Friday, September 30, 2011

The Revised City Charter and the Environment

This November is what people call an "off election year." No congressional or state races, just Board of Education and Prop C.

But Prop C is pretty important - it's the new Revised Charter for the City of Detroit, which lays out how the government is structured and what it is supposed to do.

Since the end of 2010, an elected body of 11 City Charter Revision Commissioners have been combing through the Detroit City Charter and cleaning it up, revising clunky old laws (such as requiring a special Mayoral election that cost the cash-strapped City millions when the regularly scheduled election was only months away) and establishing new ones to strengthen language around fighting corruption (by creating an Inspector General), creating geographic parity in City Council representation (through the creation of Council Districts).

There are a lot of good changes in the Charter, and you can dig into them at this wonderfully thorough website created by two really dedicated Charter junkies:

But I am going to talk about the parts that directly address the environment.

The 1997 Charter revision established a new Environmental Affairs department, with some really awesome language:

"The purpose of this chapter is to conserve and protect the natural resources of the City of Detroit in the interests of the health, safety and welfare of the people, to promote improved social and economic conditions in the city and to protect limited environmental resources for the future benefit of city inhabitants."

WOW. And the very first item under that section read:

1. Develop and implement a coordinated and comprehensive environmental policy for the City of Detroit

If only they would. In any case, last year the Dept. of Environmental Affairs (DEA) got rolled into the Building Safety and Engineering Department, creating the Building Safety Engineering and Environment Department (BSEED). The new Revised Charter reflects that change, and removed the DEA while shifting all of its functions (plus a few more) into the renamed BSEED.

The new departmental "Powers and Duties" in the charter are:

11. Provide consultation with City departments regarding the implementation of any policies or programs concerning alternative and renewable energy

12. Administer and enforce all laws, ordinances and regulations relating to the use of land (“zoning”); and

13. Except as otherwise provided by law or this Charter, grant, revoke, or approve transfers of all licenses and permits required by any law or ordinance for any business and collect fees for licenses and permits

Here's another interesting section kept from the 1997 Charter:

Sec. 6-504. Conservation.
The Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department shall develop programs for the protection and conservation of natural resources within the City of Detroit.

Granted, I have only been in Detroit since 2008, so maybe this kind of thing is going on. But I don't know if all of the Environmental staff in the department are aware of their charter mandate!

And look!

Sec. 6-505.  Environmental Legislation.
The Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department shall propose new ordinances, laws and 
regulations to the Mayor, City Council and other governmental entities as appropriate for improvement 
of the quality of the environment and promotion of the mission of the Department. 

But did these things happen? Well, the new Revised Charter has a rather uncharacteristically toothy section requiring BSEED to study and implement a long-term strategic plan for the establishment, use and support of green initiatives, technologies and businesses, utilizing public and private partners. This plan would cover both municipal projects and operations, as well as citizen-led initiatives, be reviewed yearly, and require City Council approval for implementation. And some very strong teeth are written into this section - the study must be initiated within 3 months of the Revised Charter being approved, the plan must be completed within 6 months of the study and submitted to City Council for approval, and City Council is to create ordinances to implement the approved plan.

Wow. Sounds pretty good to me. Because timelines are written in, this duty shouldn't be so easy to ignore.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Midtown Whole Foods Brownfields Public Hearing - summary

So Sept 2, I was at the brownfields public hearing. I will try to remember correctly here what was shared. 


Location: John R & Mack, behind Ellington Lofts, where Starbucks, Kinko's, etc. are. Currently a closed Chase Bank and active Chase ATM. Site owner is working with Chase to find alternate location for ATM. 

Store Hours: 8am to 9pm

Size: 21,000 sq ft of shopping space

Access: Midtown Loop Phase II will go right by it (Phase II = Canfield from Cass to John R; John R from Canfield to Mack). Developer mentioned that John R and Mack in that area will be "improved."

Parking: There are 950+ parking spots in the closest structure, and currently around 700-750 of the spots are occupied daily during business hours. Parking will be validated with a shopping receipt. 

Total cost: $12 million

Public subsidy requested: $900,000 in Michigan Business Tax Credit

Reason for hearings: The proposed site is part of an area zoned as "Planned Development" (PD), which slates the area for a very specific type of development (mixed use apartment building). For Whole Foods to be built there, they need a modification to the PD. 

