Necessity is the mother of invention.
On Thursday, the Center for Sustainable Business and Development hosted its annual Leadership Summit on Sustainability, where students pursuing leadership positions after graduation may be introduced to "green" business practices. In an opening address from Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, UT's commitment to the environment was made clear.
"We are ... trying, among our students, to promote a culture of sustainability, a belief that sustainability is important," Cheek said. "Part of that is this whole effort we have of changing orange to green."
Rachel Chen, Ph.D., hosted and moderated the summit, which focused mainly on the sustainability of quality of life, particularly in respect to each of the panelists departments within the state.
Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Jai Templeton said in addition to managing and preserving state forests, his administration supports farmers' markets.
"We have a very strong initiative toward farmer markets," Templeton said. "Our market development division, the 'buy local' campaign, is an arm of our department. Folks want to know where their food comes from. They want it fresh. They want it wholesome ... and we have a pretty aggressive campaign in that respect."
Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Shari Meghreblian explained the scope of her department's role to summit attendees.
"The mission of the Department of Environment and Conservation, if you boil it all down to one sentence, is basically just to protect the quality of Tennessee's water, air and land," she said. "That's a simple statement and it encompasses a whole lot."
Meghreblian explained increased sustainability in her department – and the environment – can be increased with higher salaries for employees.
"We have to really invest in our people," Meghreblian said. "Based on a lot of the things, Governor Haslam has allowed us, as a state agency, to be able to pay more, to increase our about ability to recruit and retain qualified people ... that ultimately increases our ability to sustain the environment."
Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer addressed the complexities of Tennessee transportation.
"Everything that happens in this state happens because of transportation," he said. "We are facing a very old transportation system."
Public transit, Schroer said, is a common solution for congestion in urban areas.
"People don't want to do that in Tennessee," Schroer said. "People want to drive their cars ... Mass transit is one of those questions that are always on people's mind ... if it doesn't work, (it's) a lot of taxpayer dollars that have been wasted."
Despite unpopularity of mass transportation in Tennessee, Caitlyn Adams, a sophomore majoring in hotel restaurant tourism management, is supportive of the idea.
"I like the idea of mass transportation because of sustainability and the idea of not having highways packed and your roads packed," she said.
Schroer explained that, at the moment, the money the Department of Transportation is able to spend on road maintenance is dependent upon the amount of gasoline that drivers burn.
"It is time that our country looks at a way to fund transportation that is not based on this amount of gallons we burn," Schroer said. "That's an opportunity for you all to look at, to think about, and to study, because if there were an easy way we probably would have done it. So, it's going to take creative young minds."