Community Initiatives

Non-profits, businesses, and the local government are working hard to implement their own sustainability initiatives within Memphis and Shelby County.


The Wolf River Conservancy is a non-profit organization and accredited land trust dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the Wolf River watershed as a sustainable resource.  Among its projects are the protection and restoration of wildlife habitat and the completion of the Wolf River Greenway trail through Memphis.

Agricenter International is a non-profit organization facilitating agricultural research, educational outreach, land conservation, and outdoor recreation.  With 1,000 acres of land in the heart of Shelby County, they work toward educating children about healthier foods, creating economic biofuels, and studying natural fibers. Agricenter also runs a one megawatt solar farm that produces 1.6 gigawatt-hours of energy annually.

Clean Memphis is a non-profit, grassroots organization founded by a group of concerned citizens who believe a cleaner city will help to reduce crime, promote a sense of pride in community and cultivate economic prosperity. Clean Memphis also runs Project Green Fork, a program dedicated to reducing waste by partnering with local restaurants. To date, the program has recycled approximately 1.1 million gallons of plastic, glass, and aluminum; 500 tons of paper and corrugated fiberboard (cardboard); and composted 150,000 gallons of food waste.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis recently took energy efficiency measures with their lighting, plus they added solar panels to their building in order to reduce their carbon footprint.  They are using environmentally friendly cleaning products, and have purchased electric fleet vehicles.  Read more here

GrowMemphis works with urban communities to establish community gardens and provide a local food source. They currently have 47 community

The Kitchen Community currently has 27 learning gardens in the Shelby County Schools, Jubilee, and Achievement Schools with a plan for 100 in the near future.

Tennessee American Society of Landscape Architects - West TN Chapter, is a non-profit professional society who has worked with the Office of Sustainability on a number of projects such as being a partner in hosting the Low Impact Development conference, design competition, and designing and installing the rain gardens at Shelby County office building.

US Green Building Council Tennessee Chapter, is a non-profit organization with a mission to transform buildings and places to create healthy, prosperous, and sustainable communities through Education, Advocacy, and Action across the state. The USGBC Memphis Branch hosts a Green Apple Day of Service event called Paper Power with the Memphis Public Library, educational programs for the design community, community outreach, and social and networking events.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis is committed to sustainable building and has, to date, built 100 homes using EcoBUILD guidelines, a MLGW construction standard. EcoBUILD homes use 30% less energy than typical residences and the power bill for a 1,200 square foot EcoBUILD/Habitat for Humanity home is around $100.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore sells and accepts donations of new and gently used building materials, appliances, and furniture with proceeds supporting Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. ReStore is open Monday-Saturday 10-6pm at 7130 Winchester Rd and  donations are accepted until 5:30pm. Schedule a pickup here:

Gaia Movement of Memphis currently has 55 used clothing donation boxes throughout the area and last year diverted 7 million pounds of clothing from the landfill. The group teaches workshops on sustainability and conducts various beautification projects.  

United Housing, Inc. is committed to making the future of home-building greener and more affordable to low-to-moderate income families by creating the first solar powered subdivision at Wolf River Bluffs in Frayser. United Housing and partners’ solar powered homes also utilize MLGW’s EcoBUILD

Green Machine Mobile Food Market is a converted MATA bus that takes fresh produce to neighborhoods with limited access, those in food deserts.

Memphis Goodwill recycled 4.5+ million pounds of electronics and other household goods in 2012. Tons of computer waste is kept out of landfill through their Dell Reconnect program. Read their annual report here

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis Technical Training Center, the first of its kind in the US, offers a culinary arts program called Gardens to Groceries.  Students learn how to grow their own produce using the innovative Tower Garden system and create original recipes that are marketed at local Farmers’ Markets.

Collierville Victory Garden is an all-volunteer all-charity garden for demonstrating sustainable gardening.  They raise Habitat For Humanity plants and large cut flowers for local hospice.  In 2013, they donated 4,687 pounds of fresh produce to charity.

