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Q&A with Paul Young

Administrator of the Office of Sustainability

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Nearly three years have passed since then-Shelby County mayor A C Wharton issued 151 "Sustainable Shelby" recommendations to make the county a greener place.

These include reinvesting in walkable neighborhoods, emphasizing adaptive reuse of buildings, and enhancing bike and pedestrian facilities. While the city and county have made good on some of these plans, it lacked an office to head up implementation.

That is, until last Tuesday, when Wharton (now the Memphis mayor) and Shelby County mayor Mark Luttrell launched their joint Office of Sustainability dedicated to making Wharton's list a reality.

The man selected to lead the effort is 32-year-old native Memphian Paul Young. He's held positions with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in New York City and the local Community Capital, where he was involved in the Dixie Homes and Lamar Terrace projects as a financial analyst. He's also held a number of positions in Shelby County government. — Andrew Caldwell

Flyer: How do you plan to realize all 151 recommendations?

Young: Ultimately, we want to keep the community engaged. Many of the things on our list require cooperation with various city and county divisions, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. We want to coordinate to see that these strategies are done.

I'm located in the Office of Planning and Development, which is a joint city-county agency, and that was a strategic move so that I would be able to work for both governments.

are you starting with the short-term goals?

When I say short-term, I'm thinking within the next year and a half. Some are actually already done. One of the recommendations is to encourage MLGW to show customers their carbon footprint, and they're already doing that on their website.

Some will involve decisions that the government will have to make. This is important to us, and we're not just going to suggest that you do these things. We're going to do the same. We're going to practice what we preach.

What excites you most from Wharton's list?

I'm really excited about the green-building task force. It's going to be charged with examining our existing code regulations to figure out what we can do to ensure the developments we're involved with are more energy efficient.

There's a huge burden for many families who have $500 bills each month, and there are things we can do in developing the houses that can reduce those costs over the long-term.

The other thing that I'm excited about is trying to make our purchasing decisions based on the total life of a product as opposed to just the cost. If we can make those changes, I think we'll be a lot better off.

How do you plan on involving the private sector?

We're going to dispel some of the myths surrounding green buildings and how much it's going to cost based on some of those incentives.

One of the sections in the plan is to green our economy, so we're looking at trying to recruit green businesses and bring [green] conferences to Memphis. We want our workforce to take advantage of what we think will be the 21st-century jobs movement. We think that green jobs are the future, and we want to make sure our community is equipped to take advantage of that.

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