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Celebrate Nashville’s Green Progress

From The Tennessean, April 20, 2012

By Mayor Karl Dean

An athletic team hits its stride when planning, preparation and performance come together to achieve a goal. Our NHL Predators are a great example of outstanding teamwork and performance to achieve a vision to win the Stanley Cup title.

From my perspective, Nashville is beginning to hit its stride in achieving the goal that we — as a community — established five years ago to be the greenest city in the Southeast United States. Together we became dedicated to that vision and have built a community effort that works every day to become a greener and healthier city.

We are making progress because a growing number of local companies, associations and citizens have joined this team effort, and through their participation — in small and large ways — are combining to make a big contribution.

Nashville’s annual Earth Day celebration, which will be held Sunday at Centennial Park, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., will showcase ongoing initiatives, ranging from community supported agriculture, energy conservation and healthy lifestyles. All of these efforts contribute toward our progress.

This is Nashville’s 11th annual Earth Day celebration. Its success — with more than 15,000 attendees in recent years — has made it one of the largest Earth Day events in the region and is a reflection of the community’s enthusiasm and commitment to make Nashville a healthier city that offers a high quality of life for its residents by ensuring that we are responsible stewards of our natural resources.

Earth Day is also an opportunity for Nashville to gather in appreciation of what we have accomplished together since 2007 when I formed a Green Ribbon Committee on environmental sustainability.

Like that team hitting its stride, Nashville has achieved numerous wins over the past four years and generated tremendous momentum. I believe it is important for government to set a standard that leads change, and my administration has focused on fundamental building blocks. Those include:

• The launch of Nashville Energy Works, a residential energy efficiency program that provides free in-home energy evaluations and other financial incentives to homeowners who make recommended improvements. Since NEW’s launch, 2,300 homes have received these energy evaluations and nearly half have improved the energy efficiency of their homes by at least 15 percent.

• Open space conservation efforts, which have included land acquisition and development of an Open Space Master Plan that recommends protection of 22,000 acres of green infrastructure in the four corners of Davidson County and along the Cumberland River for recreation and enjoyment for future generations. To date, we have secured protection of 1,642 new acres of park land.

• The opening of Cumberland Park on the East Bank near LP Field to create a riverfront anchor and make a clear statement that Nashville is focused on one of our city’s greatest natural assets, the Cumberland River.

• A series of health challenges, led by my office, to encourage physical activity for healthy living in our parks, greenways and bikeways. Last year, that included the Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor and the Mayor’s Challenge 5K Walk/Run, both of which engaged more than 10,000 people in an effort to maintain and improve their overall health. The next health challenge is Mayor’s Field Day with the Tennessee Titans on May 5 at LP Field. It is entirely free and open to all ages and fitness levels.

Together, as a team, we are making progress on our vision to be one of the nation’s greenest cities.

Karl Dean is mayor of Nashville.