The Girls Inc Youth Farm employs Memphis area girls in the meaningful work of growing food while engaging them in experiential social entrepreneurship, civic involvement, & social justice training on their 9.5-acre farm in Frayser, TN. For more info click here.   

Cotton Board: As the administrative arm of the Cotton Research & Promotion Program, the Memphis-based Cotton Board funds and oversees the activities of Cotton Incorporated as they implement research and promotion activities world-wide. Sustainability is ingrained in every aspect of both organizations, from research and education to reduce cotton’s on-farm and manufacturing environmental footprint, to strengthening cotton’s supply chain through collaborative partnerships focused on sustainability metrics and reporting systems. View their sustainability video here.

Ducks Unlimited, a national non-profit headquartered in Memphis, focuses on wetlands and waterfowl conservation. As of 2013, they have conserved more than 13 million acres of wetland habitat in North America.

Sierra Club-Chickasaw Group, with 800 members in Shelby County, seeks to improve the quality of natural and built environments through education, advocacy and public participation in regulatory permitting processes relative to air and water quality, clean energy/energy efficiency, and the protection and conservation of our natural heritage. 

Government and related agencies

Shelby County Corrections Facility installed UV Solar hot water thermal units in the dorms, reducing the run time of the boilers from 18 hours to 2 hours. They changed all their lights to LEDs and installed an ozone laundry system reducing their chemical usage by 75%.  They run the Shelby County Government internal office recycling program.  

The University of Memphis supports several sustainability-minded initiatives, collecting ideas from students, faculty, and staff each spring. Read more about their projects here:

The Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER) at the University of Memphis conducts research on the Memphis aquifer system, studying groundwater and surface water interaction.  CAESER also uses GIS in its research and for projects such as the Mid-South Regional Greenprint. Request a visit from the Water on Wheels (WOW) mobile. 

The Memphis Zoo is committed to greening their operations as energy efficient appliances are replacing old ones, incandescent lights are being replaced with CFLs, solar panels are being installed on golf carts, and soon trams will be running on biodiesel. The public can recycle their cell phones at the zoo with proceeds going toward the gorilla and bonobo habitat.

Memphis City Beautiful Commission loans tools to groups holding neighborhood cleanups around the city and loans litter boxes to organizations holding special events. They also work closely with schools to teach recycling and liter prevention.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Station (11670 Memphis-Arlington Rd) takes Unwanted prescriptions. Take your prescriptions there; flushing medication is not advised since it could contaminate the water table. 901-222-5400.

Bobby Lanier Farm Park a City of Germantown Park is an education and demonstration site for sustainability. The 10-acre working farm offers hands on learning through a member based community garden, chickens, children’s young farmers programming, garden lectures, partnerships with educational programs, field trips and sustainability expositions.  The Farm Park is also home to the Farm Park Farmers' Market featuring local producers and artisans.

Memphis International Airport expanded its recycling efforts to include all tenants, passengers, and MSCAA employee work areas, as well as expanded the types of items that could be recycled. They recycle used oil, batteries, scrap metal, light bulbs, tires, printer cartridges and toners, and electronics. They replaced an old 1960’s boiler with a more efficient boiler that uses less energy and emits fewer emissions into the air and replaced all the old light fixtures on the main drive outside from incandescent to LED. They installed a rain water recycling system for irrigation on the pedestrian plaza.


International Paper, a global company headquartered in Memphis, has significantly decreased energy consumption at their Memphis data center. For this specific local project, they replaced traditional servers with virtual ones and saw energy savings even while storage capacity increased. Read more on page 21 of their Sustainability Report.  International Paper received the prestigious Climate Leadership Award in 2012 for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

FedEx Corporation, a global company headquartered in Memphis, has implemented green building innovation at their FedEx Express World Headquarters in Memphis. This building received Gold-level LEED certification.  In 2012, FedEx received the Eco-Airline of the Year Award-Silver from Air Transport World.  Their Sustainability Reports can be view here.  

