1988 – today …. 25 years and building!
Our First Meeting:
BURNT first met on a gray, Sunday afternoon in December 1988 at the Vanderbilt Center for Health Services. 25 people attended, mostly disaffected members of Recycle!Nashville the then primary recycling group in Nashville, and the Cumberland Green Bio Region Council. No one at this meeting knew they were launching a group which would continue for 25 years and impact issues and neighborhoods across the state. Our first two meetings were facilitated by Clay, an organizer with Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, founded by Lois Gibbs. BURNT’s founder and long time leader Joyce Vaughn convened the meeting.
As a group we were remarkably inexperienced about how Metro government worked. We did not understand that Nashville Thermal Transfer (our downtown incinerator) was a long time favorite of the Nashville political establishment. Armed with research by Green Peace and people power, we activated East Nashville and Germantown neighborhoods flexing their considerable muscle. Citizen efforts blossomed and an East Nashville activist filmed the flaming, dripping ash trucks on the streets—News at 10. Located downtown business and property owners who were opposed to the expansion! Our motto was: “See you at the Public Hearing. Bring a friend.”
From this beginning came the lessons:
- Always be research based.
- Always offer positive alternatives.
- Work with Government, Business, and Academia.
BURNT Contributed to Downtown Nashville Development
Our contribution was to actually work against the vested local and national interests to stop the $250 million expansion of the downtown garbage burning incinerator (1988-1992 which included a $100 million garbage separator to clean up the burn for the incinerator) and a Rendering Plant which broadcast noxious meat packing plant odors over downtown, Metro Center, East Nashville, North Nashville, and Germantown (issue lasted from 1993-1996).
BURNT did a lot for downtown. Our Metropolitan government did their part in cleaning up Lower Broadway by eliminating blight inducing land uses including adult entertainment and massage parlors.
Our work came at a H-I-G-H price—Our wins cost influential people million$ of dollars. We irritated people. We came to meetings and demanded to be heard—something outside the Nashville tradition.
BURNT also worked with neighboring businesses, particularly Robert Orr Sysco and UAW Local 737 to shut down Laidlaw-OSCO, a dangerous liquid hazardous waste processor in Cockrill Bend (Nashville).
We stopped the construction of a permitted incinerator in Madison (Nashville).
We blocked the purchase of incinerator from Austin, Texas.
One of our earliest projects was Southern Services Landfill in North Nashville. It has continued to operate, landfilling highly recyclable construction waste.
We helped the neighborhood against White Way Cleaner’s (Edgehill Avenue)
development plans after years of polluting practices.
We also refined and developed our techniques in years of pesticides
work in Metro Schools and at the State Legislature in the early to mid nineties.
Our history, experience, and lessons give us a solid foundation for the future.