Green For All, Environmental Groups Join Women’s March to “Fight Climate Different” in the Age of Trump
For Immediate Release
Contact: Nina Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-717-9006 cell
Green For All, Environmental Groups Join Women’s March to “Fight Climate Different” in the Age of Trump
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In advance of the Women’s March on Washington, Green For All -- with Clean Air Prince George’s, Climate Parents, Emerald Cities Collaborative, Flint Rising, Green the Church, GreenLatinos, Interfaith Power & Light, Moms Clean Air Force, NextGen Climate, and the Power Shift Network -- are pledging to denounce attacks on the environment by prioritizing vulnerable communities living on the frontlines of poverty and pollution.Read more
For Immediate Release: December 7, 2016
Contact: Diane May, (317) 292-2922, email@example.com
Nina Smith, 301-717-9006, firstname.lastname@example.org
Green For All Statement on Scott Pruitt’s EPA Nomination
Green For All Deputy Director Michelle Romero released the following statement in response to news that President-elect Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to head the EPA:
“The importance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s role in ensuring that the rights of all communities to clean air and safe drinking water are protected, cannot be understated. The nomination of Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator -- someone who has consistently challenged EPA’s efforts to regulate toxins and keep families safe, while favoring fracking and big polluters -- is deeply disappointing.”
For Immediate Release: December 7, 2016
Contact: Diane May, (317) 292-2922, email@example.com
Nina Smith, 301-717-9006, firstname.lastname@example.org
Green for All Applauds Key Climate Legislation in Illinois
Green For All Deputy Director Michelle Romero released the following statement in response to the signing of critical clean energy legislation by Illinois Governor Rauner:
We applaud Governor Rauner and state leaders in Illinois for enacting the Future Energy Jobs bill, which will expand the state’s usage of renewable energy to 25 percent. This bill is a critical step in setting Illinois on a path towards achieving a clean energy future for all by prioritizing investments in the communities who need it most. The Future Energy Jobs bill dedicates millions of dollars in state funds into expanding clean energy in Illinois and bringing good jobs to low-income communities most harmed by pollution.
For Immediate Release: November 21, 2016
Contact: Michele Setteducato, 732-614-3818, email@example.com
Green For All Calls for Stronger Pollution Cuts from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Today, the Northeast states involved in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative presented a scenario to cut greenhouse gases by either 2.5 percent or 3.5 percent annually starting in 2020.
Vien Truong, Director of Green For All released the following statement in response:Read more
For Immediate Release: November 8, 2016
In response Vien Truong, Director of Green For All released the following statement:
“We must combat climate change by transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. As we do so, it is pivotal to invest in a just transition. Initiative 732 rightfully aimed to put a price on carbon, but unjustly favored tax cuts for corporations over investments in clean energy and green job creation for struggling families and displaced workers. This defeat shows that Washingtonians recognized that I-732 is a false solution."
For Immediate Release: October 5, 2016
Green For All Responds to Ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement
Today, President Obama announced a historic moment in the fight against climate change. The world has crossed the threshold needed to bring the Paris Agreement into force on November 4th.
In response Vien Truong, Director of Green For All released the following statement:
“The ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement today is a historic step forward to fight climate change not only in the United States but around the world.”
“Communities of color are hit first and worst by the pollution from the fossil fuel industry around our country. We must protect the health and safety of the millions of people on those frontlines as we implement this agreement worldwide. If we are to meet the Climate Agreement goals, we must invest deeply in the frontlines and ensure that all communities are protected from climate change devastation.”
Growing up outside of the Atlanta city limits, surrounded by Georgia red clay and acres of green space, I was innocently oblivious to the effects of air pollution in my world. Summer vacations, however, were spent inside the city limits - East Point, GA to be exact. My aunt and uncle would have my brother and I excitedly pack our suitcases for a two-week 'staycation' in the city that was “too busy to hate.” As my uncle’s blue Volvo drove past miles of green pastures and eventually swiveled its way through the busy I-75 highway exchange, I observed the change in the “color of the air” and I noticed my hesitancy to now take the big, engulfing breaths that I enjoyed in my small town, on the humid summer nights filled with the sweet smell of honeysuckles and the intoxicating glow of lightning bugs.
In hindsight, I wonder if my trajectory would have been different had I grown up in an area that lacked access to one of the most fundamental rights seemingly guaranteed to all: clean air. Would I have grown up in an area exposed to harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide and mercury? Would I have suffered from asthma and often been susceptible to life-threatening illnesses like cancer? Would my home have been more vulnerable to climate change-induced storms and floods? Would my neighborhood have had to bear the disproportionate brunt of the burden of decisions made by those who did not represent nor live in my neighborhood?
What are the costs when we do not account for the deadly effects of pollution in areas that disadvantaged populations call home? Often the risks and consequences are overlooked, leaving low-income, marginalized, indigenous people, and communities of color with a collective experience of disease and mistrust of those in charge of ensuring and creating equity in access to clean air. These communities are now beginning to break ground and find a voice in repairing the damage created by dirty energy systems.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) presents an opportunity for voices in “frontline” communities to be heard. Through the CPP, states are called to engage in conversations and concrete action surrounding the impact of carbon pollution as described by those most affected in the process. Directed implementation of funding acquired from polluters can restore the power and pride back into the hands of the residents who have suffered the effects of pollution. However, for the CPP to translate into positive empowerment and investment in the aforementioned frontline communities, citizens and elected officials must engage proactively with a focus on social equity.
While we all currently experience the effects of air pollution in varying degrees, it is important to note that frontline communities experience pollution in an extremely different manner. Communities of color routinely fail to meet EPA standards for air quality, often attributed to their close proximity to power and coal plants. Comparatively, children in these areas experience excessive visits to the emergency room with asthma attacks, with African American children dying at alarming rates as a result of these attacks. With insufficient resources and less job security, recovering from personal health disasters becomes nearly impossible. The damage done in these neighborhoods should influence and continue to drive the decisions associated with the funding recovered from polluter fines.
With an equitable implementation plan, CPP can serve as a catalyst to addressing these issues by empowering neighborhoods with the necessary knowledge and foundation to begin creating an alternative narrative and a shift in resources.
For more information about an equitable implementation of the Clean Power Plan, visit www.TheCleanPowerPlan.com.
Alexis Carter is a southern historian and a middle school social studies teacher in Georgia. She enjoys reading, researching, and rewriting the narrative.
For Immediate Release: September 28, 2016
Contact: Michele Setteducato, firstname.lastname@example.org
Green For All Responds to House Voting to Support Flint Water Crisis
Averting a near shutdown of the federal government, the U.S. House finally reached consensus today on supporting Flint in their ongoing water and financial crisis -- resulting in a vote passing a multi-million dollar support package.
In response Vien Truong, Director of Green For All released the following statement:
“Today is an important step forward for Flint -- and more needs to be done.”
“It has been more than two years since Flint’s water was poisoned as the result of Gov. Rick Snyder’s reckless actions. We have left Flint residents to struggle alone through the horrors of lead poisoning and government neglect. Housing prices have plummeted to next to nothing, people are still bathing their children in bottled water, and tens of thousands of people have lost generations of wealth. On top of that, many families will be dealing with the health ramifications of lead poisoning on their children for decades to come.”
“When I was in Flint, I met with residents who were poisoned from the lead water, who were afraid to shower or bathe their children -- who were on disability from being poisoned, and still working to support their kids and organize their community to rebuild.”
“For too long, those in low income communities and communities of color have been hurt first and worst by unhealthy water and air. Today is a step in the right direction, but far more needs to be done in the weeks and months ahead to do right with the people of Flint.”
In March, Green For All organized a tour of Flint with Van Jones, Tom Steyer, and Mark Ruffalo with local residents. Read more about that here: http://www.greenforall.org/mark_ruffalo_joins_green_for_all
East Bay mom up for White House honor for work on climate change
Updated 5:35 pm, Thursday, July 14, 2016
An East Bay woman is one of 10 people from across the country who will be recognized by the White House Friday for helping low-income and underserved communities prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.
Vien Truong of Oakland will be named a White House Champion of Change for Climate Equity for her work to end environmental racism and empower communities of color to join in the fight against climate change.
“Winning this award is a huge honor,” Truong said. “I do a lot of this work by keeping my nose to the ground and trying to do the right thing. It feels very validating that we are being recognized by the president as doing the right thing.”
Truong was drawn to her current line of work after moving to the United States from war-torn Vietnam with her family, only to have her parents end up working as strawberry pickers in pesticide-ridden fields in Oregon, then at sweatshops in one of Oakland’s poorest and most polluted communities — where Truong ultimately grew up as the youngest of 11 siblings.
“It’s not right for families to struggle as much as they do and still not have a decent living condition,” Truong said. “I wanted to commit my life to make a better future for people.”
Truong is the director of Green for All, an Oakland nonprofit organization dedicated to creating an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.
She lives in the city and has twin 3-year-old sons.
Truong may be known best for past efforts of expediting California’s transition to electric vehicles through the Charge Ahead Initiative and developing strong environmental-technology workforce standards through the California Climate Credit. She also has developed more than a dozen state policies, created energy and workforce programs, and advised public investments for energy and community development programs.
One of Truong’s most notable accomplishments was contributing to the passing of SB535, which in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, redirected money paid by polluters to disadvantaged communities. In the past two years, that fund has directed more than $900 million to the poorest and most polluted communities in California, according to Green for All.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to honor individuals doing work to empower and inspire members of their communities.
White House officials selected award winners based on their work with low-income people in underserved communities.
Truong will be honored with nine others at the White House Friday, in a program that will feature remarks by Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, and John Holdren, policy director for the White House Office of Science and Technology.
The event will be live-streamed on the White House website Friday at 11:30 a.m.
