By Sheree Stubblefield
Introduce yourselves. What are your roles at Clean Memphis?
Janet Boscarino, Executive Director at Clean Memphis
Kathleen Quinlen, Operations Manager at Clean Memphis (and CYCA Member!)
Who is Clean Memphis?
Janet: 10 years ago, I was traveling a lot for work, and I would drive home from the airport after business trips and feel overwhelmed by all the litter, weeds, and derelict properties I was seeing in Memphis. I would be coming in from places like Minneapolis, MN, and Indianapolis, IN, and in those cities I was seeing clean streetscapes and thriving neighborhoods. I thought “if these cities can be clean and green, so can we,” and in 2008 I started Clean Memphis with the mission of educating youth, engaging leadership, and empowering communities to sustain a cleaner Memphis.
Kathleen: I think it’s important to underscore that our mission at Clean Memphis really is about supporting community partnerships to address blight and litter issues at the grassroots level. We recognize that people who already live and work in a neighborhood are the best agents for positive change, so we don’t think of ourselves as an organization that picks up trash (we get that a lot). Our work is really about helping people connect to organizations and resources in the communities where they live, work, worship, study, and play.
Talk about the partnership with 4 Miler? (green cert)
Janet: We currently have two sustainability certification programs. A lot of people are probably familiar with Project Green Fork, our service industry certification. PGF was founded as a separate nonprofit in 2008 and came under the Clean Memphis umbrella about four years ago. We also developed the Sustainable Schools Challenge, which is a certification for K-12 schools in Shelby County. An important lesson we learned from growing both of these programs is that you really need a partner willing to try out (and sometimes fail at) these sustainable practices to figure out if they’re practical and feasible. With the 4 Miler, we see an opportunity to collaborate with CYCA and pilot a local certification for race events that is tailored to this specific community. Memphis is a unique city, and we prefer homegrown solutions.
What is your goal with Green certification? Like as a whole with expanding to other races/sports
Janet: We are most interested in raising awareness about the 1.7 million tons of waste we produce as a city each year. We believe that we can make positive changes in every sector of our lives to reduce that number. Our hope is that with a local certification for events like the 4 Miler, we can encourage more race and event organizers to think about their environmental footprint.
Kathleen: We’re also talking about events that take place outdoors, and I think most race participants recognize that a healthy environment free of litter enhances their experience, whether they’re competing, training, or just out for a leisurely stroll. Eliminating unnecessary waste at events seems like an especially good fit for folks who enjoy being outdoors.
What are you looking forward to partnering with the 4 Miler and this certification?
Kathleen: I’m a runner (well, more of a slow jogger . . . ), and I also live in Cooper Young. It’s personally meaningful to me that CYCA is committed to making their events zero waste.
What are some tips for runners to help keep the 4 Miler race green? (what not to bring)
Janet: A little planning goes a long way when you’re trying to generate less waste. Make arrangements to carpool to the starting line, or plan to walk, bike, or take a scooter if you’re nearby. Bring a re-usable water bottle, and check your pockets before you leave the house to see if you have trash that needs to be discarded. Organizers can do everything possible to plan a zero waste event, but it’s really difficult to prevent attendees from bringing in their own trash.
What do we have to look forward to from Clean Memphis and PGF?
Janet: We’re really troubled by the statistics that 1 in 7 people in the United States is food insecure and that we also waste 40% of the food that is grown or produced. We are bringing on a new program consultant for Project Green Fork who will be looking for ways to support our existing establishments in sourcing more sustainable materials, and we will have a much larger focus on food waste.
Give me some basic contact info for people to get in touch with you if they want to work with you or get certified.
For more information about organizing a cleanup or beautification event in your neighborhood, contact our Community Engagement Coordinator at Kimberlee@cleanmemphis.org . To learn more about getting your service industry businesses Project Green Fork-certified, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also visit our website at www.cleanmemphis.org , and you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.