Protecting our Environment: Land, Air, and Water Pollution

On average, 80 people move to Nashville every day. According to the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the population of the counties surrounding Nashville will grow by one million people by 2035. We are a rapidly growing community and we must take steps now to protect our local environment if we wish to preserve and enjoy it in years to come. There are several organizations and government agencies fighting pollution in our community, but there are measures that all of us can take to if we want to keep Middle Tennessee clean and healthy.


Land Pollution


One of the biggest concerns that comes with the growth of Nashville is the increase of land pollution. It is difficult to maintain healthy, green spaces amongst the high volume of construction projects. The Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation department has made great strides in creating and maintaining our city’s beloved green spaces, but we have to implement more clean energy practices into our community if we want to sustain them.


Land pollution is caused by releasing pollutants like fossil fuels into the air and destroying land for infrastructure. Trees naturally combat the negative effects of fossil fuels, so when we tear them down, we are contributing to air pollution. Tearing down trees also destroys natural habitats and can lead to the loss of the species that live in them. While infrastructure is vital to Nashville, we have to be mindful of restoring the environment that we lose.


Air Pollution


The American Lung Association releases an annual “State of the Air” study, and in 2016, Davidson County received an F in the High Ozone Days category. This means our air quality needs work. High ozone, or smog, levels are harmful to breathe, especially for children, seniors, people with lung diseases like asthma, people with cardiovascular disease, and people who work or exercise outdoors. Breathing in too much ozone can lead to shortness of breath, asthma attacks, decreased lung function in newborns, and even premature death. Things like carpooling and turning off lights when you leave a room can help to decrease ozone levels in the air. You can also contact state and local representatives and let them know that you support clean energy efforts in our community.


Water Pollution


Middle Tennessee has an expansive system of waterways. We have thousands of miles of rivers for fishing and several lakes perfect for recreation in the hot summer months. In 2009, the office of Nashville Mayor Karl Dean released a report stating that out of Davidson County’s 2,500 miles of streams, 250 miles were classified as “impaired waters” due to pathogens, siltation and habitat alterations. The Mayor’s office set a goal of having all waterways cleaned up and rehabilitated by 2020. Nashville’s current Mayor, Megan Barry, established the Livable Nashville Committee to see this plan, as well as other sustainability efforts, through. You can read more about the plan here.


Hands on Nashville is also working to restore waterways in Davidson County. Since the 2010 flood, its volunteers have cleaned up almost 300 tons of debris. You can learn more about these efforts here.


How You Can Help


  • Support recycling in your workplace, school and congregation

  • Support local nonprofit environmental organizations

  • Support programs that teach children about the environment

  • Volunteer with projects that clean up parks and rivers

  • Carpool to work

  • Reduce idling time by parking your car instead of using drive-through lanes, or shutting off your engine in the school pick up line

  • Get involved with a community garden

  • Sponsor recycling initiatives in rural areas

  • Compost your food

  • Use “green” products in your home

  • Partner with a builder to turn an idea, such as a mixed-use village or "green" building design, into a reality


Updated 10/26/16 by Kathryn Bennett