“It will be great,” Truong said. “We get to go to the White House. It’s been a dream of my mom’s for her entire life. I’m taking her and also bringing my niece to connect generations and show her what’s possible when you do great work.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
CONTACT: Daniel Wein | email@example.com
White House Awards Vien Truong “Champion of Change for Climate Equity” Award
Green For All Director honored by White House for her work to combat pollution and poverty
On Friday July 15th, Vien Truong will be honored with the White House Champions of Change for Climate Equity Award for her work to end environmental racism and empower communities of color to join the fight against climate change. Truong is the Director of Green For All, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.
Truong grew up the youngest of 11 kids to a refugee family that fled from war torn Vietnam. Her parents worked in the pesticide ridden fields of Oregon picking strawberries. Later they worked at sweatshops, where she grew up in the heavily polluted region of Oakland, California, known as the “toxic triangle.” It is through these life experiences that Truong grew to understand the inequality and marginalization endured by disadvantaged communities.
“Winning this award is a great honor, and validates all the work we are doing to end environmental racism and prioritize solutions in frontline communities that are hit first and worst by pollution and climate change,” said Truong.
One of her landmark accomplishments is the passing of Senate Bill 535, a community reinvestment bill in California that created a polluters pay fund, which created the largest fund in history for low income communities to green up and to create economic revitalization for residents. In the last two years, it has directed over $900 million into the poorest and most polluted communities in California.
“I’m privileged to be leading Green For All to create national programs that will prioritize low income communities and communities of color in the crafting of policy across the country,” said Truong.
The award comes as Truong continues to lead in climate equity efforts in collaboration with a coalition called the Clean Power for All Collaborative, which is mobilizing to make sure that the EPA’s first national initiative to regulate greenhouse gases is used as an opportunity to clean up and reinvest in polluted communities.
African American churches have been on the frontlines of the most important social movements of the last century. The movements begin at the pulpit, with preachers stirring their congregation to action via Sunday sermons that link spirituality and faith to a greater calling.
“The bible has a call for stewardship and a call to action—there’s a hook around sustainability,” says Julian McQueen, Green for All’s director of education and outreach.
Green for All’s Green the Church is commonly referred to as a movement, with founders McQueen and Rev. Ambrose Carroll saying it is bigger than just a program – it is a force on climate action.
“I come from a very social justice church atmosphere,” Carroll says. “For us, climate change is the civil rights issue of our day.”
When McQueen joined Green for All in 2008 on the organization’s 28th day of existence, he felt a calling to engage local community leaders and youth in protecting the environment. Now, serving as Green for All’s director of education and outreach, he has found success by creating Green for All’s All Fellowship program, which helps fellows develop skills to build community-generated solutions and organize in their cities. He’s also spearheaded the organization’s College Ambassadors Program, which supports the leadership development of students at historically black colleges and universities.
It was at Green for All some years later that he teamed up with Rev. Carroll, formerly a fellow, to pinpoint how they could move the African American church to engage in the climate fight.
In November 2014, the early stages of what is now known as Green the Church was born to grow sustainability programs and practices across the United States. To goal was to create a massive coalition of 1,000 faith partners across the country to share the need for conservation and preservation while seeking climate justice for disproportionately impacted communities.
“As we went to friends, brothers and sisters in the clergy and in the congregations, they wanted to show that this global issue was our issue,” says McQueen.
Carroll, a native of Oakland, California, is passionate about serving inner city communities and had been looking for a way to draw from his faith to spotlight global warming’s effects. He is working to engage with communities around how to reduce their carbon footprint and activate other tools to prevent environmental damage.
Green the Church is close to having 400 churches in 28 states represented as of June 2016. It’s focusing its efforts on states engaged in work around both the Clean Power Plan, which sets a national limit on carbon pollution produced from power plants, and the “Polluters Pay Fund,” a campaign push by Green for All to make polluters pay to clean up their own toxic messes.
Gaining momentum to grow the houses of worship involved in the climate movement is not easy, but it is having a domino effect.
“It was so powerful,” says McQueen. “The call went out by word of mouth and made its way through the networks of churches and the response has been real.”
The national Green the Church program is a partnership between the grassroots organization’s parent, Green for All, in addition to churches and the U.S. Green Building Council. While not all churches and congregation properties have the resources to be LEED-certified, the council is sharing strategies on how to make places of worship, church centers and related facilities more sustainable.
Heading into its second year this fall, Green the Church is ramping up its engagement efforts so that churches have partners and allies within the state to support each other. The support and dissemination of information is all encompassing, with guidance and educational tools on how communities can take action on environmental issues.
“This is about building power,” Carroll says. “Our communities have bared the brunt of climate change and pollution enough. We want to see more churches green their facilities and share the word of sustainability. Decrease carbon emissions, raise green economy opportunities and flex the power of the African American church.”
In August 2015, Green the Church hosted its first three-day summit in Chicago at Trinity United Church of Christ, which is also President Obama’s home church. This summer, Green the Church is hosting faith-based trainings with clergy and leadership across the country. Among the topics is a candid discussion of how communities of color can best align and develop strategies to influence environmental solutions.
The group will descend upon the Baltimore, Maryland, region October 25 to 27 to host a summit with an expected 1,000 church leaders. The primary target for training has been church leadership—starting with pastor level leadership to reach the congregation from the top down.
“We want to make a real splash in the political fights by leading with moral calls to action to make polluters pay and invest in the communities most impacted by climate change,” says Carroll. “That’s my biggest hope—a push toward systemic change.”
In addition to being active in the Green the Church movement, Carroll is pushing back on a proposed coal terminal in Oakland. Carroll believes there is a need for organizations of all sizes from grassroots to grasstops (for example, large NGOs) to work together and go beyond the labels of environmentalist, conservationist and others to define their commitment to saving the planet.
“Are people thinking they’re environmentalists? No, they’re thinking of protecting their kids from a toxic site,” Carroll says. “We try to categorize and get everything to fit in these finite places, but it’s our job to talk about climate change and connect the dots to social justice.”
Both McQueen and Carroll are thought partners, armed with faith and passion for service to their communities with the hope of continuing to bridge a gap between the faith and environmental communities who want to create change.
They and the thousands they have signed on to the journey are guided by a moral imperative to protect the earth, but they do not define their relationship with the earth in the same ways as others.
“There’s a biblical text that talks about Elijah, and at one point in his ministry he was by himself. Elijah says, ‘It’s I and I alone and no one else is left.’ And God says, ‘You are not alone.’”
“That’s how we feel about doing this work,” says Carroll. “It’s about bringing people out of isolation.”
Vien Truong gave remarks and answered questions on June 17th at the Democratic Platform Drafting Hearing of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Phoenix.
Afeni Shakur, the civil rights activist and former Black Panther, successfully overcame drug addiction to become of the country’s most heralded mothers. Her strength and life story inspired the work of her son, Tupac Shakur. His song “Dear Mama” remains the unofficial hip hop anthem on Mother’s Day. The song still makes me tear up thinking about the struggles moms go through for their kids — the sacrifices my own mom made for us.
After Tupac’s death, Afeni continued shaping lives by running her son’s estate and helped to shape his legacy. She led investments to communities and charities through the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation.
Twenty years after the death of her son, Afeni passed away this week.
On Mother’s Day, I’m celebrating Afeni and the mothers like her who are fighting injustices to improve the lives for their children and the next generation. Like the mothers of Flint.
I’m celebrating Desiree Dual, a mother and Flint resident that I met while touring the city with Green For All, the environmental justice non-profit that I lead. Desiree watched her children getting progressively sick from lead poisoning for months, and then one day stepped out of the shower to find blood coming out of her ears. Now, she’s spending her time organizing water deliveries for local residents and fighting for the resources for her pipes to be fixed as a member of Flint Rising — all while taking care of her sick children and her own health.
Melissa Mays along other Flint mothers
I’m also celebrating Melissa Mays, another Flint mother that founded an advocacy organization called “Water You Fighting For.” She told theHuffington Post that her resolve in fighting for justice in Flint is traced back to her status as a mother. “When you cross our babies, no. That’s not going to happen. Go with your gut,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your background is. You can make a difference and make your voice heard. No one would be doing anything now if it wasn’t for a bunch of moms getting mad.”
My own mom was pregnant with me when escaping a war-torn Vietnam. We grew up in some of the poorest and most polluted communities in Oakland. When we finally settled down, it was in a neighborhood called “Murda Dubs” — appropriately named because it had some of the highest murders in the country during the mid-90s. Our neighbors were struggling to make ends meet for basic needs. The struggle of Flint’s mothers strikes painfully close to home.
I am now a mother of twin toddlers. We live in Oakland, in a community where residents are projected to live twelve years shorter than more affluent zip codes a few miles away. I grew up watching my parents struggle with many of the same environmental racism as Melissa and Desiree, and now I fight alongside them in Oakland.
Several years ago, my husband and I teamed up with other parents to found the Roses of Concrete School in East Oakland. The school was named after Tupac’s poem “The Rose That Grew from Concrete.” The song celebrates the tenacity of youth who reach for the sun despite growing up in a community with little resources.
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Provin nature’s laws wrong it learned how to walk without havin feet
Funny it seems but, by keepin its dreams
It, learned to breathe FRESH air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
When no one else even cared
No one else even cared..
The rose that grew from concrete
As I reflect on my mom’s sacrifices, and try to have a modicum of Afeni’s tenacity and the strength of Flint’s mothers, I know that there is nothing stronger than a mother’s resolve to fight for our kids.
Let’s make sure that we are constantly celebrating the mothers that are carrying the water for this activism daily, and remember that we owe it to our kids to create a sustainable legacy.
Short clip of Vien Truong's personal story of why she works on the environment. Vien is one of the most passionate and effective environmental justice leaders in the country. She is the Director of Green For All which is working to develop a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.
To watch the full video go here: storiesarepower.com.
By Zoë Carpenter
When Tony Palladeno Jr. started buying and refurbishing houses on the east side of Flint, Michigan, 25 years ago, they seemed like a good investment. The houses are on what he described as “primo land” near a community college and a park, and he figured there would always be a stream of student renters. He hoped the extra income would provide a cushion for his wife, who doesn’t have health insurance, in case of medical emergencies.
