The ThreeStar Program is a strategic community development program developed to assist communities in preparing for a better future, for today and tomorrow – and for generations to come. Based on the ThreeStar Community Stakeholder team’s multifaceted assessment and review, the ThreeStar program underwent revitalization in 2019 to better serve communities. The ThreeStar program now incorporates asset-based planning initiatives and a two-year timeline to accomplish goals. The asset-based planning component helps communities develop goals to maximize their local assets to drive economic development.

The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit is a single toolkit comprising steps to resilience, tools, case studies, educational information, and subject matter expertise. However, case studies, regional information, and technical expertise related to Tennessee are limited. Participating U.S. federal agencies in the development of the Toolkit include Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, Transportation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institute, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tennessee’s approach to brownfield redevelopment is effective. TDEC’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program has assisted with more than 104 projects on brownfield redevelopment sites that have yielded 18,500 job commitments and attracted $4.3 billion in capital investment in Tennessee. Click HERE to read TDEC's Brownfield Program success stories.

Helpful Links:

The Tennessee Brownfields Redevelopment Program staff partnered with the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee to develop a paper demonstrating the connection between redeveloping brownfields and economic development.

The Brownfield Redevelopment Toolbox (PDF) was created by TDEC's Division of Remediation to provide an easy guide for people to understand and begin the process of the Brownfield Redevelopment.

Identify and reuse brownfields in your community:

Cleanups in My Community Map

  • Developer: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Cost: Free
  • Description: This is a mapping tool that provides information about cleanup locations such as brownfields properties, superfund sites, RCRA sites, etc. and brownfield grants within mapped areas.

Climate Smart Brownfields Manual

  • Developer: EPA
  • Cost: Free
  • Description: This manual looks at brownfield revitalization as an opportunity to promote community resilience and sustainability. Its chapters cover planning, with public participation, site assessment, green demolition, green remediation, redevelopment, and a resource guide, including potential funding and tax credits.

Tennessee has several state-wide programs that support economic development in our communities:

  • Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s (ECD) Community Development Block Grant for funding community development projects and disaster mitigation;
  • ECD’s Main Street TN program, which supports revitalization of downtown areas in communities throughout the state through design, economic restructuring, promotion, organization and some grant funds;
  • Other grants and incentives from ECD;
  • Appalachia Regional Council, which provides grants in 2019 to support economic development in economically distressed and at-risk counties;
  • Delta Regional Authority, which provides matching grant funding on an annual basis to support economic development in West Tennessee counties; and
  • Keep Tennessee Beautiful, whose local chapters support recycling, litter prevention, and greening through planting gardens, cleaning up vacant lots, planting trees, and community beautification throughout the state.

See the funding section of our website for more information about funding opportunities in Tennessee.

Look at ways to support economic development:

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) offers a Community Transportation Planning Grant to support communities in developing a pedestrian and bicycle master plan, systems management, corridor study, community mobility plan, road diet analysis, or a complete streets plan, which encompasses mitigation of traffic, systems planning, safety, and alternate transportation such as walking and biking.

TDOT’s Office of Community Transportation offers support and resources to support communities and regions in developing comprehensive transportation plans. See their website for more information about regional contacts and assistance.

Alternative and Multimodal Transportation in your Community:

Consider utilizing Traffic Demand Management and incentivizing alternative transportation sources, such as ride share, electric vehicles, bike and electric scooter rentals.

  • The Federal Highway Administration released a guidebook, Strategies for Accelerating Multimodal Project Delivery, which identifies strategies for providing effective multimodal transportation projects and supporting their users – motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, freight, and transit passengers. The guidebook provides examples and case studies for each of its recommended strategies.
  • Is your community walking and biking-friendly? Take The Walkability Checklist and The Bikeability Checklist, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, and the U.S. Department of Transportation to find out how you rank. The website also provides information for improving access to these forms of transportation.
    • Chattanooga has several sustainable transportation programs, including bike share, electric shuttle, car share, and green trips. Learn more here.
    • In Nashville, a private company, Lime, worked with the city to deploy electronic scooters that can be rented through an app and used throughout the city.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extensive resources committed to supporting community utilities in pursuing resilience through a five-step process of: assessment, planning, training, responding, and recovering. Each of these steps is detailed through resources and action steps. Learn more on their Drinking Water and Wastewater Resilience website.


