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Sustainable economic development balances the need for economic growth with environmental and societal accountability. It ultimately offers benefits across a triple bottom line, ensuring a healthy environment, a thriving community, and economic prosperity.
The Valley Sustainable Communities Program by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) assists communities in identifying and cataloging their sustainable assets and increasing their sustainability commitments. Athens and McMinn County has been designated as a Valley Sustainable GOLD Community, indicating it has taken a leadership role in implementing sustainable practices and has made a commitment to sustainability efforts focused on economic development. Sustainability contributes to a community's competitiveness when companies are looking to invest in new or expanded locations.
McMinn County has a number of dedicated efforts to drive its community towards sustainable practices throughout, including:
The Keep McMinn Beautiful organization seeks to provide residents with environmental education and information to create a clean, litter-free community. The Connie Allen Education Center is an earth shelter used as Keep McMinn Beautiful's office and provides an education/training facility for sustainability. The funding for the building's construction was supplemented by a $250,000 Clean Energy Grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Athens Public Works solar array consists of 200 kW of solar panels to create energy. The City receives energy credits from the Tennessee Valley Authority for the energy they create.
Residents enjoy eco-friendly recreation throughout the county. The Eureka Trail allows participants to walk or bicycle from Athens to Englewood, covering 5.6 miles through the wooded landscapes of McMinn County along a former railroad bed. DENSO Ecopark offers family fun in a natural environment.
The Wetlands at E.G. Fisher Public Library was created to serve several functions including flood mitigation, wetland reclamation, stream bank restoration and others, as well as serve as an outdoor classroom. In this educational environment, wetland visitors, including school children, have the opportunity to become more environmentally aware and to gain a new appreciation for natural areas.