Instead, Palladeno’s houses have become a crushing financial burden. The trouble started in 2006, when Palladeno lost his job at the local newspaper, and fell behind on property taxes. Then the Great Recession walloped the city, hastening what had been a steady decline in manufacturing jobs. Property values plunged. They were finally starting to creep up again in some neighborhoods when lead poisoning in the city’s water—which began two years ago this week, when the city switched to the Flint river for its water source—became a national scandal. All of the property in Flint combined is now worth some $500 million less than it was before the recession, according to NBC.
That’s left many residents trapped in homes they can’t sell. Not many people are eager to move into a city with poisoned water, and even if there were buyers, lenders won’t finance mortgages unless sellers can prove they have potable water. Few residents have the money to simply walk away. Some are even facing higher property taxes this year, because of the slight uptick in value before the extent of lead contamination was widely understood.
Palladeno, who has lived in Flint his whole life, estimates he’s put well over $150,000 in his four rental properties and the house where he and his wife live. He reckons he’d be lucky to get $7,000 for any of them now. “We don’t have any hope to sell these houses for anything close to what we put into it,” Palladeno said in a telephone interview. At least two of the homes have elevated lead levels in the water. “We can’t even rent them, because if someone gets sick or dies we could be liable.”
To make their homes habitable, residents have to repair what the contaminated water destroyed: pipes, hot water heaters, dishwashers, and other appliances. The necessary repairs will cost at least $4,000 per house, on average—an impossible sum for many Flint residents, 42 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Even if every dollar of the pledged recovery money ($28 million from the state and $85 million from the federal government) were handed out to residents, it would leave them short.
Even more devastating may be what the water crisis has done to residents’ wealth. Flint’s population, which is 57 percent black, is particularly vulnerable to downward swings in the housing market. Nationally, home equity accounts for a staggering 92 percent of black Americans’ net worth, according to the Center for Global Policy Solutions, while whites tend to have more diversified investments. Maya Rockeymore, the group’s president and CEO, says that Flint’s black population is likely to be similarly dependent on property values.
Though they didn’t have much to begin with, the corrosion and resulting lead poisoning “literally stripped what little wealth the people of Flint had in their properties,” Rockeymore says. And it dimmed any prospect of recovery from the housing crisis. “We are seeing in real time how the racial wealth gap is created and perpetuated in contemporary America,” she says.
In February, Rockeymore and other experts on building wealth in communities of color sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, arguing that “in addition to damaging the health of Flint residents, we contend that your Administration’s actions have also undermined their potential for maximizing earnings and accumulating wealth over a lifetime, which has a direct impact on the social and economic viability of the communities in which they reside.” Their point was that a proportional response required more than fixing the city’s water infrastructure and providing healthcare to the people impacted by the lead poisoning and other contaminants. (Or prosecuting a few low-level officials.) Among other things, the letter called on the governor to establish a fund to compensate residents for “long-term psychosocial and socioeconomic effects,” and for relieving homeowners of debt and tax liability on affected properties.
There is precedent for compensation funds, notably the $7 billion fund set up for 5,562 people who lost family members in the September 11 attacks. But Michigan’s political leaders have expressed little interest so far. “We were very responsive to the victims of 9/11, and yet we’re seeing a slower and indifferent response of the victims in the Flint crisis,” says Rockeymore. Race and class bias may account for the disproportionate reaction, she suggested, likening Flint to Hurricane Katrina.
Green For All, a nonprofit working to center people of color in the climate movement, recently proposed a way for Michigan to finance a compensation fund. Under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the state could draft a plan for reducing carbon pollution that requires polluters to pay for their emissions, with that money going to a “Polluters Pay Fund” that would be invested in communities most impacted by environmental damage. Green For All will push for funds in a number of states, but chose to launch its campaign last week in Flint with a specific reference to the “huge amounts of wealth” local residents have lost because of the water crisis.
The federal government and entities like the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac should help stabilize the housing market, too, said Aracely Panameño, the director of Latino Affairs at the Center for Responsible Lending, by encouraging lenders to allow Flint homeowners to refinance their mortgages and write off the cost of repairs. “No amount of money can take away the harm that the children have suffered, and the adults too.… Having said that, you compromise the opportunity they do have if they are locked into their property and unable to move out of the city for whatever reason,” she said.
While lawmakers dither, Tony Palladeno’s wife is making plans to leave him. Not because their marriage has fallen apart, but because her hair is still falling out and she’s sick. She’s going to take the dog up to the northern part of Michigan, where they have a small cabin on a river, a river that isn’t polluted. Palladeno isn’t sure yet what he’ll do. “I can’t just walk away from this,” he said. “I’ve got too much invested.”
By Vien Truong
Last week, the IRS asked anyone who might be exposed in the Panama Papers to come forward before they get caught. And for good reason—America is a hotbed of tax evasion.
There’s an old myth that we can’t have a comfortable lifestyle—cars, homes, creature comforts—without sacrificing clean water and clean air, because it requires lots of energy and we don’t have the money to transition to cleaner energy sources.
We have the money to transform America’s economy and moral reality—creating millions of jobs and ending our country’s dark history of allowing the health of whole communities to be sacrificed for fossil fuels.
Conservatives argue we can’t afford advancements. Liberals argue a transition is possible, but we need bridge fuels or “All of the Above” to fund a slow transition. The Panama Papers show we have the money to transition right now, but it’s being looted by the global elite.
Climate change is wreaking havoc on the lives of people across the U.S. and the globe—fromheat waves to floods to hurricanes to droughts. Regardless of how you feel about that, it’s simply fact that the fossil fuel industry has systematically poisoned low income communities and communities of color across the globe, like the one I grew up in.
My family lived in some of the worst neighborhoods in Oakland, California. Like many others in my community, we struggled to make ends meet. As a child, it was normal for me to see families dealing with severe economic, mental and environmental problems. It wasn’t until I was able to travel and live in other parts of the U.S. that I understood it was not normal for families to live in cramped apartments festering with cockroaches; kids to attend schools that are surrounded with chain-linked fences that look like prisons; or breath air filled with toxins from nearby factories or expansive highways.
In the Gulf Coast, oil and gas refineries have lead to sky-high cancer rates, asthma rates and lowered life expectancies. Many families continue living by coal plants even though their kids can’t safely breathe outside because they can’t afford to move nor have other viable options. And we are seeing that weird rashes, cancers and chronic health issues have become the new normal for families living near gas fracking facilities.
The fossil fuel economy wreaks havoc wherever it exists. It’s past time for us to move beyond it.
But what do we hear time and time again? We can’t afford to get off fossil fuels. It’s just too expensive. Now, solar and battery technology are fast changing that tune—allowing rock-bottom prices that out-compete coal and gas across the country and incredible electric carswith ranges that rival their gas-guzzling competitors.
We have the money to fix it. The Panama Papers revealed just how far the ultra-rich will go to not pay taxes.
And let’s not glorify it. Not one has ever gotten rich without using goods and resources financed by everybody else—electricity, the internet, roads, air, water, land. These public resources are built up by low income communities and communities of color who pay their taxes year in and year out, because to do anything else would mean facing consequences.
Not these bad actors. They’ve been stealing access to our national wealth all to build up their personal wealth—and then using tax havens to build yet more. At least $150 billion dollars a year of American taxes aren’t paid by the ultra wealthy. And if you look at global estimates by the Tax Justice Network—the rich are likely hiding more than $21 trillion dollars of tax-free assets offshore.
Just a small portion of these robbed assets could transform America’s economy and put us on track to achieving 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050 and 50 percent clean energy by 2030.
We have the money to transform America’s economy and moral reality—creating millions of jobs and ending our country’s dark history of allowing the health of whole communities to be sacrificed for fossil fuels.
Let’s put this stain on America’s human rights record behind us. Let’s invest in the low-income communities and communities of color we’ve allowed to be poisoned for far too long. You can’t say we don’t have the money.
Vien Truong is the director of Green for All, a national initiative that puts communities of color at the forefront of the climate movement and equity at the center of environmental solutions.
By Katie Fehrenbacher
Prince, at times, had a love-hate relationship with technology.
While beloved musician Prince was inspiring fans through his creativity, it turns out he had a secret life as a clean energy philanthropist.
According to Prince’s friend and longtime green advocate Van Jones, Prince was a major backer of Jones’s group Green For All, which has worked on installing solar panels on the roofs of buildings in Oakland. Jones tells SFGatethat “there are people who have solar panels right now on their houses in Oakland, California that don’t know Prince paid for them.”
Prince was found dead at the age of 57 last Thursday at his home at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
Jones says Prince funded many other charitable organizations as well as the solar projects, and that Prince quietly worked behind the scenes on initiatives combatting gun violence and police brutality. According to Reverend Al Sharpton, he donated money to the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American shot by a white neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.
The nonprofit’s website paid tribute to Prince through a short note:
#YesWeCode would like to honor Prince and thank him for his inspired vision for #YesWeCode. Prince’s commitment to ensuring young people of color have a voice in the tech sector continues to impact the lives of future visionaries creating the tech of tomorrow.
Prince, at times, had a love-hate relationship with technology. He was a pioneer of the early Web, and he was one of the first musicians to sell an album online. However, in recent years, Prince spent time removing much of his music from the Internet.
Last year, Prince moved all of his music over to steam exclusively online via the service Tidal, which is owned by fellow musician Jay Z. Prince said on Twitter at the time, “Essentially, streaming has offered labels the ability to pay themselves twice while reducing what is owed to artists…” The year prior, Prince removed all of his music from YouTube.
By Vien Truong
It feels fitting that in the run-up to Earth Day, a day meant to have us reflect on how we treat the earth and its delicate resources, the first criminal charges were filed in the ongoing Flint water crisis. One of the worst environmental racism cases in recent memory, three low and mid-level bureaucrats and scientists were charged with data manipulation and misleading the government that contributed to the poisoning of thousands of men, women and children. It’s a ray of hope for accountability in the never ending nightmare for the people of Flint.