Drinking Water

  • Prepare your water utilities to be sustainable and resilient while achieving cost-savings using the EPA’s Adaptation Strategies Guide for Water Utilities.
    • Developer: EPA
    • Cost: Free
    • This step-by-step guide provides guidance, including case studies and work sheets, for water utilities to address or prepare to address frequent issues for water utilities, such as flooding, drought, water quality degradation, floods, ecosystem changes, service demand and changes, green infrastructure, energy management, and water demand management.
  • Take steps to voluntarily address lead service line and lead in drinking water in your community with support from the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative.
    • Developer: LSLR Collaborative
    • Cost: Free
    • Description: LSLR Collaborative supports voluntary replacement of lead service lines and provides a roadmap, guidance, resources, and a list of funding resources to support communities in pursuing voluntary lead service line replacement.

Integrated Wastewater and Stormwater Planning:

Watershed Management Approach:

  • TDEC encourages communities to use a Watershed Approach, a framework and decision-making process that considers the entire watershed when collecting information and analyzing concerns and opportunities for action. TDEC uses a watershed management approach to assess water quality, develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and consider permitting activities. Click HERE to learn more about the Watershed Approach.

Flooding and Stormwater Management:

  • Flooding and stormwater management a priority for your community? Find out which state and federal agencies are available to support you in working through this process; check out TDEC’s Short-Term Response to Flooding: A Guide for Communities and Local Governments and TDEC's Flooding FAQs
  • Are you interested in what actions you can take to protect streambanks and limit erosion? Check out TDEC's Landowner's Guide to Streambank Protection and Stabilization.
  • Learn more about stormwater management and related practices on EPA’s website.
  • Calculate stormwater volume and runoff frequency for specific sites using the Stormwater Calculator.
    • Developer: EPA
    • Cost: Free
    • Description: Use the stormwater calculator to estimate annual rainwater and frequency of runoff for specific sites. Then, work with the calculator to see the effects of different low impact development (LID) and green infrastructure measures to mitigate stormwater runoff for that site.
  • Look at green infrastructure options for your community’s stormwater management using the Green Infrastructure Modeling Toolkit.
    • Developer: EPA
    • Cost: Free
    • Description: This toolkit contains innovative models, tools, and technologies for communities to manage water runoff in urban and other environments. The resources in this toolkit incorporate green or a combination of green and gray infrastructure practices to help communities manage their water resources in a more sustainable way, increasing resilience to future changes.
  • Examine low impact development (LID) options, which are systems that mimic natural processes for infiltration, evapotranspiration, and use of stormwater to protect water quality, ecosystems, and watersheds, for stormwater management and urban runoff.
    • Developer: EPA
    • Cost: Free
    • Description: This resource provides guidance and information fact sheets for communities about LID principles and practices.
  • Make or update a stormwater management plan for your community using Community Solutions for Voluntary Long-Term Stormwater Planning.
    • Developer: EPA
    • Cost: Free
    • Description: This guide and toolkit provides guidance in integrating stormwater management with communities’ broader long-term plans including economic development, infrastructure investment, and environmental compliance.

Work with the community to implement energy efficiency using TDEC’s "Single & Multifamily Low-Income Energy Efficiency Program Resource Manual." Developed in collaboration with stakeholders from the community, this manual is intend to assist communities and local governments in implementing energy efficiency measures, with an emphasis on serving community members that have traditionally been under-served. This free resource provides step-by-step guidance in identifying and effectively implementing energy efficiency working in collaboration with community members.

