Anti-Litter Video Project Wants Tennesseans To Sing, Play, Tweet To A Cleaner Tennessee

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Tennessee nonprofit best known for promoting the state’s scenic qualities now wants to showcase Tennessee’s musical heritage as well.

Scenic Tennessee has been awarded $100,000 by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to produce a series of quick-paced videos that apply the power of Tennessee music to the problem of Tennessee litter. Tentatively called “Tennessee Speed Cleanups,” the project involves videotaping dozens of litter pickups across the state, digitally accelerating the footage, then setting it to original or traditional music performed by amateur as well as professional musicians. Enhanced with captions, credits and images from 20 years of Scenic Tennessee photo contests, the completed videos will be shared via traditional media as well as sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. UT Knoxville’s student environmental group SPEAK will oversee the social media side of the project.

It is all part of a new effort by TDOT’s beautification office to address litter “beyond routine maintenance.” Scenic Tennessee, an affiliate of Scenic America, is one of 15 grant recipients notified yesterday of their share in nearly $1 million provided by the state’s soft drink and malt beverage industries. Grantees are required to provide a 20-percent match; for Scenic Tennessee, this will come in the form of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor.

“We’re thrilled, honored and excited by this opportunity,” said Scenic Tennessee President Marge Davis, “and so grateful to the beverage industries for their innovation and generosity. Thanks to them, we can now get busy lining up recording studios, outfitting video teams and recruiting singers and songwriters. We’ll also be asking leaders in every county for ideas and information, from local talent and unique attractions, to recycling centers and potential cleanup sites.”

Scenic Tennessee, which has long advocated for recycling via a refundable deposit on beverage containers, sees the multimedia cleanups as a fresh way to highlight the value in waste. The videos will feature not just footage of the cleanups as they occur but the subsequent sorting, tallying and recycling of the littered items. Davis predicts that as much as 75 percent of collected materials will be recycled.

At the same time, the project seeks to highlight the value of sustainable tourism. Visitors to the project website will be able to click on an interactive map that includes links not just to the videos (there will be at least one per county), but also to local parks, local history, local agriculture, even local products.

“We want the cleanups map to double as a travelers’ guide to Tennessee,” said Ms. Davis. “For instance, a click on Memphis might take you to a cleanup on Beale Street, with a blues group singing in the background, and a link to Cotton Row. A click in Middle Tennessee could take you to an underwater cleanup in the Duck River, with music by a local church choir, and links to canoe rentals or antebellum homes or rare freshwater mussels. In East Tennessee, you might go to a trout stream in the Smokies, listen to folks playing dulcimer and fiddle, then link to a workshop where traditional instruments are crafted by hand.

“What we’re hoping to do, in the end, is remind folks that this is Tennessee. This music is Tennessee, these mountains are Tennessee, these streams and these stories and these people and these traditions are Tennessee. Litter is the outsider. It doesn’t belong here. We want folks to feel that, and to act on it.”

Information will soon be available at In the meantime, parties interested in knowing more can contact Marge Davis at or 615 294-2651.

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