Brownfield Public Hearing: held today (Sept. 1) to take public comments back to the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, after which the project will go to City Council for public hearing Thurs. October 6 @ 10am. Present at today's meeting were (among others) several residents and nearby businesses, including Citybird, Raw Cafe, DSO, Atlas Bistro, Russell Street Deli. Comments today were 100% supportive of the project. 

Timeline: Plan to open doors at end of 2012 or first quarter of 2013. 

Public outreach: Once architectural/signage designs are ready, plan to have a series of at least 4 neighborhood presentations. Whole Foods has been reaching out to local businesses already as potential vendors/suppliers like Raw Cafe (whose proprietoress, btw, is a former City Planning Commission staffer) and Hacienda Foods. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

LEAD …. what you need to know to stay protected!

WHEN did lead first come on the scene?

Lead is a heavy metal that has some very attractive qualities: it is super malleable, but highly resistant to corrosion. So it was heavily used in pipes, buildings, etc. to protect from rust. Mixed into paint, lead helped paint dry faster, stay fresh longer, and resist the damaging effects of moisture. It was a miracle substance, basically.

Unfortunately, lead also turned out to be toxic to humans, damaging the nervous system, stunting growth and delaying brain development.

WHERE is lead’s main presence today?

Before 1978 when lead was banned, it was used in paint, children’s toys and household furniture. Even though it is now banned, things manufactured before 1978 could still contain lead. Before 1988, lead was used in household pipes and plumbing fixtures, and the lead in pipes or pipe soldering can leach into water that flows through the pipes. In 1988, Congress changed the Safe Drinking Water Act to restrict the use of lead in said components of used in public, residential and non residential plumbing, but it is unfortunately still found in pipes today.
1.       Lead based paint is a hazard if it is peeling, chipping, chalking or cracking. Lead-based paint that appears undisturbed can also be a problem if is its on surfaces that children chew or get a lot of wear and tear (i.e window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, porches, etc.)

2.       Dust can become contaminated with lead when lead-based paint is dry or scraped and sanded. Lead chips and dust can gather on surfaces and objects that people don’t touch or that children put into their mouths.

3.       Soil can become contaminated when exterior lead-based paint from houses or buildings flake or peel and get into the soil. Soil near roadways may also be contaminated from past use of leaded gasoline in cars. This soil can be detrimental for planting vegetable gardens.  

4.       Older plumbing fixtures (i.e faucets, lead pipes, pipes connected with lead solder) can contaminate drinking water. Lead can leach into water at any temperature, but the amount of lead can be much greater when the water is hot or warm; boiling water will not get rid of the lead.

5.       Imported, non-glossy, vinyl mini blinds can be a lead hazard especially to young children. Sunlight and heat break down the blinds and release lead-contaminated dust particles into the air.

6.       Lead glazed ceramic ware, pottery and leaded crystal can contaminate food and liquids stored in them.
HOW does lead gets into the body … and what can happen when it gets there?
1.       Lead mainly enters the body through the mouth or nose, anyone can be affected by lead, but because children ages 6 and younger are developing rapidly, and tend to put more things in their mouths, lead is especially dangerous to them.

2.       Exposure to lead, even at low-levels, can permanently affect children. Low level affects of lead include brain and kidney damage, learning disabilities, poor muscle coordination, behavior and speech problems, decreased muscle and bone growth and hearing damage.

3.       High lead levels can cause fertility problems (in men and women), digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problem and muscle and joint pain.
WHAT CAN I DO?! …. inform, protect and promote!
Inform yourself … is there lead in YOUR home?
The ONLY way of confirming whether or not there is lead in your home is to have either a risk assessment or a lead inspection done. (PUT ETC LINK HERE) Testing your water can be done by calling the EPA Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or your local health department or water supplier.
*According to the U.S census, 73.9 percent of Detroit’s homes were built before 1955, and are therefore likely to contain lead in places like painted walls and pipes.
What you can do to protect your family from lead poisoning?
Promoting safe practices can prevent lead poisoning …
Test yourself & your children! There is power in knowledge, and the best thing to do for any family member, regardless of age,  is to have the level of lead in that person’s body checked out.