But it’s also far from a closed case: people in Flint are still getting rashes and their homes are worth nothing. Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder took the news earlier this week to theatrically pose with the water and pledge to drink it for the month, despite many contaminants beyond lead continuing to leach into the water. Governor Snyder has repeatedly resisted calls to resign, while doing little to change the situation on the ground for Flint’s residents.
We should all be furious. Not just by how this crisis has been handled, but by the fact that it had been allowed to occur in the first place and for so long.
Last month, Green For All travelled to Flint to witness first-hand the water crisis with local residents, who are still living entirely on bottled water.
We first met Desiree Dual, who recounted the process of watching her children getting progressively sick for months, and then one day stepped out of the shower to find blood coming out of her ears. Now, she’s organizing water deliveries for local residents and fighting for the resources for her pipes to be fixed — all while taking care of her sick children and her own health.
Then we met Harold Harrington, business manager of the local plumbers and pipefitters union, United Association Local 370. Their union is working to replace pipes, all the while living with poisoned water and pipes themselves. Harold told us his home, which his family spent years paying for, is now worth nothing because of Gov. Snyder’s actions.
Harold Harrington touring news media around the local pipefitters union, which is working to replace Flint’s lead-contaminated pipes
Existing laws make it illegal to sell a home with known water quality issues. Flint residents are trapped in their homes, with poisonous water continuing to stream from their taps. And their homes are now worth nothing.
As Congressman Matt Cartwright so powerfully stated during Congressional hearings last month, this is a man-made disaster created by Snyder himself, who thought saving a buck was more important than the health and wealth of an entire city. And amidst all of this, the cost of handling the crisis is ultimately falling on the families of Flint — with their failing businesses, dropping home values, and rising medical bills.
Gov. Snyder’s experiment with putting toxic water through Flint’s pipes has corroded ever pipe in Flint, poisoned the water of 100,000 people, and wiped out the wealth of an entire city. This leaves only one path forward to getting Flint’s residents access to water again: Gov. Snyder must flix Flint’s pipes immediately, and he needs do it with local labor.
The state and federal governments haven’t yet stepped in to fix it, other than the band-aid of bottled-water pickup stations available to mobile residents. That’s not a solution.
Residents have set up their own systems for distributing clean bottled water and caring for disabled, elderly, and homebound residents — but this isn’t sustainable. either Many of those providing help, like Desiree Dual, are struggling with their own health issues from the water.
Every corroded pipe in Flint is Snyder’s responsibility; every child struggling at school in Flint because of lead poisoning deserves Snyder’s financial support to do better; and every family who has watched and been affected by this economic devastation deserves the investment in Flint’s infrastructure that is essential to recovery.
Flint is our line in the sand: people of color aren’t going to stay silent while our lives are sacrificed for the sake of “cost-cutting.”
We deserve investments in our communities after years of deliberate actions to poison our air, water, and land. As we move to fix this problem by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and investing in clean and renewable energy, the first investments in new infrastructure have to go to the communities who have been on the receiving end of our country’s worst political and corporate greed.
By Alejandeo Davila Fragoso
Environmental pollution used to be an inconsequential act for industries and communities. Yet as science has evolved and explained the many effects of pollution, including climate change, the notion of having a free pass to pollute has ended.
The big question now is often not how or what is being affected by pollution, but who should pay for it. For Vien Truong, director of Green For All, the answer is simple: whoever creates the pollution should pay for it.
“We are calling for polluters to pay for what they break, to make polluters pay for what they do to our communities,” said Truong. To make that statement a reality, this week Green For All, a group focused on giving people of color a voice in the environmental movement, launched a national campaign for each state to create a Polluters Pay Fund. Truong said the funds would go to environmentally and economically disadvantaged communities via programs that communities develop.
We are calling for polluters to pay for what they break.
The way this would work, according to Green For All, is that as states draft plans to reduce their carbon, they would make polluters pay for the carbon allowances given under the Clean Power Plan, and then invest that money back into the communities hardest hit by their pollution. Essentially, it would be a carbon tax, an anathema concept for many politicians.
Green For All is doing its first push for the Polluters Pay campaign in Flint, Michigan, a city that’s been battling a lead poisoning crisis for several months. High chloride levels made the water excessively corrosive to Flint’s pipes, which polluted the water with lead. The chloride polluting the Flint River likely came from salts used to keep ice off the roads during the winter, and Flint did not apply corrosion inhibitor chemicals commonly used to mitigate such problems.
Two state and one city official so far have been charged over the water crisis, while various lawsuits are ongoing.
“Families in Flint are sick of paying to fix Governor Snyder’s mistakes,” Truong said. “This Earth Day, it’s time to talk about the people affected by pollution — starting with Flint. Fixing pipes is just the beginning. Justice is bringing back not only Flint’s water, but also Flint’s wealth.”
Green For All is inviting celebrities, community leaders, and organizations across the country to sign a petition and take part in a day of online action this Earth Day using #PollutersPay and #FixFlint on social media. The campaign has already been favored by actor Mark Ruffalo, though Green For All said more are likely to join in the coming weeks.
In the coming weeks, Green For All will be releasing toolkits in partnership with major environmental groups laying out recommendations for how states can implement their own polluters pay fund. There will also be a series of events across the country to educate stakeholders on this policy model.
This Polluters Pay campaign might seem grandiose due to its national scope. But it’s not unprecedented in the United States. In fact, it’s based on California’s Climate Investments Fund, a law that Truong designed and pushed for some five years ago. The Climate Investment Fund mandates that 25 percent of the state cap and trade funds are spent on disadvantaged communities.
The fund has helped people all over California in the last couple of years, and it’s growing fast.
“By the time we get to 2020 it’s going to be close to $12 billion,” said Truong. “It’s created the biggest fund in history for low-income families in any state.” And the benefits are already trickling down. In 2015, for instance, GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit, received $14.7 million in climate investment funding to install solar panels on low-income households.
“We expect to put solar on the homes of 1,600 low-income families across the state through 2016 with these funds,” Julian Foley, Grid Alternatives director of communications, told ThinkProgress via email, “and in the process provide 150,000 hours of job training and 400 paid work opportunities. These systems will provide families over $38 million in energy cost savings over their anticipated 25-year lifetimes.”
The California experience could be a sign that so-called polluters pay funds could multiply across the nation. After all, California is a pioneer in progressive laws and programs that other states then pick up. Yet, creating a polluters pay fund puts communities against polluters, which are often wealthy businesses or corporations that oppose more stringent laws in the first place. What’s more, Green For All proposes the Clean Power Plan, a court-challenged rule that calls for reductions in carbon emissions from the electricity sector, to be used as a vessel for the fund.
The plan, now under a Supreme Court stay, has been opposed by many lawmakers and multiple states. However, the rule also enjoys its share of support and some states are moving forward with it. Truong said a polluters pay fund attached to the plan could bring communities to rally around the controversial rule.
“Right now when you say Clean Power Plan people close their eyes and fall asleep,” she said. But if the plan means tangible benefits, Truong said, “people are going to race to support it because, you know what, it’s going to fund the things that they want to see.”
Truong is convinced on the opportunity, despite the bad reputation carbon taxes have among many lawmakers. “What we saw in California is that even the Republicans began supporting the program because they like ribbon-cutting as much as anybody,” she said.
Michael E. Kraft, professor emeritus of political science and public and environmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, said pushing for any form of a carbon tax is daunting. “The political divisions and incivility that often characterize debates over climate change make it quite difficult to succeed in arguing for a carbon tax,” he told ThinkProgress, “even for a fee and dividend system … where all of the taxes are returned to the public.”
Still, he said public opinion surveys that show that the public is strongly in favor of many actions to address environmental problems like climate change. And Green For All — along with the organizations partnering with it — is determined to make the campaign a success.
“It is a challenge to get corporations to pay their fair share of taxes to environmental justice, that is very true,” said Jessica Juarez Scruggs, deputy director of policy at National People’s Action. “But it’s about building power in our communities so that we can force corporations to pay their fair share, you know, that’s what we need to do.”
Statement from Vien Truong, Director of Green for All:
“What is happening in Flint is criminal, but the person ultimately responsible is Governor Rick Snyder, who made the call to poison Flint’s residents for the sake of Michigan’s budget. This isn’t a closed case, people in Flint are still getting rashes and homes are worth nothing until Governor Snyder fixes every pipe in town. While we applaud the move towards criminal charges, what’s needed is the money to rebuild and fix Flint.”
Statement from Tony Palladeno, local Flint resident:
"People should go to jail for what's happened in Flint -- but that doesn't change the fact that we need our pipes fixed today. Our homes are worth nothing, businesses have closed. Governor Snyder is responsible, as the person in charge, and he needs to fix every pipe in Flint, with local labor, to rebuild our city."
Statement from Melissa Mays, Flint Resident and Founder of ‘Water You Fighting For’:
"I'm organizing water deliveries while dealing with health issues from the water crisis. I'm happy to see criminal charges, but Governor Snyder should be on the list. He needs to pay for what he has done -- to rebuild our lives and our economy, and to fix every pipe in Flint."
Green for All is organizing a national day of action for Governor Snyder to Fix Flint on Friday, Earth Day. More information will be released on that day of action later this afternoon. The action is part of a national Make #PollutersPay campaign.
See the petition for Governor Snyder to fix Flint here: MakePollutersPay.Us
Earth Day, on April 22, is a moment for us to reflect on how we’re protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, the species that share our habitats, and the spectacular landscapes we cherish. In honor of Earth Day 2016, the Hewlett Foundation is showcasing seven grantees who are working to help make the planet more sustainable. We’re rolling out a weeklong Q&A series with up-and-coming leaders who are passionate about the environment.
Kicking off the series, we spoke with Vien Truong, director of Green For All, a national initiative to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.
