Though the United States hasn't ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty in which 183 countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that's not stopping one nonprofit from taking the lead on a local level.
Bridges, which provides hands-on youth and adult learning programs in green living, racism, and poverty, has vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Memphis by 10 million pounds by next year.
"We've narrowed green living suggestions down to 10 things people can do that make a huge difference," said Mollie Merry Campbell, director of Bridges' new green living program. "For instance, changing one lightbulb to a CFL bulb reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 500 pounds a year."
As part of the Ordinary to Extraordinary: Learning and Leading Green program, kids and adults learn 10 simple tips for reducing emissions. Suggestions include reducing shower time by one minute each day (reduces emissions of 4,700 pounds per year), spending at least $1 of a weekly food budget on local products (reduces by 2,800 pounds per year), and planting a tree (extracts 26 pounds of carbon per year).
"We chose things that people would find to be the most simple," Campbell said. "We're breaking down the resistance and showing how easy green living can be."
The green living program also includes a new Bridges sustainability tour for school and corporate groups. In February, 14 panels explaining the building's green features were erected throughout Uptown's Bridges.
"Bridges was the first green commercial building in Memphis, and we've become sort of a mecca for people to learn about green-building techniques," Campbell said. "These panels turn the building into a proactive teaching tool."
For example, a panel on the rooftop explains the building's solar water heating tubes, which pull energy from the sun to heat all water used in the building. Another panel in the boardroom includes information about the locally harvested wood used to create the room's floors and conference table.
Bridges provides green power to the Tennessee Valley Authority through 176 solar panels on the roof. The concrete in the building was created using fly ash, a waste product produced by coal-fired plants, and the carpet inside is made from recycled soda bottles.
"At the end of the green tour, we ask people to take the O2E challenge, which includes these greenhouse gas reduction tips," Campbell said. "If one person takes an action, they may not think they're changing the world. But if we come together as Memphians, the impact we can have together is extraordinary."