1.       Make sure your children eat 3, healthy meals, a day. Meals should be high in calcium and iron and fatty foods should be avoided!
2.       Encourage children to play in grassy areas instead of dirt and wash their hands before they eat or sleep.
3.       Make sure children do not have access to peeling paint and do not chew on painted surfaces.
4.       Keep your home clean, wash children’s toys and bottles often.
5.       Teach your children about the dangers of lead.
If there is lead in the home, how do I get it out?
There are two ways to remove the lead: abatement and interim controls.
Abatement –permanently controls or gets rid of lead hazards in your home. It is broken down into four structural l components; replacement, enclosure, encapsulation and paint removal.
Interim controls –provide a useful and cheaper alternative for homes that cannot be abated right away. Controls include, removing lead dust, repainting lead-based surfaces, repainting friction and impact surfaces and preventing access to soil hazards.  *the EPA requires that you use a certified abatement contractor.
***In 2009, City Council passed a resolution requiring all landlords to have their rental properties inspected for lead. Before, the presence of lead in a home was only caught if a child was already found to be lead poisoned. It caused a stir among landlords because lead inspections are rather expensive (up to $300-400). Check back later for an update on how that initiative is going.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Greenovation TV

This is a pretty awesome website - short videos (about 3 min) about all kinds of green renovation projects - they feature real projects and explore issues like "what eco-labels can you trust" and "are some solar panels toxic?" The site also has blog articles to go along with the videos.

I think the best part is that Michigan is frequently featured in their videos. :) A recent one talks about deconstruction in Detroit, and features fellow local green jobs trainer GreenWorks Solutions.

Check it out!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Using fishbones to clean up lead?

Wow. Many of you may know that lead poisoning is a big, big issue in Detroit. Lead is present in older homes (built before the 1972 ban on lead paint) and in soil (back from when gasoline was leaded, from historic lead smelters, demolished houses and other sources). Exposure to lead can impair neurological development in small children, making them more aggressive and less likely to perform well in school. We have some of the highest rates of elevated blood lead levels in the state.

There are different ways to deal with lead contamination - hauling away soil, special lead removal or abatement in homes. But it's expensive.

A recent article in the New York Times (July 2011) describes the method of mixing ground fish bones to neutralize the toxic lead (they combine to form a different compound that the body can't absorb).

It's pretty fascinating - almost half the cost of hauling soil. Read more about it here:
And responses to reader questions:

Friday, August 12, 2011

The difference between "green space" and "green infrastructure"

Found on the City of Lansing's website for DesignLansing, its Comprehensive Plan process. 

What’s in a Name?
“The term green infrastructure was selected to emphasize its difference from traditional conservation practices and the need to change several popular perceptions about green space planning and protection.  Where-as green space is often viewed as something that is nice to have, the term green infrastructure implies something that we must have.  Protecting and restoring our nation’s natural life support system is a necessity, not an amenity. 
  • Where-as green space is often thought of as isolated parks, recreation sites or natural areas, the term green infrastructure emphasizes interconnected systems of natural areas and other open spaces that are protected and managed for the ecological benefits they provide to people and the environment.
  • Where-as green space is often viewed as self-sustaining, the term green infrastructure implies something that must be actively maintained and at times restored.” 
Green Infrastructure:
Smart Conservation for the 21st Century
Mark A. Benedict, Ph.D.
Edward T. McMahon, J.D. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shining the Limelight on a Local Green Business

Intern Taylor Daugherty interviewed a local business about their efforts to go green.

Riley’s Tax Service is a local small business in Detroit located at 17700 Fenkell Avenue. The business offers a full range of affordable services including tax return preparation, tax planning, workshops, problems resolution assistance and business services to individuals, businesses and tax-exempt organizations. Two years ago, president and CEO of Riley’s Tax Service, T.J Riley –Humphrey , decided to make the company “green.”

The first step was becoming a paperless office – which would be appear to be quite a difficult task for a tax service business, but Humphries said all most clients needed was a nudge in the right direction.

“We started encouraging our clients to save their tax folders to disks or flash drives. If people wanted to use paper folders they still could, but for an extra fee,” Humphrey said.

The next step was waste management. Humphrey contacted Margaret Weber with Rosedale Recycles about how to properly manage the business’ waste. They set up different bins for different types of recycling: a shredding bin, ink cartridge bin, plastic bin, etc.