  • Support your community in completing Home Energy Assessments using U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings resources.
  • Join DOE’s Better Community Alliance, which works to bring public and private partners together and provides tools and resources to support energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable energy to communities.
  • The KUB Round It Up program, in which local residents can opt into rounding their utility bill up to the nearest dollar with 100% of the contribution going to support weatherization assistance for community members

Consider Zero Waste Principles:

  • By adopting Zero Waste principles, we can greatly reduce our impact on Tennessee’s environment, preserve natural resources for future generations, and reduce the growing costs associated with the collection and disposal of our solid waste. For more on TDEC’s approach to Zero Waste, including the Zero Waste Hierarchy, click HERE

Prevent Litter and Organize Clean-Ups:

  • Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) Nobody Trashes Tennessee campaign provides educational resources and signage to support litter prevention and clean-ups.
    • TDOT’s Litter Grant Program provides grants to support litter clean up in all 95 counties. Learn more here.
      • Encourage local organizations to Adopt-a-Highway through TDOT in your area to invest your community members in keeping your roads clear. Work with Keep Tennessee Beautiful to coordinate clean-up days for local eyesores or with your local Tennessee state park or city/county park department to assist in their clean-up days.
  • Have waste tiresTDEC’s Tire Environmental Act Program provides matching grants to support processing and beneficial re-use of Tennessee waste tires.
  • Do you collect unwanted pharmaceuticals? TDEC’s Unwanted Household Pharmaceuticals Program provides free secure bins, sited at local law enforcement offices and pharmacies, and free collection and proper disposal of medications.


  • Instead of trashing unused items with useful life, donate them to local organizations.
    • Set up a “green cube” or local collection center at your office, community center, gym, or faith organization to collect useful items and coordinate drop-off at local organizations. TDEC’s Sustainable Workplace has developed step-by-step guidance for setting up a “green cube” or local collection and donation program. Find the guidance, including a list of the local organizations to which TDEC donates, here.

Build Recycling Capacity:

  • To identify existing recycling centers in your area, check out the Keep Tennessee Beautiful website.
  • Consider incentivizing curb-side recycling or additional recycling hubs in your area. Or, coordinate with a regional recycling hub to send recycling there for processing. TDEC’s Materials Management in the Division of Solid Waste Management offers grants on an annual basis to support waste diversion, waste reduction, education and outreach, and recycling in the state of Tennessee.

Divert Your Food Waste:
Over a million Tennesseans, or about 17%, are estimated to be food-insecure, according to Yet, food waste is the single largest contributor to Tennessee’s landfills, comprising approximately 40% of landfilled waste. Promote food security in your community and reduce unnecessary use of your landfills by encouraging food recovery.

  • Join EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). As a local government, you can serve as an Endorser, encouraging local businesses and organizations to address food waste using EPA’s food recovery hierarchy. Participants in this program donate usable food to organizations like Tennessee’s Second Harvest or Mid-South Food Bank to feed their hungry neighbors. At the same time, participants experience cost-savings through more accurate food purchasing, composting, and reducing expenditures on traditional waste pick-up. As of Summer 2021, EPA is no longer accepting new Food Recovery Challenge partners.
    • Many of TDEC’s Tennessee State Parks joined the Food Recovery Challenge in 2017 and 2018. Their cumulative donations of food are 7,643 lbs, food waste diversion 15,251 lbs, and compost 232,418 lbs. 
  • Join EPA’s Local Food, Local Places program which supports locally led, community-driven efforts to protect air and water quality, preserve open space and farmland, boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, improve access to healthy local food, and promote childhood wellness. EPA has accepted applications and offered financial support for participating communities in the past several years. Check their website for the toolkit, case studies and participating cities, and for upcoming grant opportunities.
    • Participating Tennessee cities include: Chattanooga, Humboldt, Martin, Memphis, and Tracy.      
  • Join Get Food Smart TN, a TDEC program that promotes food recovery, donation, and composting in the state of Tennessee. Learn more about what consumers, schools, hospitality, grocers, and other organizations can do to reduce hunger and food waste. The program has nearly 200 participating locations at this time.