How did you become involved with the environment cause?
When I was growing up, my family lived in some of the worst neighborhoods in Oakland, California. We were refugees from Vietnam and my parents didn’t speak any English. We struggled to make ends meet. As a child, it was normal for me to see families dealing with severe economic, mental and social problems.
It wasn’t until I was able to travel and live in other parts of the United States that I understood it was not normal for families to live in cramped apartments festering with cockroaches; kids to attend schools that are surrounded with chain-linked fences that look like prisons; neighborhoods to have regular drive by shootings. When I began understanding that these conditions were abnormal, I decided to dedicate my life to alleviating poverty and building the beloved communities that Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned.
As I continued working on anti-poverty solutions, I became more sensitive to environmental concerns like droughts, polluted air, and lack of reliable clean drinking water. Fighting for poverty felt like an immediate need – there are families out there suffering and starving. It was hard, however, to silence the nagging thoughts that we were burning up our planet and that environmental issues also need our attention.
When I learned that one can work to solve environmental problems and economic justice – I was hooked. I joined Green For All in 2008 to lead their state policy work. It was a great time to join the green jobs movement and we were able to pass a number of policies in a few years.
Can you describe a recent effort that you are proud of working on?
Green For All decided to support the residents in Flint, Michigan, who have been struggling with a toxic water crisis. We reached out to local organizers to ask whether we can help them in getting their stories out to a national audience. At the time, major media outlets were beginning to move on to the next news cycle. News that did cover Flint did not give residents a more central role in their stories.
We wanted to lend our access to media, artists, influencers and policymakers to support Flint residents. By doing so, we were able to direct major media outlets to listen to their stories, struggles and needs. It was a proud moment for our team to stand in solidarity with the local Flint leaders and to make sure that resources were directed to them from around the country. We are now working to ensure no other city experience the tragedies that befell Flint.
What is one message you would most want to tell world leaders?
For too long, the traditional wisdom has been that the problems of poverty and pollution are so big they can’t be handled together. We now know that these issues are so connected we can’t solve either of them unless we think about them together. Solutions like California’s SB 535 model, legislation passed in 2012 which caps the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, charges polluters for the damage they cause, and directs hundreds of millions of dollars to disadvantaged communities most impacted by climate change, is a great example of the possibility of tackling both issues simultaneously.
We can build on this model nationally through the Clean Power Plan or through state policies. By regulating polluters and investing in low-income communities, we can begin to clean up our air and improve the quality of life for all citizens while reducing the costs of living.
What sustains you?
I’m increasingly aware of the number of nonprofit leaders who are burned out and leave the field. Given that reality, I’ve made a conscious decision to find time to rejuvenate myself by spending time with my loved ones -- family and friends. Most recently, I’ve also started exploring classes on the weekends – these classes range from learning how to do handstands to Muay Thai. It’s been a lot of fun.
Green For All Praises Secretary Clinton's Environmental Justice Platform, Calls for Further Action to Make Polluters Pay
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Green For All Praises Secretary Clinton's Environmental Justice Platform, Calls for Further Action to Make Polluters Pay
This afternoon, Secretary Hillary Clinton released her plan on environmental and climate justice.
In response, Green For All Director Vien Truong released the following statement:
Green For All is a national initiative that puts communities of color at the forefront of the climate movement and equity at the center of environmental solutions. By creating and implementing equitable solutions to some our most pressing issues today – poverty and pollution – Green For All works to ensure that every American citizen has access to strong, resilient, and healthy communities.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2016
Daniel Wein, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Ruffalo, Van Jones, Green For All Launch Campaign Demanding Governor Snyder Fix Flint
New Campaign Calls on Governor Snyder to Fix the Pipes with Flint Labor, Establish Comprehensive Health Services, and Repay Residents for Poisoned Water
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Mark Ruffalo is joining Van Jones and Green For All Director Vien Truong to call on Governor Rick Snyder to fix the pipes in Flint, Michigan. The campaign - in coordination with Flint Rising, a coalition of local Flint organizations - launches the morning that Governor Rick Snyder is slated to testify before Congress on the Flint water crisis he created by switching Flint to a toxic water source to save money.
See the just-launched petition here: http://www.greenforall.org/flint_petition
The campaign launches with a petition from Ruffalo, Jones, Truong and Green For All demanding Gov. Snyder fix the pipes immediately with local labor, establish an extensive health network for residents, and repay residents for poisoned water.
Mark Ruffalo, Van Jones, Tom Steyer and Green For All Director Vien Truong travelled to Flint just last week to meet with local residents and hear first-hand their stories and urgent needs around the water crisis, which has wiped out the home values of tens of thousands of residents along with corroding their pipes and leaving them without access to safe water.
“What is happening in Flint is a national disaster created and perpetuated by Governor Rick Snyder,” said Mark Ruffalo, Founder of Water Defense. “People can’t live forever on bottled water, and the time has come for Governor Snyder to step up and fix every pipe in Flint. Water is a fundamental human right, and we will fight until that right is restored in Flint.”
“Governor Snyder is responsible for this mess, and we demand that his administration step in immediately to fix it,” said Van Jones, Dream Corps President and CNN commentator. “People have saved their whole lives to buy homes that now have no value in Flint, and nearly 100,000 people have lost access to water. It’s inexcusable for these communities to be neglected a moment longer.”
“We are fed up with corporations and politicians like Gov. Snyder sacrificing the lives of low-income communities and communities of color for profits,” said Vien Truong, Director of Green For All. “This is a national disaster that has robbed families of their health, their life savings, and even the lives of their expected children. The time has come for Governor Snyder to fix the pipes, and do it with local labor. Our communities refuse to be bullied into silence.”
March 7, 2016
March 7, 2016
March 7, 2016
March 7, 2016
Mark Ruffalo Joins Green for All, NextGen Climate, Local Flint Residents to Call for Solutions to Ongoing Water Crisis
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Daniel Wein, email@example.com
Mark Ruffalo Joins Green for All, NextGen Climate, Local Flint Residents to Call for Solutions to Ongoing Water Crisis
FLINT, Mich. -- Today, actor Mark Ruffalo, Green for All Founder Van Jones, NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer and Green For All Director Vien Truong came together to stand in solidarity with the organizers responding to the Flint water crisis and fighting for long-term solutions for Flint. The “Support For Flint’s Future” bus tour -- one day after the Democratic Debate in Flint -- was organized by Green for All to support the people and organizations that have been on the forefront of addressing and responding to the crisis.
See photos here: http://bit.ly/1QCdqNL
See video from today here: http://bit.ly/1Qybipb
The tour was formed to support and highlight three key demands from local group Flint Rising:
Reimbursements for residents that have been forced to continue paying for contaminated water;
New pipes that deliver clean drinking water, with the jobs going to local residents; and
Long-term infrastructure investments in Flint to counter the brutal financial impact of the crisis.
At St. Michael’s Church, Flint Rising organizers Art Reyes, Nakiya Wakes, Desiree Duell and United Association Local 370’s Harold Harrington joined national leaders to outline the water crisis’ dangerous impact on residents’ health and call for lasting solutions. The trip also featured site visits to Hurley Medical Center with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who first sounded the alarm to dangerously high lead levels in local children and founded FlintKids.org; a briefing on water testing from Water Defense at a stop overlooking the Flint River; and a meeting with Harold Harrington, the business manager of the local plumbers’ and pipefitters’ union.
“Our kids are sick, we can’t bathe at home, and we need more sustainable solutions than bottled water,” said Nakiya Wakes. “This is our community and our home. We need investments in Flint, and we need them now. ”
“What is happening in Flint right now is a disaster, and the time has come for President Obama to officially designate the water crisis as such,” said Mark Ruffalo, Actor and Founder of Water Defense. “The United Nations has already declared access to clean water indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It’s incumbent upon all of us to bear witness to the damage done in Flint and communities like it from environmental racism. This means addressing the underlying issues that allowed for the Flint Water Crisis to take place, and empowering the groups trying to build a long-term future for their city.”
“It goes against the very nature of American democracy to subject citizens to the mistreatment that the residents of Flint have borne the brunt of for years,” said Van Jones, former green jobs advisor to President Obama and founder of Green For All. “The time has come for President Obama to declare what has happened in Flint a federal disaster, and meet it with the federal resources the problem requires. Situations like Flint don’t develop overnight; they are the result of long-standing neglect from all parts of our society. Addressing these issues starts with lifting up local community leaders and addressing their demands.”
“We’re here today because we believe that access to clean, safe water is a basic human right, and that right has been denied to families in Flint,” said NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer. “From Flint to Ohio to my home state of California, too many Americans are being denied clean water and left without a voice and without a seat at the table. We have to fix this, we have to fight for clean water and demand justice for every single American.”
“The time has come for President Obama to formally declare the Flint water crisis a federal disaster,” said Vien Truong, Director of Green For All. “Flint has experienced the worst of America in this crisis. People have lost their kids, their livelihoods, and their drinking water. Flint now deserves the best America has to offer, which means federal resources that put Flint back to work fixing the pipes and addressing this public health emergency. With the right investments, Flint’s future is bright.”
# # #
Green For All works to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. Our goal is to make sure people of color have a place and a voice in the climate movement. That our neighborhoods are strong, resilient, and healthy. That as the clean energy economy grows, it brings jobs and opportunity to our communities. More at GreenForAll.org/
NextGen Climate is focused on bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics. Founded by businessperson and philanthropist Tom Steyer in 2013, NextGen Climate acts politically to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for all Americans.