The business also switched to a “day lighting” method. The direction the building faces brings in enough sunlight to light the entire front part of the building. So until dusk, all the lights in front of the building stay off.

Riley’s was in a bit of a pickle when it came to heating costs. They had an outward facing, un-insulated wall, which obviously made things colder. BUT with the assistance of Green Garage Detroit and a local builder who specializes in energy-efficient building, they conducted an experiment with an insulated paint called “Insuladd” (click here to see how the experiment was conducted!) To lower heating usage however, Humphrey decided to keep the thermostat at a constant temperature of 67 degrees. Humphrey and her employees wore long johns and made last tax-season’s uniform a Riley’s Tax Service sweatshirt in order to stay warm and comfortable.

The outcome of Humphrey’s efforts? A mere 2 bags of trash for the entire tax season (January to April), a $1oo light bill for the 1500 sq ft. space and lower energy costs.

But Riley’s Tax Service isn’t planning on stopping there. Humphrey is now looking at ways of reducing electrical usage without interrupting the computers, and turning the green spot outside of the building, into a vegetable garden. She is working with gardening projects such as Green Garage Detroit, D- Town Gardener (Rouge Park area) and the Palmer Park restoration group.

Greening your business, regardless of how small or large, is not a difficult task! As T.J. Riley discovered, a lot of small steps can generate a great deal of change.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Connecting the Intergenerational Divide - EPA EJ Conference, Detroit 2011

The EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are coming to Detroit this year to hold the National Environmental Justice conference August 23-26. (Register Here)

DWEJ is participating on two panels - one on balancing workforce innovations and community needs in green jobs, and one on intergenerational connections in the EJ movement.

I will be tweeting throughout the conference - you can follow at DWEJonline - and liveblogging the Intergenerational Connection session. Play the event box below to follow the event live and submit questions on Friday, August 26 8-10am. Or come back later at your leisure to read about the discussion.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

White House Community Briefing

This week I will represent Detroit at the White House Community Briefing Series in Washington, DC. Selected community leaders from across the country have been invited to hear from key White House staff about the policies and programs of the federal government and how to best utilize these resources. I will also have the opportunity to provide feedback on federal government programs and how these programs can be improved to better serve the City of Detroit. In particular, I will plan to talk to White House staff about several challenges confronting Detroit in particular, including children and families, home foreclosures and jobs.

Following the White House meeting, we will participate in an Agency Briefing. I will meet with the Department of Energy to discuss many of the environmental issues plaguing Metro-Detroit. Let me know if you have specific environmental issues that you would like for me to address.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Ecosystem Benefits" - whaaa?

There is a landscape architect in town from Harvard, one of Toni Griffin's students. I'll have to sit and get her perspective on the Detroit Works Project, but in an email back-and-forth, she pointed me to the American Society of Landscape Architects 2009 project called "Guidelines and Benchmarks for Sustainable Sites." It is modeled after LEED - credits, pre-reqs, points. The document boils down all the different strategies that help locate, design, construct, maintain a sustainable site in a systematic, comprehensive way. It includes for each strategy a list of resources, and key for the layperson, an explanation of why that element is important.

The Guidelines document is also accompanied by another document called "The Case for Sustainable Sites," which explains the science behind the guidelines - the connection between having too much paved surface ("impervious cover") and water pollution, for example.

It is a great resource for folks who want to understand more about what makes an entire site (not just the building itself) healthy for the environment


Thursday, July 28, 2011

A great definition of Environmental Justice

Guy Williams, our CEO/President, and I went on a field trip with Jessica Yorko (Lansing City Councilmember and Ingham County Environmental Justice Coordinator) and Sandy Svoboda (Metro Times writer) yesterday to do an environmental justice mini-tour and to visit our green jobs training program over at the Wayne County Community College Eastern campus.

I was amazed and happy about a few things:

1. Metro Times is writing a cover story about the NIEHS-EPA joint Environmental Justice conference that's coming to Detroit at the end of August (registration is free and open to the public)

2. Ingham County has an Environmental Justice Coordinator through the Health Department. WOW. The fact that Ingham County placed enough priority on environmental justice to fund such a position is awesome. (hint hint, Detroit)

Anyway, Ms. Yorko sent a followup email of thanks, and has at the bottom a great definition of environmental justice. Great because it's a positive vision of what's desired:

"Environmental justice is equitable access to environmental benefits and protections across different race, income and other forms of difference."