ServiceMaster has begun the certification process for LEED-EB (Existing Building) for one of its buildings in Memphis and is working to reduce its footprint. Read more on page 11 of their Corporate Social Responsibility Report.  

ServiceMaster by Stratos is a leader in sustainability and is independently certified by the Green Seal organization under Green Seal Standard GS-42. The company was the first GS-42-certified provider in West Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama and provides a range of services from professional janitorial services and commercial specialty cleaning to post construction cleaning and green cleaning services. 

Smith & Nephew replaced water-cooled compressors at one facility in Memphis with high efficiency radiators. They reduced water usage by 60%. Read more on page 15 of their Sustainability Report.  

Evergreen Packaging, headquartered in Memphis, launched a nation-wide campaign to draw attention to the environmental benefits of choosing cartons made from renewable materials. In addition to the website campaign, Evergreen is also donating a monetary sum to Habitat for Humanity each time the website is tweeted or posted.  

Brother International Corporation, a distribution center in Bartlett, received the Energy Star 2012 certification with a remarkably high rating of 94. They have taken significant steps in saving energy at their 1.6 million square foot facility and now Shelby County leads the state in energy efficiency with the highest percentage of Energy Star square footage. Read about their award here.

Buckman Laboratories, a global specialty chemical company headquartered in Memphis, won the prestigious EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2012 for developing an biodegradable and non-toxic enzyme that replaces caustic-based chemicals in the paper-making process. Read more about Buckman in their Sustainability Report.

American Snuff Company, a manufacturing facility in Memphis, had the privilege of being the first recipient in Memphis to be awarded the Tennessee Green Star Partnership “three star” certification in July, 2014 by TDEC.  They reduced waste to landfill by 77%, reduced energy bill by 2,312,668 kWh, and water by 428,000 gallons annually.  They recycle an average 399 tons per year, use green pest management, and require their growers to use good agricultural practices.  

Natural Awakenings, a local magazine on healthy living, prints their publication locally using paper that was either recycled, biodegradable, or derived from sustainably harvested forests. Extra copies of the magazine are shared at expos or used to make compost and raised garden beds throughout Memphis.

Jabberblabber Earth Friendly Family Magazine is a free, monthly publication providing fun, green education to children and families in the Mid-South. The Memphis-based magazine, produced with the help of sponsors interested in becoming partners in green education, is printed on recycled paper using natural inks and is also available online.  

Edible Memphis Magazine promotes and celebrates local, seasonal food. Each quarterly issue, printed on 30% post-consumer recycled paper using environmentally-friendly soy inks, tells the stories of the farmers, gardeners, cooks, and chefs who drive our foodsystem.

Medtronic, with one division based in Memphis, is listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for being a sustainable company. Read more here and view their report here.

Over the Moon Diapers, a Memphis-based company, is committed to educating families about the ease and affordability of using modern cloth diapers. Switching just one baby from disposable diapers to cloth will prevent approximately 1 ton of disposables from entering the landfill. Learn more about the company here:

Evergreen Family Dentistry in East Memphis is the first certified green dental practice in the region. They use cloth or recycled products where practical, digital radiography, biocompatible materials in dental treatment, energy star appliances, and their office has been remodeled to be energy efficient.

Mirimichi, the world-class golf course in Millington formerly owned by Justin Timberlake, is an Audubon International Class Sanctuary and has a Golf Environmental Organization Certification.  They use recycled rainwater for irrigation, native grasses that reduce maintenance footprint, recirculating creek system, and a natural resource management center.  These systems capture 2/3 of the water used on the course and filter it so it is cleaner than when it entered.

ANF Architects recently had lighting fixtures retrofitted in their office at 1500 Union Ave as part of TVA's Main Street Efficiency program.

Optimum Polymer Technologies, a car care product manufacturer in Memphis, has a patented car detail product that is in compliance with the Clean Water Act and does not need rinsing.

GreenBox Memphis provides rentable, reusable, plastic moving boxes that are delivered directly to your apartment, home or office.  GreenBox Memphis will pick up the boxes after your move, eliminating waste!

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