March 2, 2016
For Immediate Release
Daniel Wein – firstname.lastname@example.org
Green For All Joins with Activists, Artists to Announce the SUPPORT FOR FLINT’S FUTURE Bus Tour
Mark Ruffalo, Van Jones, Vien Truong, Tom Steyer & others join for a bus tour to highlight community organizations and individuals leading crisis response in Flint
March 2, 2016 – Oakland, CA – The morning after the Democratic Presidential Debate will draw the nation’s attention to Flint, Green For All will assemble a diverse group of activists and artists to join the Support For Flint’s Future Bus Tour. The tour will begin on Monday, March 7th at 9 a.m. EST, making several site visits across Flint to call attention, bear witness and share solutions to the ongoing Flint Water Crisis.Read more
Flint is not the first poisoned American city. But we have the know-how to make it the last.
By now, the cycle of how environmental racism repeats itself is well-established: a natural or manmade disaster wreaks havoc on a disadvantaged city, leaving thousands of displaced residents. An already crumbling infrastructure ruptures due to generations of neglect, leaving those most vulnerable and unable to flee or relocate to bear the brunt of the consequences.Read more
Amidst Flint Crisis, Environmental Leader Vien Truong Points to California For A Long-Term Public Policy Solution
February 9, 2016 - As the water crisis in Flint continues to escalate, Vien Truong, an environmental champion and clean energy expert, is challenging Michigan and other states to an unusual call to arms: use pollution - or more accurately, the government mandated tax on it - to help end poverty in low-income communities like Flint. Vien Truong has devoted her career to helping low income communities of color breath easier. After a landmark victory in California, in which she helped to move one quarter of every dollar the government collects for a pollution tax to be reinvested in vulnerable communities, she’s looking at replicating that success across the country.Read more
In response to the Supreme Court's stay of the Clean Power Plan, Green For All Director Vien Truong made the following statement:
"While we share in the disappointment that the Clean Power Plan's implementation will be delayed, we're nonetheless confident that precedence and public opinion is strongly on our side. Green For All's work to build an equitable and sustainable future is important and will move forward independent of the Clean Power Plan's implementation timeline."
"The millions of individuals living in disadvantaged communities bearing the brunt of climate change cannot wait for action. The Supreme Court's actions only serves to underscore the critical need for community leaders and their allies to work together on crafting equitable climate solutions now."
February 3, 2016
To make real progress on climate change, we need a true collaborative movement, reaching across race, class and ethnic divisions. In California, where 73% of those under 18 years old are people of color, Vien Truong walks us through practical examples and models of what success looks like - and what it's going to take to build this movement.
Vien Truing (Green For All National Director) speaks at the National Forum on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Communities of Color on September 29th, 2015.
Majorities of African Americans express concern about air pollution and global warming, and are confident that fighting these problems by increasing the use of clean energy will both create jobs and lower energy costs. Taken together, the results indicate that African-Americans constitute a strong base of support actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz, & Associates (FM3) and Marketing Resources International Inc.recently completed a national telephone survey and four focus groups among African-Americans to assess opinions on energy issues.
Two-thirds of African Americans believe global warming is a serious problem, they want action more than the population at large and they overwhelmingly support the Clean Power Plan to address the growing climate crisis, a major new poll released today shows.Read more
Watch the video! On September 29th, 2015, national, congressional, community, and faith leaders gathered at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to advance the Clean Power Plan for the health, wealth, and opportunity of low-income communities and people of color. Speakers included Vien Truong (Green For All), Van Jones (Dream Corps & Green For All), Keya Chatterjee (US Climate Action Network), Congressman Keith Ellison, Elianne Ramos (Speak Hispanic Communications), Congressman Raul Grijalva, and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III (Trinity United Church of Christ).Read more
Vien Truong, Green For All National Director, joins HuffPo Live to discuss the historic Clean Power Plan unveiled by the Obama administration to tackle global warming.
Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final Clean Power Plan, which directs states to cut carbon pollution from power plants. The plan includes important provisions that will benefit low-income Americans and communities of color, which are hit hardest by pollution and climate change.
The clean energy economy is booming. And policies like President Obama’s Clean Power Plan are opening the door to better health, wealth, and opportunity all across America.
These twelve champions are instrumental to the climate change fight. These leaders are making sure communities of color benefit from the clean energy economy--from breathing healthier air to accessing better jobs.
Green The Church Summit - Inspiration and Action!
Green The Church held our first major gathering during the Fall of 2014.
The first ever Green The church Summit was held on November 11th & 12th at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland, CA. The Summit gathered some of the nations most prominent clergy leaders like Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Rev. Dr. Tyson. Lord Gray, a religious scholar and environmental activist.
The Summit kicked off with a praise and worship service that attuned people’s hearts and minds with vibrant song and urged their spirits to commit to becoming a part of Green The Church. Rev. Richardson culminated the evening by reemphasizing that amidst many things, churches primary roles are to make a difference in their communities, helping out wherever they are needed and by whatever means necessary.
This call to action then carried us into the morning of Wednesday, November 12th, where we held a Clergy Leaders Breakfast with expert panelists who shared resources and support to help church leaders take action in a real way. The morning session featured solar companies, energy efficiency experts, food justice activists and more.
Chicago, August 19-20: The National Green The Church Summit will include two days of worship, discussion, and action. We'll share resources for helping your church and community save money and energy by going green. You'll learn about important clean air protections that are under threat, and what churches can do to save them. And you'll have a chance to join forces with folks from different denominations around the country who are committed to serving as good stewards of God's creation.
Today, a coalition of groups fired back at a National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) report misrepresenting the impacts of the Clean Power Plan.Read more
The dirty-energy economy has brought pollution and poverty to too many. But a clean-energy economy can bring opportunity, health, and wealth to struggling communities. Clean-energy jobs such as weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and manufacturing wind turbines will put people to work in their own communities.
A new green economy will provide opportunity to people who have been left out of the old economy. That is the promise of Green For All.
Watch the video. Take Action. Share A New Sound with your friends and family.
A new green economy will provide opportunity to people who have been left out of the old economy. That is the promise of Green For All.
Hip-Hop superstars, including: Wyclef Jean, Common, Drake, Will.i.am, Anthony Mackie, Wiz Khalifa and Dead Prez share a special message about going green.
Kansas City, like many American towns is burdened by pollution from coal-fired power plants, unemployment, and poverty. Faced with bitterly cold winters and scorching summers, the city's residents struggle to keep up with steep energy bills.
Coal plants are poisoning our kids. We can stop them.
As a parent, you can't breathe for your child. It makes you feel helpless.
Pollution from coal plants causes asthma, heart disease, birth defects and early death. And people of color are hit hardest. One in six AfricanRead more
Power Moves is a campaign to help young people take action and make their voice heard in the Political process. Check out the video and ‘Zine which help tell the story of what youth can do when they build power! Sign the Power Vote pledge and figure out your Power Move!
The eco pass is a win-win for students’ wallets and our environment, saving us both kinds of green. The best part? It’s not hard to bring the eco-pass to your campus or workplace.
Students at De Anza Community College in California pioneered the way for other students by bringing the eco-pass to their campus last Fall, making public transportation almost free for students. And they took the time to share their secrets with us…
Poison from coal-fired power plants is killing our kids. We’re suffering from preventable heart disease and asthma attacks. And we’re spending billions of dollars on hospital visits and missed days at work and school. Polluters are trying to delay new clean air rules that will create jobs and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. This tool kit has all you need to engage your community in the conversation and to take action for cleaner, safer air for all.
1. “What the bleep is the Green economy?” video: This video is an educational and motivational look at what a green economy means, and how you can be a part of it. We look at different areas like energy efficiency, water infrastructure, urban agriculture among others. Use it to hold a conversation with your friends and find out how you can be a part of the solution.
2. Community Gardens: How To: Build a real green room, a garden, right on your block! With this guide you’ll learn exactly how you can take a little room, a few friends, and some dedication and turn it into a real live garden for the whole community to enjoy. Dig in the dirt and let it grow! Download Community Gardens: How To »
3. The Block Rocker toolkit is a set of tools and resources that is easy to use and designed to help you engage your freinds, family and neighbors in solutions for your community. After checking out the tools below, head over to the Block Rockers blog!
This blog is dedicated to the people that make the movement for an inclusive green economy, who battle for sustainable, flourishing and thriving communities and have fun doing it! Check out Block Rockers blog to meet the people who are really gettin’ down! Are you a Block Rocker, do you know a block rocker?
4. Bridging the Economic and Climate Gap: a Workshop: Ever feel like the economy is not working for you and your folks? Well, this workshop will help illustrate the reality of the economic and climate gaps and how they are related. Use this guide (with discussion questions and sample answers) to organize a workshop for your friends, family, and neighbors. Download Bridging the Economic and Climate Gap: a Workshop »
5. Green Your Dorm: Ah yes, the dorm room…home away from home for so many! But is your dorm room a green room? Make sure it is with these ideas on how to live the college life as green as possible. Download Green Your Dorm »
6. Host a Green House Party: Use this guide to lead a casual conversation about solutions fro your community. You never know what solutions you might come up with. Download Host a Green House Party »
7. The New Wave Workshop: One of the few things we all share is water! What’s happening in your community around water issues? This is a highly participatory workshop designed for a diverse set of participants explores our relationship to water, as well as the causes and consequences of the current water crisis, and to collectively generate an action plan to ensure fresh water is available for generations to come. Download The New Wave Workshop »
A healthy and sustainable food system restores our soil, water and wildlife, and fights global warming by relying less on fossil fuels. An equitable food system can be a source of empowering work opportunities. Finally, better access to healthy food means better health for our communities.
Find out more and take action in your community.
This colorful, educational water brochure can be used for organizing, trainings, workshops or tabling. You can use it to inform people about our water cycle and inspire them to take personal and collective action.
Download the Print-and-Fold version to pass out. Print it double sided, in color, ideally in size 11×17. Fold it twice: once horizontally across the middle, and once vertically down the center. It is designed to fold into a brochure with Clean Water For All on the front page, the Activity in the middle when it is opened, and the Quick Facts on the back. The inside unfolds into a full-length poster of our water cycle.
Download the Facilitator’s Guide for more suggestions on how to use the brochure, a list of action steps, and facilitator notes for a group activity.