"Environmental justice is the right to a safe, healthy, productive, and sustainable environment, where "environment" is considered in its totality to include the ecological, physical, social, political, aesthetic, and economic environment. Environmental justice addresses the disproportionate environmental risks borne by low-income communities and communities of color resulting from poor housing stock, poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare, unemployment, underemployment, and employment in the most hazardous jobs." - National Association of County and City Health Officials

I may start adding this to my email signature as well, to spread understanding of this totally sensible (everyone gets it once you explain it) but rather young movement.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Greater Detroit Transit-Oriented Development - Midtown Inc

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Upcoming Conferences

There are two upcoming conferences that might be right up your alley - if you are like us and interested in environmental justice and more vibrant communities.

First, the 2011 Environmental Justice Conference will be held right in our backyard at the Detroit Marriott from August 23rd to 26th. This conference has four tracks: building community and organizational capacity, multimedia, workforce development, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Sound like something you might be interested in? More information can be found HERE.

Second, the 11th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference will be held February 2-4, 2012, in San Diego, CA. Sounds like a good time of year to get into the sun and Smart Growth! This is a great opportunity to hear 100s of speakers share strategies and experiences. Topics will include growth management as well as equity and environmental justice issues. Interested? Find out more HERE.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Land Ethic"

1. Hornbook Series text on land use law states that Minnesota legislature through its environmental legislation gave the land ethic of conservationist Aldo Leopold the force of law.

"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. his instincts prompt him to compete for his place in the community, but his ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in order that there be a place to compete for). 

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land community to plain member and a citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow members, and also respect for the community as such."

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac 203 (1949).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sustainable municipal planning

Alberta, Canada published a guidebook to municipal sustainability planning.

And it's great. Just really good stuff, and language that I love. I love good language.

For..."community sustainability, there are two important components that need to be 

i)… a shared understanding of a successful future in which a strong social 
fabric weaves through communities ensuring that fundamental human needs 
are met, a vibrant cultural scene breeds creativity to drive innovation, 
ecological integrity is protected and there is a strong economy; and 
ii) … a plan of action that consists of practical investments* that make 
economic sense today and that serve as steps towards the shared 
understanding of a successful future that is environmentally, socially, and 
culturally sustainable.

* This is not simply a matter of whether the investment has a positive return on investment in the 
short-term.  Initiatives should also take into account how to avoid long-term risks, e.g. resulting
from trends such as increasing energy and waste disposal costs, stricter legislation or increasing
stakeholder demands"

I have to keep myself from just copying and pasting the entire thing here, but here are some great definitions of concepts important to municipal sustainability planning.

Common Elements of Successful MSPs 
Some common elements of successful Municipal Sustainability Plans include:  

Political will to commit resources: Having the political will to implement the plan 
accompanied by an adequate commitment of financial and personnel resources.  
Although the process is meant to engage the broader community, its success or failure 
will rest on the leadership and support of Council to the process.  This leadership will be 
called upon throughout the process to provide guidance and steer the process in case 
problems arise. 

Vision-Led Process:  A desired vision of a successful outcome that generates energy 
and enthusiasm and gives purpose and meaning to inspire the contribution of time and 

Backcasting:  Backcasting means starting first with the desired outcome in mind and 
then identifying present-day actions to move in the direction of that outcome.  The 
outcome, or “vision”, should also be consistent with sustainability principles to ensure
that the basis for our economy and livelihood, i.e. natural systems and the materials and 
services they provide, are protected for future generations to access.
Picking the low-hanging fruit:  Low-hanging fruit are those actions that garner early 
agreement, are obtainable in the short-run, and can demonstrate success to generate 
momentum. In a community, this can be something as basic as getting a group together 
to clean up a visible vacant lot.  

Democratic process:  At the heart of Municipal Sustainability Planning is a commitment 
to a bottom-up participatory change process that engages citizens in designing the 
specific steps to move toward the desired vision. Using a democratic, participatory process to involve the “implementers”, i.e. partner organizations who will be responsible for implementing parts of the plan, is key to successful adoption and implementation of actions toward change.  

