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Metroplan is asking for help in developing a Regional Green Agenda for central Arkansas. For the next three weeks, area residents can engage in an extended dialogue about sustainability issues, submit ideas, and vote on the ideas of others through the Grass Roots effort that includes local perspectives, thought-starters, videos, and opportunities to discuss challenges and possible solutions for a more sustainable future – all online.

“We want everyone in central Arkansas to tell us what sustainability issues are important to them and how they think we should be addressing those issues on a regional basis,” says Jasmin Moore, Metroplan planner and Grass Roots coordinator. “We’ve reached out to the youth of our area as well as technical experts from our local communities to help prioritize some of the major issues and now we need everyone to think about what should be included as a part of the Regional Green Agenda and why.”

At www.grassrootscentral.org, participants can simply submit their ideas or link to several companion social media sites designed to foster discussion and debate on sustainability issues, problems, and solutions for central Arkansas. The Grass Roots site includes links to the following:

• Grass Roots Voting Tool – Submit ideas and vote on the suggestions of others in four issue areas (Movement, Power, Nature, Knowledge).

• Grass Roots Blog – See what community leaders, businesses, non-profits, youth, and other interested citizens are saying about the issues. Multiple guest bloggers will be featured each week during the Grass Roots effort.

• Grass Roots Facebook Page – Discuss the issues and spread the word.

• Grass Roots Twitter Feed – Tweet about the Grass Roots effort.

• Grass Roots You Tube Channel – View several videos including a recap of the Grass Roots Youth Summit and a sample of how elementary school students in Pulaski, Faulkner, Lonoke, and Saline counties are focusing on Green issues.

• Grass Roots Photo Contest – Submit and view photos illustrating what’s green and what’s not about local communities.

“All of the online and social components of the Grass Roots effort are designed to encourage people to think about and talk about the issues,” Moore says. “And some, like the elementary school videos, can inspire as well. For instance, there’s a video about a school in Pulaski County that is fighting the use of Styrofoam lunch trays – because they know how long it takes for Styrofoam to break down. Kids seem to be more aware of environmental issues now than they were even a few years ago.”

Before the public engagement portion of the Grass Roots effort, Metroplan coordinated a Grass Roots Youth Summit attended by more than 50 students, educators, and facilitators at the Clinton School of Public Service.

The Grass Roots Youth Summit was the first stage of a three-stage effort. The public engagement and feedback period from April 19 – May 9 is the second stage and the development of a Regional Green Agenda for our area later this year will mark the final stage.

At the Grass Roots Youth Summit, students representing high schools and junior highs in Pulaski, Faulkner, Saline, and Lonoke counties developed and prioritized what they considered the five most important sustainability issues impacting the region before dividing up into teams tasked with considering obstacles and possible solutions for each issue. The issues included transportation, pollution/recycling, energy, global warming, and creating awareness for all these issues.

“I saw a lot of people who care about making a change,” said Megan Matthew of Bryant High School. “And the more people that are involved, the more they can change things.”

At the end of the Summit, students were asked to commit to at least five sustainable activities – from drinking more tap water to help eliminate plastic water bottles to considering alternative forms of transportation to help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and air pollution – that they would practice in the future.

“Because we’re planning for the future, it’s appropriate for the future leaders of our area to be involved in the process,” added Moore. “And after the entire region tells us what is most important at www.grassrootscentral.org, we will take that information and start developing our Regional Green Agenda.”

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