2 women and a quest to clean up Memphis



Tuesday, April 05, 2016 - Saturday, April 18, 2026

Not sure what to do with your life, or what to do next?

Look around. Do you see a problem that needs fixing? Do you wonder why no one is doing anything about it?

Margot McNeeley and Janet Boscarino both were wondering. For them, the problem was trash.

McNeeley, who lives in Midtown, is a foodie. She loves good food and hates to see any of it go to waste.

"I couldn't believe so many restaurants were still using polystyrene takeout containers," said McNeeley.

She also couldn't believe how few restaurants seemed to be recycling or composting — things she and her husband had been doing for years.

One night several years ago, they were eating at Tsunami in Cooper-Young. She started asking questions.

Ben Smith, the chef/owner, told her he had to pay a private company to pick up his trash, and had employees tote recycles to a nearby center. He didn't compost because he didn't know where to take it.

McNeeley did some research. She learned that the average restaurant meal wastes 1.5 pounds of food, and that up to 95 percent of restaurant waste can be diverted from landfills.

One thing led to another, and Tsunami became the first local restaurant to join Project Green Fork, a nonprofit McNeeley founded to fix a problem.

Turns out, what bothered McNeeley bothered others.

"It pains me to throw anything away," Smith said.

Project Green Fork asks its members to use products that are compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, or made from recycled content. No polystyrene allowed.

It helps restaurants develop recycling and composting systems, and hires a contractor to pick up it all up and properly dispose of it.

It also helps them find ways to reduce the use of toxic cleaners, reduce and conserve water and energy, and properly use and maintain grease traps and kitchen hoods.

Since 2008, more than 70 local restaurants have joined McNeeley's trash compact. Together they've recycled nearly 2,500 tons of trash and more than 280,000 gallons of food waste.

"We just need to be less wasteful," McNeeley said.

Her friend, Janet Boscarino, who lives in Cordova, couldn't agree more. She had a problem with litter.

"I was in business development and traveling, coming home noticing that Memphis was exceptionally littered compared to other cities," she said.

Then she read a newspaper article about how Memphis was losing population to other cities such as Nashville and Charlotte. Crime, blight and litter were some of the reasons.

One day several years ago, Boscarino was kidding her neighbor about having dirt in his recycle bin. They started talking about litter.

Turns out, what bothered Boscarino bothered her neighbor, Darrin Hills, and his boss, Mark Lovell.

One thing led to another and in 2008 they started Clean Memphis — a nonprofit organization that began assembling volunteer crews to pick up litter.

Litter isn't just unsightly. It's unhealthy and costly. Litter clogs storm sewers and pollutes water systems. Studies show it also erodes civil spirit and encourages vandalism and blight.

In recent years, Clean Memphis has developed a community strategy that involves local governments, businesses, neighborhoods, faith-based organizations, and 20 local "Sustainable Schools."

Students learn how to reduce energy and water consumption and divert solid waste away from landfills. They also participate in cleanups, collect rainwater for landscape irrigation, and plant vegetable gardens

Since 2008, Clean Memphis crews have removed nearly 200 tons of litter from local streets, including nearly 7,000 tires.

"We can complain about a problem, or we can do something about it," Boscarino said.

McNeeley and Boscarino decided separately to do something about it. Now they're joining forces.

McNeeley is stepping down as executive director of her organization. "I'm ready to take on another challenge and look for another problem to solve," she said.

Starting next year, Project Green Fork will become one of the sustainability programs operated by Clean Memphis. Boscarino will remain executive director.

"This merger is a terrific fit," said Andy Cates, a Clean Memphis board member and former board chairman of Green Fork. "Janet and Margot are both exceptionally driven people who want to leave Memphis cleaner and greener."

Look around. Do you see a problem that needs fixing? Someone can do something about it.

Location : Memphis, TN
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