Memphis-Shelby County Recognized for National Excellence as One of the Nation’s Most Sustainable Communities
Today, Memphis-Shelby County was awarded a 4-STAR Community Rating for national excellence in sustainability. Memphis-Shelby County is the first community from the Spring 2014 Leadership Program to achieve a 4-STAR certification under the national STAR Community Rating System (STAR). The STAR Community Rating System is a robust sustainability rating system for cities, towns, and counties that helps communities evaluate themselves across seven areas related to sustainability, such as built environment, economy and jobs, health and safety, and natural systems. Other 4-STAR communities include: Austin, TX; Portland, OR; and Washington, D.C.
A press conference was held April 2, 2015 at United Housing, Inc. on 2750 Colony Park Dr., Memphis, TN 38118 where both Mayors Luttrell and Wharton spoke at 3:30.
John Zeanah, Administrator of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability said, “Memphis-Shelby County participated in this program to establish a benchmark of our performance in sustainability from the inception of the Sustainable Shelby plan to today. From the STAR process we learned about where we are succeeding and where we can improve.”
Communities pursuing STAR certification accumulate points for their achievements across seven goal areas that are used to determine their rating. There are three STAR certification levels: 3-STAR (200-399 points); 4-STAR (400-599 points); and 5-STAR (600+ points). Memphis-Shelby County received a score of 419.1, qualifying as a 4-STAR Community recognized for “national excellence.”
“Sustainable cities provide a healthy environment, support a strong economy, and continually improve the well-being of the community,” said Hilari Varnadore, Executive Director of STAR Communities. “The data and information that Memphis gathered through the process should help them continue to make improvements that benefit the whole community.” Nearly 100 communities are actively using the STAR Community Rating System, with more than 60 engaged in certification.
Staff from the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability worked with technical assistance provider Global Green over a 6-month period thanks to a grant from The Surdna Foundation to gather data required for certification. Notable achievements include:
- Health and Safety: Overall increase in fresh fruit and vegetable sales over the past 3 years in the school nutrition program was 196%.
- Education, Arts, and Community: Since 2000, there has been a 57.2% increase in Memphis in the number of structures designated as local historic landmarks, added to districts, or rehabilitated.
- Natural Systems: Conservation agencies have purchased or protected 16,300 acres of natural space in the past 14 years.
- Economy and Jobs: Local economic development policy strategies were aligned with workforce development programs in the formation of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce.
- Built Environment / Parks and Public Spaces: The Mid-South Regional Greenprint Plan, adopted in 2014, seeks to build a community-wide network of public spaces that provide recreational, transportation, and environmental benefits.
- Climate and Energy: In the past 5 years, Shelby County has seen increases of 9.46% in commercial green buildings and 10.15% in residential.
- Innovation: Memphis-Shelby County received considerably high marks in innovation due to efforts such as the Mid-South Greenprint, MEMFix, and the Green Prisons Initiative to improve energy efficiency and recycling in the Shelby County Corrections Center, which is used in reentry training.
“I’m especially proud of the innovation displayed in the MEMFix model for revitalizing neighborhoods by activating streets and store fronts,” said Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.
Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. said, “I am pleased how the Mid-South Regional Greenprint Plan is bringing the community together through a network of connected greenspaces and trails.”
Staff from the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability will be analyzing the STAR results, with an emphasis on areas where the city and county can improve. The office’s Sustainability Advisory Committee is establishing three working groups to target areas where improvements can be made.
To learn more about the STAR Community Rating System, visit the STAR Communities website at www.STARcommunities.org. To learn more about the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability visit www.sustainableshelby.com.
STAR Communities works to evaluate, improve and certify sustainable communities. The organization administers the STAR Community Rating System, the nation’s first framework and certification program for local sustainability. For more information, visit www.STARcommunities.org. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @STARCommunities.
Contact: John Zeanah, Administrator