In 2008, Mayor Karl Dean announced a goal to make Nashville the “greenest city in the Southeast.” Today at Vanderbilt’s Flynn Auditorium, he lauded the creation of a new Office of Environment and Sustainability, naming Chris Bowles as director, to help achieve that goal. Bowles is currently an attorney practicing environmental law with Bass, Berry & Sims.
As director of environment and sustainability, Bowles will oversee the implementation of the Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee report of recommendations completed last June, one of which was to create his office. If awarded to Nashville, Bowles will be in charge of overseeing a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund energy efficiency and conservation projects in Metro. Dean noted that green building projects were a focus of the city's grant application.
A greenhouse gas inventory in Nashville revealed that 5 percent of local greenhouse gas emissions come from Metro government. Of that, 44 percent is from Metro buildings. Dean wants to lower local government’s environmental impact by making these buildings more energy efficient and to set an example for local businesses.
Julia Green Elementary is the first LEED-certified elementary school in Tennessee; the Music City Center will meet LEED certification as well. In the private sector, he commended Vanderbilt University for its collection of environmentally friendly buildings and mentioned the construction of the Gulch, the first LEED-certified neighborhood in the Southeast.
“Obviously, this involves much more than just the government," Dean said.
Dean also wants to work with regional governments. This year's caucus of regional mayors, an idea he borrowed from Denver, was focused on the issue of regional transportation. Dean said he'd like to have a plan in place by May.
Transportation is at the forefront of local environmental issues as well. The greenhouse gas inventory revealed that 33 percent of Nashville’s emissions are from transportation. Citing new light rail systems in Charlotte and Austin as motivation, Dean noted that Nashville needs to step up in the arena of public transportation. Metro government is working with the Metro Transit Authority to increase bus usage; a new circulator bus making stops throughout downtown is free of charge.
“People want to live in a place with a sense of community, with great parks and greenways, with clean air and open space”, Dean said.
Improving and increasing Nashville’s parks and greenways will be another task of the Office of Environment and Sustainability. Last year the city added 350 acres to the park system. Moving forward, recycling efforts will be intensified throughout Nashville communities. “The goal of public works is to expand recycling county-wide over the next few years," Dean said.
Bowles will have his work cut out in his new position; Dean noted that Bowles would be the only employee of the Office of Environment and Sustainability. However, Metro has already made strides in implementing Green Ribbon Committee recommendations through collaborative efforts in all departments. Community participation is another encouraging factor.
"Citizens of Nashville are interested in this," Dean said. "People have this pent up desire to do more.”