Opinion » Viewpoint

What "Green" Means

It's a word that implies both economic progress and living well.

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I welcomed the cover story and theme of the recent "green" issue (April 15th) of the Flyer.

In my experience as a business owner, nonprofit board member, and recreational participant, I see that Memphians are ready to be green and are hungry for the kind of progress this means for our city.

We live in a competitive world — one which ranks restaurants, hotels, coffeeshops, and cities in every category. Memphians are tired of being on the bottom of most quality-of-life lists — whether it's Forbes or Outside or Bicycling or Men's Health.

Shelby Farms and the Greater Memphis Greenline are taking Memphis in the right direction. And visitors to downtown are drawn to walk along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi or along the Bluff Walk. Either way, the views are matchless.

We look forward to and support long-established events like Memphis in May, but our beloved Tom Lee Park is damaged for months in its aftermath.

Where is the will to restore the lawn, fill in the ruts, and repair the broken irrigation system, quickly and completely, with the highest standards?

Memphis enjoys many great festivals and events in our parks throughout the year, but while the party is fun, the clean-up is just as important as is the restoration of our greenspace for the people who use them every day.

The standards need to be raised. When I go to conservation meetings and trade shows in other cities, the predominant theme is always that the most important park is the park nearest to your home. It's where you go when you get up in the morning and walk your dog or fly a kite. We have to have a complete park system that works for all of us.

My best talent as a small-business owner of 36 years is not underestimating Memphians. Memphians I see on a daily basis are climbing the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mt. Blanc in France, paddling their kayaks down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, running the Boston Marathon, and bicycling the Memphis Hightailers 100-mile Fall Century.

They are strong, smart, and motivated. And they have never been more restless. I know many who are quietly considering how to relocate to a more progressive urban environment.

We have great sports teams, a thriving arts community, incredible music, and the best barbecue — bar none. But I believe we'll be a better city in every way if we embrace higher standards for all our parks.

We live in a Google map society, where every aspect of our culture is quantified and on display. We measure things. We're bar-coded. If you buy a product in a store, you don't need a receipt; we can tell you what store, what time, what day you bought it when you bring it back in and we scan it.

Similarly, we measure pollutants in the air. We measure what comes out of the sewage treatment plant; we measure solid waste disposal. Water and air pollution data are measured and monitored by the EPA. The number of miles of bike lanes and greenbelts are measured by transportation departments.

Quality-of-life issues such as clean air, clean water, bike lanes, well-maintained parks, and greenbelts have never been more important to the self-image and business climate of Memphis.

We cannot overcome our problems with Photoshop and P.R. When people rank us, whether it's Forbes magazine or whoever, they've got real data. You can send them a nice brochure, but it doesn't work if it's not accurate. They've got the facts and the statistics.

We've got to treat the waste, we've got to treat the air, we've got to support the Health Department and the other public agencies. We've got to do the detailed hard work.

In the current competitive environment, people don't have to stay here. And they don't have to come here, either. We have to give them reasons to. Ultimately, a green and healthy Memphis is a matter of good business. Nothing less.

Joe Royer is the co-owner of Outdoors, Inc.

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