Children cling to the edge of the sidewalk to catch candy as it's thrown from vehicles at the Orange Mound parade. Folks bring lawn chairs and stay all day alongside the mile-long stretch of Park Avenue. Food vendors sell smoked meat and freshly fried fish. Thousands attend, and thousands of folks leave trash behind. But this year, the annual Orange Mound parade went green.
Clean Memphis, with the Orange Mound parade committee, added new volunteers and programs to promote recycling at the massive event, which is held every September in coordination with the Southern Heritage Classic football game. Clean Memphis hopes to take what it learned in Orange Mound to clean up other festivals around the city.
“We reached out to Orange Mound stakeholders and talked to them about engaging in a more impactful way to put waste in its place but also to raise awareness about recycling in the community,” said Janet Boscarino, co-founder and executive director Clean Memphis.
Last year, Boscarino said Clean Memphis picked up about 78 bags of litter during Memphis festivals, the equivalent of 1,200 pounds of debris.The Southern Heritage Classic Parade draws 20,000 people every year to the streets of Orange Mound, so a lot of waste is usually left behind.
“This kind of thing happens regardless of where you are in Memphis,” she said. “We’re trying to constructively get people thinking about better ways to manage waste.”
Claudette Boyd, president of the Orange Mound parade committee, said she hopes that by adding in street sweepers and recycling bins, the first green parade created awareness about keeping Orange Mound clean.
“We have so much blight in our community any little thing can help. If we start cleaning and showing our children how to clean, the habits will trickle down to them and we will have a cleaner community,” she said.
“We’re trying to be more aware. We don’t want to let our community fall into disrepair. If we in our own community keep our community clean, then other people will want to come and live and stay here.”
Coca-Cola provided volunteers, t-shirts and supplies for the cleanup committee.
Students from Melrose High School were part of the volunteer group that donned green shirts and carried clear plastic bags throughout the event, picking up plastic, paper, aluminum and other recyclables. There were also stations along the route for trash and recycling.
Melrose students were recruited from a program called We Can Help, a nonprofit youth organization that aligns youth in Orange Mound and Cordova in sustainability initiatives.
Money from aluminum cans that were recycled from the parade will go back into We Can Help.
Jeremy Jerdine, director of We Can Help, said young people were “excited and invigorated” to learn about and participate in recycling.
“I believe it gives people in the community a sense of pride,” he said. “We had a couple of proprietors of the neighborhood decide to adopt the recycling process after they saw what we were doing in the parade and elderly people were really ecstatic to see us organized and recycling.”