- Download the Brochure:
Check out the accompanying workshop “The New Wave: Greening our Water Infrastructure” »
And while you’re at it:
Plant a Rain Garden!
This is a great way to beautify your neighborhood and take some of the burden off your water treatment system. A rain garden slows runoff from big rainstorms so that the sewage system is not overloaded. The deep-rooted plants also act as a natural initial filtration system.
Check out this unique model that aims to address the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Philadelphia’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative proposes a viable solution to both unequal food access and economic underdevelopment in our communities. How can you replicate this model in your own community?
This versatile, easy to use multi-disciplinary curriculum uses innovative, non-traditional learning approaches to increase people’s understanding of environmental issues and the green economy, while simultaneously strengthening their academic and labor market skills. No other curriculum on the market provides all of this in one, accessible, affordable package. It is being used in job training programs, high schools, community colleges, universities, re-entry programs, prisons, and jails in 32 states in the US and in Puerto Rico to prepare youth and adults for good green jobs and to advocate for environmental and public health improvements in their communities. It is available in English and Spanish. Download the Roots of Success Brochure to pass out. Also download the One-page Curriculum Description for more details on the curriculum.
Roots of Success is a nine-module curriculum, including (external links):
To teach the curriculum, instructors need to be trained and licensed. This entails attending a one-day Train-the-Instructor training where instructors are introduced to the curriculum and licensed to use Roots of Success teaching materials. Instructors leave the training with an Instructor’s Manualand multimedia DVD, which includes all of the videos and visuals needed to teach the course in both English and Spanish. When teaching Roots of Success, programs must provide each student with a Student Workbook, which includes all of the handouts, exercises, activities, quizzes, and resource materials needed for the course.
For more information visit www.rootsofsuccess.org
This 13-minute educational video is great for introducing the different ways in which we can create green cities that create jobs and make our communities healthier.
Join us in spreading the word about the opportunities that a green economy creates for all of us, by using this video and the accompanying Facilitator’s Guide for house parties, organizing, trainings, workshops and screenings.
Check out this new workshop from Green For All, “The New Wave: Greening our Water Infrastructure”, great for classrooms and community groups. This is a highly participatory workshop designed for a diverse set of participants to explore our relationship to water, as well as the causes and consequences of the current water crisis, and to collectively generate a comprehensive action plan to ensure fresh water is available for generations to come.
- Climate Change and Water Scarcity,
- Water: The Molecule of Life,
- Water Waste,
- The Water Cycle,
- Urbanization and Concrete,
- Water Pollution,
- Natural Solutions, and
- Green Cities – The Wave of the Future.
This workshop will help illustrate the reality of the climate and economic gaps and how they are related. Use this guide (with discussion questions and sample answers) to organize a workshop for your friends, family, and neighbors. You’ll inspire excitement and provide information about the role of green-collar jobs in bridging these gaps!
By Maritza Martinez
What if you could not only vote for who your representatives are, but also how they legislate? In Brazil and the United Kingdom, you can. And the idea is catching on in cities across the U.S.—including New York, Chicago, and Buffalo. These cities are beginning to incorporate participatory budgeting into some aspects of city management. Participatory budgeting allows community members to make real decisions about how money is spent in their city. In participatory budgeting, residents identify spending priorities, develop specific spending proposals, vote on which proposals to fund, and work with the city to implement the top proposals.
The result? A chance to feed two birds with one seed—by making sure that funds generated by cracking down on polluters help create healthier, more vibrant communities. Take a look at Buffalo, New York, where the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York recently led the charge for accountability by polluters Tonawanda Coke Corporation—and won. Tonawanda Coke was found guilty of violating federal clean air regulations. Its environmental manager was also found guilty of hiding plant deficiencies from U.S. regulators. Part of the settlement from these cases—up to $50 million—could be allotted for projects designed to improve life for local residents.
Green For All Fellow Natasha Soto, an organizer with the Clean Air Coalition, helped initiate a participatory budgeting process to decide how to use the funds from the fines to improve the community that was affected by the company’s violations. After assemblies, hundreds of calls, and establishment of polling places throughout the area, nearly 600 residents voted for the projects they thought were most important.
The project that received the most votes would work with manufacturers to reduce toxic chemicals use and improve energy and water efficiency. Other top projects include the development of a health institute, buying and developing land for energy generation, growing a tree farm, and conducting a health study on the effects of air pollution on the community.
A judge will now decide the fine the company will have to pay. A portion of the fine could be allocated to fund health-related community-led projects. The complete list of projects was sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. The Clean Air Coalition and its members delivered a strong message that they want healthier communities—and they have great ideas on how to make that happen.
Tim Carryer has always loved the outdoors—he’s spent time traveling in Alaska, and scuba diving off the coast of Massachusetts. The pollution and environmental degradation he saw while spending time in nature always disturbed him. But he never really thought of himself as an environmental advocate, until recently.
Carryer had worked for years as a high-end remodeler. He saw first hand how much waste occurred in the industry, and wondered if he could do something about it. Around that time, Pennsylvania rolled out its statewide workforce training program, focused on weatherization and energy efficiency. Though the program was nationally recognized, those who underwent the program faced one issue: there was no demand for workers with this skill set, leaving many out of work.
Carryer, a born entrepreneur, saw an opportunity. He started his own company, Carryer Construction, specializing in deep efficiency upgrades taking a whole-house approach. He also founded Green Over Green, a hub for home energy performance businesses and professionals. In 2010, he set up Diagnostic Energy Auditors of Western Pennsylvania (DEAWP), which connects members with training as well as industry and community opportunities. The goal is to build a regional network of businesses and organizations in the home performance industry to create business collaborations and facilitate long-term success.
Despite his work with these important groups, Carryer began to feel increasingly concerned that the industry was not fulfilling the promise of green jobs. Even with his efforts, no amount of training will create green jobs without market demand – the industry had a marketing challenge. In an effort to change that, he took part in a roundtable that brought together dozens of stakeholders in the energy efficiency sector, including nonprofits, policymakers, and funders, with the goal of identifying ways to cultivate demand and create real jobs.
This was where Carryer met Andrew Butcher, co-founder and CEO of GTECH Strategies (Growth Through Energy and Community Health). He realized that he and Butcher shared the same goal, but Butcher’s vision was even broader than his own. Butcher raised money for a marketing program based on community outreach and was building a network within each community, playing matchmaker by connecting neighborhood to available resources that addressed their needs.
Carryer recognized the power of GTECH’s mission and strategy. When he heard they were looking for an Energy Director, he jumped at the opportunity. Carryer, 66, now spends his time working to fight pollution and spur the green economy in Pittsburgh.
As Energy Director for GTECH, he is leading the Reenergize Pittsburgh initiative. The effort taps into GTECH’s strong network of small businesses, nonprofits, utilities and weatherization contractors to identify and address neighborhood energy needs. The goal is to create green job opportunities for local workers while bringing energy, health and cost benefits to Pittsburgh residents.
The organization works from the ground up, identifying and recruiting energy ambassadors from sixteen Pittsburgh neighborhoods to help identify what each community needs. GTECH works with churches and community organizations to build demand for and deliver energy efficiency. Then GTECH draws on its coalition members of building analysts, weatherization experts, and utilities to implement energy-saving measures in single-family homes. The initiative aims to slash carbon pollution in Pittsburgh by 200 metric tons during its first-year pilot, and grow into a long-term program. Carryer is aiming to drop neighborhood energy use by at least 20 percent and, if possible, up to 40 percent.
But it’s not just an environmental initiative. The Alleghany County Health Department has shown interest in the health benefits of energy efficiency upgrades, which can help decrease asthma triggers such as moisture, dust, and drafts.
Today, his favorite part about working with GTECH Strategies is building a strong network through fixing buildings and joining training programs that focus not just on weatherization, but on marketing energy efficiency. His hope is for the network to perform high-quality work that builds trust and that reaches at least one-third of Pittsburgh’s homes.
He believes Pittsburgh should serve as a model for other cities in spurring energy efficiency. The region is already ahead of the game, he says, because it has transitioned from a jobless coal town to inclusive city with booming economic development. His vision of Pittsburgh is a city with green career ladders for disadvantaged residents, a thriving energy efficiency sector, and healthy, prosperous communities. And with GTECH, he’s working to create it—one neighborhood at a time.
Written by: Maritessa Bravo Ares
Rain or shine, Jennifer McPike moves swiftly from door to door with a clipboard in hand in some of San Francisco’s underserved and neglected neighborhoods. As an Environment Now Crew Leader, she and her team are on a mission. Their goal is to reach out to as many San Francisco residents as they can to teach them about the city’s Zero Waste Campaign, an effort to reduce waste heading to landfills while increasing access to recycling and composting. Jennifer’s job is more than just making sure she and her crew target every home on her list. It’s about transforming a community – one home, one business, and one person at a time.
A program of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, Environment Now is an innovative green jobs training program that provides residents with leadership development and career pathways. The program helps participants develop skills in communication, computer literacy, and customer service in order to be effective environmental advocates and peer educators. Using their new skills, the participants conduct environmental outreach activities, making contact with homes and businesses throughout the city. They educate residents and business owners on a variety of topics including energy efficiency, zero waste, recycling, toxics reduction and food security. The effort is a win on many levels. Residents are empowered to be better stewards of their environment. Businesses can also save money by changing their behaviors—and it all adds up to get the city closer to achieving its environmental goals.
Jennifer has been working with Environment Now since December 2009. In May 2012 she began her new role as crew leader, where she trains and coaches crew members on how to conduct door-to-door outreach, communicate with business owners, and compile data. She and her crew teach residents how to compost and recycle, help monitor bins, and answer any questions the residents or small business owners may have. You can also see Jennifer and her crew at various community events, where they highlight the programs and services the Department of the Environment has to offer. She says her favorite part of the job is helping the community. One success came recently, when she helped the owner of an auto body shop take steps to drastically cut his business’s waste, increase recycling, and use a smaller garbage can. These changes alone are saving the business owner a couple hundred dollars each month on his garbage bill.
