By: Ben Griffith, Summer Creator
Clean Memphis is one of the premiere environmentally-focused nonprofits in the Mid-South and is the largest organization dedicated to cleaning Memphis. Clean Memphis hopes to engage every Memphian in improving Memphis, with the end goal of making Memphis “the cleanest city in the country,” according to their website..
Janet Boscarino, Executive director and founder of Clean Memphis, said that 10 years ago her drive “to make Memphis cleaner and greener and more sustainable” inspired her to start Clean Memphis, and “realizing that that is a forward, progressive view for the city and as a city a goal we should strive for,” has continued to push her everyday.
Clean Memphis concentrates heavily upon engaging & activating communities, implementing a Zones Collaborative Strategy wherein Clean Memphis has divided the city into 29 individual areas in order to better partition government services, neighborhood activities, and Clean Memphis’ own operations. Fortifying relationships within the various communities within Memphis has been one of Boscarino’s favorite parts of her job.
“No matter what neighborhood we’re working in, whether they have good resources or not, there are people there that really care about their neighborhood and who want to see it as good as it can be,” she notes.
Additionally, environmental education is one of the pillars of Clean Memphis, and they work with approximately 60 schools and over 12,000 students per year. They run an environmental education-centric program called the Sustainable Schools Challenge, which recognizes outstanding schools, teachers, and students striving for a more sustainable future.
“We get really motivated and excited about environmental education, and we’re constantly looking for ways to work with students to get involved with STEM programs, which helps promote environmental careers for them and helps earn them better scores on tests because environmental education is problem-based learning,” Boscarino emphasizes.
Clean Memphis also contains another organization called Project Green Fork (PGF), which merged with Clean Memphis in 2016 to combine forces as a collective group fighting to make the city cleaner, greener, and more sustainable. PGF functions as a certification organization supporting restaurants who work to decrease their environmental impact.
To become PGF-certified, a business must undergo six steps of sustainability practices: use disposable products, recycle, compost, decrease the presence of any cleaning products that contain toxins, conserve energy, and reduce pollution.
Upon certification, businesses will receive a sticker in their window, and PGF will uplift them by highlighting the work certified businesses are doing through PGF’s social media platforms and their newsletter. While PGF is a certification business, it serves as an environmental education service for the broader public by teaching why people should care about the PGF-certified restaurants and why they should take steps to support such establishments.
“It’s a strong brand, and since many people are conscientious about it, a PGF-approved restaurant is a great look for a business,” Boscarino said. Since PGF was founded, their backed restaurants have diverted more than 700 tons of plastic, glass, and aluminum, over 1,500 tons of recycled paper & cardboard, 1,500 tons of recycled paper & cardboard, and half a million tons of food waste from ending up in landfills.
As Clean Memphis approaches their 10-year anniversary later this year, the organization is faced with a milestone for reflection and thought:
“We’re about to undergo a strategic planning process looking at the last 10 years & looking at the next 3-5 years. We want to take a step back and think about what we have learned, what are our successes, what are our complications, and what’s going on in the marketplace now,” Boscarino says. Based on the past decade, it appears a bright future lies ahead for Clean Memphis.
Clean Memphis can be found online at www.cleanmemphis.org