Leading from the side:  This describes a particular leadership style taken by process 
leaders that allows planning and action plans to emerge from the process, rather than 
imposing predetermined strategies or projects. Leadership from the side provides clear 
guidelines, then elicits ideas from participants for how to apply them.  

Taking a systems approach:  The approach to change is comprehensive and integrated, 
aimed at bringing about change throughout the range of planning areas. A conventional, 
less effective approach addresses issues on a one-by-one basis.  

Broad involvement:  A wide representation of community participants takes part both in 
the creation of a positive vision and in the steps toward achieving that vision. Broad 
involvement of citizens and implementers helps assure that change will happen, since 
those responsible for making it happen are involved in shaping the proposals from their 
beginning, again the idea of “involving the implementers”. 

Keeping it going:  Planning in cycles, testing early action proposals, ongoing education 
and training programs, monitoring the effectiveness of actions with indicators, all guided 
by the vision and sustainability principles, help institutionalize change and keep adopted 
practices going over time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good definitions of sustainability

I'm going to keep a running list of definitions I love. (There are so many!)

Here's one for today:

“A sustainable community is one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and
resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented
approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others. And it takes a long-term
perspective— one that's focused on both the present and future, well beyond the next budget or
election cycle.”  - Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC 1997)

"Minneapolis is a city that people choose to call home. It offers its residents a progressive tradition of good government, civic participation and a vibrant economy for business and industry. In Minneapolis, residents cherish their children, value education, embrace their diversity, respect their neighbors and protect their environment. Their promise to future generations is an even greater, more beautiful city than the one they inherited."  Minneapolis city vision. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Green Infrastructure

A key component of turning Detroit into a more vibrant and sustainable place to live and work is green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is made of planned natural features, such as parks, green alleys, and greenways, that support both healthy ecosystems and communities. Aside from the obvious benefits of having more parks in the place that we live, this approach to planning can also help to clean our environment. By building more parks and fewer parking lots, more rainwater can soak into the ground and filter naturally instead of coming into the sewers and needing to be treated. Having more trees in our communities helps to clean the air and also take up carbon from the atmosphere. Green infrastructure can also help to support biodiversity and reduce the urban heat island effect. Where would we be without clean air and water? Or insects to pollinate plants that we eat? We depend on well-functioning ecosystems to maintain our quality of life. Green infrastructure is a great way to make neighborhoods more fun, attractive, and healthier places to live in!

DWEJ is working on a green alley project on the East Side with with Genesis Hope ( Since alleys are an often neglected areas that are home to undesireable activities, revitalizing them can have a big impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. Other cities, like Chicago (, Baltimore ( , and Los Angeles, have used green alleys to combat blight, crime, and environmental issues.

DWEJ is also working with Community Development Advocates of Detroit ( to help develop strategic planning tool that neighborhood groups can use to help direct the future of their areas. This tool includes strategies for areas that could be redeveloped into naturescapes or green thoroughfares that would function as green infrastructure.

If you want to learn more about green infrastructure here are some links that will show you the development of green areas and links across metro-Detroit and the world!
A great place to get started:
Michigan Trails & Rails:
A greenway report from Time:

- Volunteer Anne Shivkovsky

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our new intern's first day on the job...

This spring, we got connected to Taylor Daugherty, a super-energetic, smart young lady this summer who is one of our new interns. She just finished her sophomore year at Western Michigan University, and juggles pageant competitions with a double major in environmental studies and broadcast journalism.

Her first day on the job was helping out with the May 5 Environmental Summit, which DWEJ partnered with sister organizations and residents to organize. We wanted to expand community engagement on environmental issues for the Detroit Works Project. I asked her to write a little reflection about what she thought about the event for our blog, and wow - here's what she wrote:

"The Environmental Summit was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Heading into my junior year of college as an environmental studies major, I thought I knew a pretty good amount of information. The biological aspects of the environment, importance of maintaining ecological equilibrium , the necessity of preserving the ozone ... blah blah blah, so to speak.  One thing that was missing from the lectures, labs, field experiments and statistical assessments however, ... was actual application.

