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Memphis Organizations Educate on Sustainability at Inaugural River Roots Festival

The first-ever River Roots Festival, created by Overton Park Conservancy and Clean Memphis, celebrated trees, water and sustainability at Overton Park Greensward on March 16.

Featured at this festival were activities, giveaways and educational opportunities for people of all ages to learn about the environment.

The River Roots Festival brought together several different local organizations, including Memphis Storm Water, Wolf River Conservancy and Nonconnah Creek Conservancy. However, the festival’s biggest collaborator was Clean Memphis, a non-profit, grassroots organization dedicated to making Memphis a cleaner and greener city through environmental education and community partnerships.

“We created this event as a combination of two things. This is the fourth year we have given away native tree seedlings, and we received a grant from the EPA to install water refill stations in parks,” said Janet Boscarino, the co- founder and executive director of Clean Memphis. “This is a way to encourage people not to use single-use water bottles.”

The name River Roots is a columniation of “river,” standing for pollution prevention, and “roots,” referencing the tree seedling giveaway.

Founded in 2008, Clean Memphis’ main mission is to make Memphis a zero-waste city, working with other partners in the area and government officials while focusing heavily on environmental education.

Clean Memphis revealed its brand-new water stations at the festival. There are now 15 new stations in parks around Memphis, and 35 units have been installed in schools with older infrastructure.

“There is research that shows that by providing infrastructure and encouraging re-use, we can reduce the amount of single-use plastic litter in pollution by about 30 percent,” said Boscarino.

Amber Lipford, a sustainability educator for Clean Memphis, led multiple educational activities at the festival involving water and trees. One of the activities she demonstrated, titled “All the Water in the World,” divided water into freshwater and saltwater.

“Only 2.5% of water on Earth is actually drinkable. But in Memphis, we get our water from underground, so we have a bit more because we get it from the Memphis Aquifer,” said Lipford.

One of the sustainability education tables offered a tree observation bingo card. Children who brought their bingo cards back to the table, all filled out, were awarded a free reusable straw set.

“[This event] impacts the Memphis community by educating in a very fun way. [Children] get to actually be outside, see all of these tables and be educated on things that they might have not been taught in schools,” said Lipford.

The collective goal of Overton Park Conservancy and Clean Memphis is to make people aware of the decisions they make and how it can impact the environment. The River Roots Festival provided an opportunity for people to learn about how they can make the world a greener and more sustainable place.

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