To date, I’ve posted about cool things that can save you money and protect your health; but The Green Light is also about telling the stories of people who are making a difference. Last week, I traveled to Detroit for a regional Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference sponsored by the Blue Green Alliance. Most people said “I’m sorry you have to go to Detroit”, and/or “don’t go out past sundown.” I try to focus on good things when I see them, and I saw and heard plenty of good things in Detroit. I stayed at the GM Center (every GM model was on display) which is the largest structure in downtown Detroit. You can see Canada from your room (no I didn’t say Russia from my house, but I thought about it). The weather was beautiful when I arrived and I had an hour to spare so I went for a run along the riverfront.
I sat in on several sessions over the next two days related to public health, toxic exposures, community job training, safe jobs, and environmental justice. There are inspirational people in Detroit who are committed to developing a local workforce and building a sustainable economy. Donele Wilkins, President of The Green Door initiative (GDI), has worked in the environmental justice movement for over two decades. The Green Door Initiative provides 12-hour training programs to local residents on specific job types, life skills, and environmental literature; GDI also has a “Youth Green” program, along with several other types of programs, that trains inner-city youths on environmental justice and how they can be leaders in their community. The take home message – residents who are trained locally, work locally, and thereby invest more in their community. Leon Petty, of Go Green Contracting, Inc., is a demolition contractor specializing in proper removal of lead, mold, and asbestos; I have never heard a private business owner so passionate about protecting people’s health and performing proper construction even if a personal sacrifice is required. It was a pleasure to listen to you, Donele and Leon.
Lastly, I enjoyed learning of the work of the Delta Institute, a group based out of Chicago that takes on a variety of environmental projects around the Great Lakes region – seriously, they do everything, they are the Super Target of environmental specialists. Kindy Kruller of the Delta Institute spoke about the community development branch and how deconstruction (that’s breaking down the home in pieces rather than smoking it with a crane) of homes has led to new business opportunities! The branch and other partners salvage wood and other materials and then sell new indoor and outdoor furniture to schools and businesses in the community – way to reuse! During the opening session, a men’s choir group, called Vision, and a women’s choir group, called the Lady Achievers (this was not a GSA conference) from the Detroit School of Arts performed and a class member spoke about how attending a green school has maximized learning and student’s health. Both of the groups gave wonderful performances – luckily I found The Lady Achievers’ performance for you to enjoy (I could not find Vision’s video – they deserve a complement on their bow tie cummerbund set)!
So, don’t count Detroit out (remember the Clint Eastwood Superbowl commercial?). Find out what good work is being done in your neighborhood and remember to thank them for their efforts; and/or even better, offer a helping hand to those good people! Cheers.