the present while protecting what we can for the needs of the future.

    The city of Memphis and Shelby County government together are taking steps to be a leader in green building standards, the development and implementation of alternative energy strategies and a wide range of recycling initiatives.

    Several recently completed government building projects were built to incorporate green standards and technology. MATA's Airways Transit Center used recycled content and energy-efficient lighting controls, and the County's Forensics Center was designed to meet state of Tennessee sustainable design guidelines.

    On April 20, the grand reopening of the County Office Building at 157 Poplar will be held. It incorporated energy efficient technology to save on energy use and replacement equipment costs.

    Roundtable conversations involving business leaders spearheading sustainable operational strategies are being held. Corporate leaders from FedEx, International Paper, Smith & Nephew, Methodist Le Bonheur and Buckeye Technology are among those represented in the first session.

    Leading by example, these corporate citizens shared their expertise and experience to promote ecologically sound business practices. This group of leaders will be engaged in a continuing dialogue about their successful implementation of these strategies. They are providing valuable leadership as we develop a program for wider implementation by local government and the broader community.

    We are working to systematically track energy use for public buildings in order to target energy efficiency projects and maximize utility savings. In addition, we are working to create a database of public buildings and infrastructure to develop policies for their use and reuse that will maximize utilization and minimize operational costs.

    Efforts are under way to provide technology to mitigate the adverse impact of vehicle emissions on air quality. In short order, new vehicle charging stations will be up and running in locations throughout Memphis and Shelby County with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

    In a joint effort with Cargill, Inc., Shelby County school buses have been retrofitted with devices that reduce by 70 percent the particulate pollution generated and clears the air for student riders and other commuters.

    It is of the utmost importance to both of us to keep our city and county as clean as possible, and we commend the various partners whose efforts help us toward that goal.

    Recently, college students from across the United States spent their spring break not at the beach, but cleaning the shoreline of McKellar Lake with the nonprofit organization Living Lands and Waters.

    A few days ago, BRIDGES and Memphis City Beautiful joined hands to clean up portions of the Lamar-Airways Depot Area as a call to action for other neighborhoods and local businesses to follow their example.

    Citizen interest is high and the rewards to our community are great as we join together to protect our environment and improve the quality of life for all. Make a commitment today to join this effort to build a better future for Memphis and Shelby County.

    As we celebrate Sustainability Month in Memphis and Shelby County, we encourage citizens to participate in any number of events.

    At 6 p.m. Tuesday, "Ignite Sustainability" will be held at the University of Memphis' FedEx Institute of Technology. At this free event, the community will be able to hear a series of presentations, each about five minutes long, from local businesses, nonprofits and green entrepreneurs on what they do to promote sustainability and how citizens can become involved.

    In the coming weeks, TVA will host its statewide Solar Solutions Conference here, and MLGW's EnergySmart workshops will continue at various library branches. Citizens can also celebrate Earth Day on April 21 at Shelby Farm's Down to Earth Festival or enjoy the culmination of the month's events on April 28 with the GreenUp Memphis Festival at the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market.

    For a list of opportunities open to all our citizens check out the calendar for the month at sustainableshelby.com.

    Mark Luttrell is mayor of Shelby County, and A C Wharton is mayor of Memphis.

    This is the first in a series of columns celebrating sustainability initiatives in Memphis and Shelby County during April. Subsequent columns will appear every Thursday throughout April on the My Life Going Green page in the Local News section of The Commercial Appeal's print edition.