"I'm proud to be green," says interim Shelby County mayor Joe Ford.
There was never a more appropriate time to make that statement than Earth Day at an environmental press conference.
On April 22nd, a group of local leaders gathered at Shelby Farms to announce a new initiative, "Clean Green Shelby," to enhance the county's environmental health. With community collaboration, the independent programs are intended to produce long-term ecological benefits through improved air and water quality, as well as new recycling programs.
"We have been awarded a $400,000 assessment grant," says Maura Sullivan, director of Shelby County Planning and Development. That money will go toward a program to protect land, assess contamination, and redevelop brownfield areas, especially in the Wolf River harbor area.
Discussions already have begun for a new infrastructure program, headed by Ford. The program will provide long-term protection for the region's surface and drinking water.
Other projects are still in the planning stage. Last week, the Shelby County Corrections Division teamed up with Project Green Fork, a nonprofit organization that certifies area restaurants as environmentally friendly, to create compost. Currently, the prison serves 10,000 meals a day, and if it creates the 1.5 pounds of trash that restaurants do for every meal, that would mean nearly 15,000 pounds of trash each day.
The prison plans to begin composting kitchen scraps for use in its garden, but the compost may eventually be packaged and delivered to surrounding farms and gardens. The program will also educate inmates on the environmental benefits of farming, gardening, and composting.
"My goal is to create a program that helps the prisoners learn a specific skill that they can transfer when they get of prison," says Margot McNeeley, founder of Project Green Fork.