So the summit, needless to say, was amazing. As a mere “fly on the wall”, I was able to absorb so much information. Being able to see the passion behind the people’s stories, opinions and ideas, and the fact that they were directly effected by the things I read about in my textbooks everyday, helped me to understand 1. the interconnection among the different aspects of the environmental realm (social, ecological, political) 2. the importance of having a variety of organizations aimed at different sectors of the environmental field and 3. the benefits of simple communication.

All in all, I really enjoyed the summit. I was able to see generations of Detroiters with strong opinions and passionate appeals, speaking up for things they believed in. It was encouraging, it was insightful ... it was ... Bold!

-signed, the new intern."

Friday, May 20, 2011

There are so many things I like about this picture. Revival of a key historic building (with the help of state historic tax credits) downtown, and a couple of our sweetest trainees (Curtis Harper, Jr. and Curtis Harper, Sr.) employed on the project. 

Broderick Towers: Woodward at Grand Circus Park. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Detroit's Environmental Holy Grail...?

What would be the environmental holy grail for Detroit?

For Simone Sagovac of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, a cap on cumulative impacts + reduction goals is pretty close. That would be one power-packing policy, because setting both a cap and reduction goal would not only totally change the way permitting decisions are made, but also require currently polluting facilities to get cleaner and cleaner. That would REALLY be prioritizing human wellbeing.

Why cumulative impacts? Here's why, in very simple terms by Peter Montague, director of Environmental Research Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland:

"Actions that are tolerable or even harmless at the individual level can degrade the planet if thousands or millions of people do them."

A locally relevant version would be "Permitted emissions that are tolerable or even harmless at the individual level may be reducing air, water and soil quality to hazardous levels in areas of concentrated industry" - like in Southwest Detroit.

We could address all different sources of cumulative health impacts - air quality, water quality, soil quality, in the built environment, etc. You could get into zoning, green infrastructure, brownfield remediation, alternative energy...

Would it adequately capture issues like access to recreation, public transit and housing options, and energy conservation? I guess if we included fuel emissions, indoor environmental quality, and power plant emissions.

Anyway, I wanted to share two rather wonky items that I like:

Santa Monica's Sustainability Plan - guiding principles, indicators, goals... drool.


Smart Growth Leadership Institute's Policy Audit tool. OOHH. You're supposed to have a shared city vision to audit policies against? That makes sense. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Take Action Against the Incinerator!

The publich hearing is at 9:40am on Thursday, April 28. But you can take action before then by calling or emailing councilmembers.

Action Alert: Deadline Apr 27: spread far and wide and generate emails/calls

Please let Zero Waste Detroit [] know of your call/email

Contact Council Planning & Economic Development Committee:

Jenkins: 313-224-4248;

Cockrel: 313-224-4505;

Kenyatta: 313-224-1198;

Council President Pugh: 313-224-4510;


Dear Council Member ______

I urge you to vote NO on April 28 when the Planning and Economic Development Committee considers the request from Detroit Renewable Power (owners of the Detroit incinerator) for Brownfield redevelopment tax credits.

No more public monies for the incinerator!

Your name______

Or take online action here:
Ecology Center

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 Market Movie Night Series

This Wednesday 7-9pm, the Zero Waste Coalition (which we are a member of) is sponsoring a free showing of the prize winning film Waste Land at Shed 5 in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Voted Best World Cinema Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Waste Land features Brazilian catadores (recycling scavengers) who mine the world‘s largest trash dump near Rio de Janeiro. Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz travels to Rio to photograph them, but the encounter creates new images as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. Discussion of the challenges of waste will follow the showing.

Zero Waste Detroit is a coalition of over a dozen environmental and community organizations advocating waste recycling, materials recovery, waste reduction and an end to burning Detroit’s waste. For more information call Anna Holden (313-331-0932) or

Learn more about the movie here:

About the Market Movie Night Series: Join us every third Wednesday of the month for this casual event celebrating the connection between health, the environment, food security, agriculture, the economy and our community. Please bring a comfortable seat. Though Shed 5 (Russell & Alfred) is enclosed and heated, it’s a large space so bringing sweaters, blankets and friends is advised. Shed 5 is located at the corner of Russell and Alfred St. Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the Shed.

The 2011 Market Movie Night Series is brought to you by Eastern Market Corporation, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, People’s Water Board Coalition, Ecology Center, Zero Waste Detroit, Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earthworks Urban Farm, Detroit Food Justice Task Force, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Sierra Club and Detroit Evolution.