Explore composting options in your community. Compost is created using food waste that cannot be donated or reused and is an alternative to sending food waste to the landfill. Compost can be created and maintained on a small, consumer-scale or large, commercial-scale. Compost can be utilized as a soil amendment and reduce the need to purchase fertilizer. For more information about residential and commercial composting, see TDEC’s Composting website operated by Materials Management. In Tennessee, large-scale composting is regulated statewide and you may need a permit, see Materials Management’s website for more information about when permits are required.

  • Small-scale Composting
  • Commercial or Large-Scale Composting
    • TDEC’s Materials Management in the Division of Solid Waste Management provides guidance for pursuing commercial or large-scale composting in Tennessee. Materials Management also provides information about when a permit is necessary to engage in commercial or large-scale composting in Tennessee. The Division of Solid Waste Management periodically has grants available to support organics management for municipalities and non-profit organizations.
  • Publicize your Success
    • Report your community composting through Tennessee Environmental Council’s website to support continued composting throughout the state.

Extensive research indicates that outdoor recreational opportunities, green space, and green infrastructure support community health, beautification, and sense of well-being. Green space and green infrastructure can also serve as important mechanisms for controlling water quality and water quantity. New and potential residents look for walkability, green space, and community beautification when deciding where to locate; new and relocating businesses and industries do, too. For example, the Trust for Public Land found that “children’s use of neighborhood parks increases by 400% when parks are closer to home.”

 A recent report, sponsored by Cumberland Region Tomorrow and completed by researchers out of the Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee found that green space in the 10-county Cumberland Region area redounded billions of dollars benefits to residents in economic and agricultural income, health care savings, recreational and tourism income and opportunities, and environmental benefits.

Evaluate your parks and green spaces:

  • The Trust for Public Land has developed ParkScores for 14,000 U.S. cities scoring the cities on park and green space access – and plotting access to a park within a 10-minute walk by location, age, race, and income. Reports for those 14,000 cities can be found on their website. Some of the Tennessee cities represented in the ParkServe reports include Bristol, Chattanooga, Columbia, Cookeville, Jackson, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville-Davidson County.

Plan for preserving new green spaces or refreshing existing ones:

  • The EPA provides a guide for implementing green infrastructure in parks and recreational areas, Green Infrastructure in Parks Guide, which includes sections on leveraging community engagement and funding opportunities.
  • The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence hosts a report on the measures of park excellence with case studies from 55 cities that identifies measures cities should consider in qualifying the value of existing green spaces and in exploring opportunities for growth and change.
  • The National initiative for Consumer Horticulture intends to increase the percentage of U.S. households participating in Consumer Horticulture to 90% by 2025. They have three main goals: cultivating healthy, connected and engaged communities; recognizing consumer horticulture as a driver of the agricultural economy; and restoring, protecting, and conserving natural resources through consumer horticulture research and education. Join the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture, stay up-to-date and engaged, connect, sign up for emails, updates, surveys, and infographics.

TDEC’s Tennessee State Parks has three grant programs that support preservation of green spaces and parks and creation of trails and parks:

  • The Local Parks and Recreation Fund (LPRF) provides grants to eligible local government entities for the purchase of lands for parks, natural areas, greenways, and recreation facilities.
  • Recreational Trails Program provides grant funding for land acquisition for trails, trails maintenance and restoration/rehabilitation, trail construction, and trail head support facilities.
  • Tennessee Recreation Initiative Program provides grants to those cities and counties currently without a comprehensive parks and recreation delivery system in operation due to lack of staffing and organization.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has developed a website dedicated to resilience and the impacts of climate change on public health. This website provides educational information, links to resources from the Centers for Disease Control’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) program, identifies ways individuals can take action, and extensive resources regarding resilience and climate change.