Like Jennifer, who has lived in San Francisco for more than 25 years, many Environment Now program participants come from or have deep ties to some of the city’s most underserved areas. Because of their familiarity with these neighborhoods, they are uniquely positioned to make a difference with traditionally hard-to-reach audiences and boost community participation in the city’s environmental initiatives. But changing someone’s behavior – whether it’s the way people sort their recycling or how they conserve energy – isn’t always easy. Jennifer seems to have a magic touch. What’s the secret to her success? “People just want to be heard. Listening to someone also helps open the door for you to share your story. It’s the personal connection that changes mindsets,” she explains.
Indeed, it’s that personal connection that has helped the program reach a wide audience. Collectively, participants have reached over 75,000 residents and businesses with the city’s environmental initiatives, making San Francisco a better place to live and our environment a whole lot healthier. More than 1,100 businesses have taken advantage of free business audits in energy efficiency and lighting offered by the program. Additionally, in the past year, the program has helped 2,000 businesses and 1,300 apartment buildings with their composting and recycling needs.
Beyond the homes reached or businesses helped, there are other intangible ways in which the Environment Now program has been a success. For some of the crew members, shifting to the environmental field was a completely new area. With the help of the program coordinators, Jennifer and other team members became experts on the city’s initiatives, developed the skills needed to communicate with the public and craft messaging that resonates with different audiences. The confidence to connect and speak with anyone and everyone is now a part of who she is. The program has also given people an opportunity to pursue meaningful work.
“I like working here because it gives me a sense that I’m doing something with myself. Environment Now has given me a chance to take part in working and being included back in my community and talking to my neighbors and peers about how to keep and achieve a sustainable, healthy and safe environment for everyone. While doing that it has given me structure and great office skills that I can take to another job”
–Ebony Reid, an Environment Now program participant.
The Environment Now team is made up of San Franciscans from a wide range of backgrounds and spoken languages, with a variety of work and life experiences, all sharing a passion for protecting the environment. Since 2009, almost 65 people have completed the two-year program equipped with knowledge and transferrable skills they can use throughout their lives.
For more information on the Environment Now program, please visit the San Francisco Department of the Environment webpage at www.sfenvironment.org.
By Karen Monahan, Green For All Fellow and Environmental Justice Organizer at Sierra Club
Environmental Justice issues are linked to many other injustices. Polluting industries are more likely to be located in communities of color and low-income communities. Folks who are impacted by these pollution sites often suffer from many illnesses, including asthma. Asthma is the number one reason students miss school. Link that to test scores and drop out rates. Many of these same folks do not have healthcare. Folks still have to eat and have shelter regardless of whether or not they have an education. When one doesn’t have the proper training or education to make a living wage, it leads to low-income jobs (if they are available), social services (which are being cut) or maybe a life of crime, which can lead to incarceration or even death. Environmental Justice is one way to tackle a variety of injustice issues.
For far too long we have been working on tackling pollution plants case-by-case, permit-by-permit. We are working with the Minnesota Pollution Control (MPCA) to try to remedy this problem, by addressing the big picture pollution issues that affect Minneapolis. We are working toward relationship building with the MPCA and the community. We are asking for quarterly meetings with the organization as a way to understand the issues our community faces and find ways to tackle those issues. We are also asking for a real environmental justice policy, where decision-makers have to look at vulnerable communities and the cumulative affects of pollution when making decisions that will impact our health and land. We also want more people of color on decision-making boards. We want folks who live in our communities and understand environmental justice issues to be part of the decision process when it comes to permits for polluting industries.
We’re fighting to protect our neighborhoods from pollution from a garbage incinerator. The Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) incinerator is asking for a 20 percent increase in how much garbage can be burned in our communities. We already deal with a heavy burden on our health from pollution. Our children cannot continue to bear the brunt of pollution while others cash in at our expense. We need to invest in more recycling and compost. This is cleaner, safer and would provide more jobs for our community. Garbage incinerators are not clean renewable energy as they claim. We have more choices then burn or landfill, recycle and compost is an option.
This work inspires me because I see the link between so many of the issues our community faces. I also believe it is my calling to do my small part to make the world a better place. I carry the words of Dr. King in my heart as I do this work: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The injustices I am working to eliminate are symptoms of a deeper issue. We need a shift in consciousness to see our deep connection to each other and the earth. When we have that shift we realize it is in our best interest to not hurt another person or the amazing resources our mother earth provides. We live with the illusion of separateness, versus seeing our true connection to everything and everyone.
You can help by joining our effort to create zero waste in our community. Just go to our Facebook page and hit “Like.” On the page, you can get more information about the HERC burner, stay updated on events, and help inform others about the environmental justice issues we face. We can do this—but only if we stand together and show solidarity.
In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, Kareem Dale was working in Houston as a project manager for a construction company. It was a good job, but he sometimes wondered if there was something else out there—something more gratifying.
Then Hurricane Katrina hit. News reports about the devastation in New Orleans struck him deeply, and he knew he needed to do something to help. So he packed his bags, quit his job, and headed to Louisiana to see what he could do.
“My first reaction was, ‘what can I do?’” he says. “Then I got there. I saw the level of destruction.”
In the wreckage of New Orleans, he discovered a huge demand for people like him, who knew the construction business and could help as residents rebuilt their homes. He quickly realized that he could not only do good by helping survivors of the disaster—he could also do well by working as a project manager in a buzzing market.
It was a turning point that eventually led him to where he is today—at the helm of a thriving business that is helping both people and the planet. After leaving New Orleans, Dale, now 32 years old, founded The Gaia Group, Inc., a company that provides energy efficiency and weatherization services. Under his leadership, The Gaia Group has helped thousands of low-income Houston residents upgrade their homes and save on their energy bills.
He initially became interested in the industry, he said, because of its tremendous economic potential. “I was looking at the construction market, and I saw things trending toward green building. That eventually led me to energy efficiency.”
While he was in New Orleans, a friend of his suggested he start using his building crews to do weatherization work—which was in high demand. So he dove into the field, learning everything he could about how to build and fix homes to make them save energy. And then he decided to bring his idea back home.
He spent nine months working with a partner on a feasibility study to see how well a full-time energy efficiency business might do in Houston. “We picked apart everything. And we realized ‘We’ve got something here.’”
Just as they were finishing their business plan, the Recovery Act was signed into law. The result? The City of Houston had funds to make much-needed upgrades to low-income homes—upgrades that would slash carbon pollution from wasted energy, and help struggling residents save on their utility bills.
It also meant that the fledgling Gaia Group was inundated with business right from the start. Since then, the company has partnered with the City of Houston, non-profits and local public utilities to perform energy audits for vulnerable residents, like senior citizens and low-income families.
And it’s made a difference. Dale says one of the best feelings is when an elderly or low-income resident calls back after upgrades are finished to thank him and let him know how much they’re saving on their energy bills. The Gaia Group aims for a 30 percent reduction in kilowatt hours for each household they work on—and that translates into lower energy bills. For someone on a fixed income, it can mean the difference between buying groceries and going without.
The savings also have a ripple effect on the local economy, Dale points out. “Once the work is done, it pays back so quickly, it’s ridiculous. That money goes right back into the economy,” he explains. “If you’re suddenly paying $60 instead of $100 on your energy bill, you can spend that extra $40 on food or clothing. You can use it to buy something you couldn’t buy before.”
But it’s not just about saving on utility bills. In Houston’s climate, poor insulation and wasted energy can create unhealthy and uncomfortable living conditions. The Gaia Group’s employees will often find elderly residents draping blankets over the windows in an attempt to keep the heat out. Proper weatherization helps keep them cool—and safe from heat-related illness, as well as pollen and air pollution.
For Dale, who studied biology and public health at Morehouse College, making people’s homes healthier is deeply rewarding. That’s also why he places so much emphasis on treating customers well. In addition to facing poor living conditions, he says, low-income folks often don’t receive the service and professionalism they deserve. He’s out to change that. “I want my company’s legacy to be in the homes and hearts of the people we serve.”
Now, Dale is working to expand the benefits of energy efficiency even more. He’s started a pilot program that brings weatherization and upgrades to faith-based organizations. So far, The Gaia Group has worked on three Houston churches, with plans to do more. Dale uses the partnership as an opportunity to educate congregations about energy savings—and as a way to bring more workers into the field. His vision is to recruit church members who show an interest in weatherization, and connect them with job training programs that will help them get the skills they need to find an energy efficiency job.
Dale loves what he does—and he hasn’t stopped looking ahead. His next goal is to help serve as a champion for the industry, by advocating for more city programs and public-private partnerships that will bring energy savings to even more people—and help fight climate change in the process.
“It’s an amazing time to be in this industry,” he says.
Written by: Kaori Tsukada, Program Associate
When Andrew Butcher saw vacant lots, he also saw the potential to make them the heart of a community revitalization strategy. Vacant lots are empty parcels of land that pose a number of challenges – the appearance of disuse can attract illegal dumping, decrease property values in the surrounding area, and lead to general disrepair as well as significant costs for both neighbors and the municipality. In urban areas that house disadvantaged populations, lack of resources can lead to more vacant lots and blight designation.
Andrew, 32, first came to Pittsburgh from Boulder, Colorado as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, where he was pursuing his degree in public policy and management with a focus on community development. In 2006, Andrew and friends began building partnerships with community-based organizations, public agencies, small businesses, and other non-profits. Through these partnerships, the team began to trial innovative methods reclaim vacant lots in an effort to transition blighted lands into green spaces.
Fields of sunflowers began popping up throughout Pittsburgh. Sunflowers naturally absorb toxins that build up in the soil, and the seeds can be used to create biofuel. But beyond the practical uses, sunflowers introduced beauty and a shared space where there had only been empty land and waste before. This visual transformation may be the most powerful feature of this strategy – it not only spurred a change in the perception of a neighborhood, but invited interest and more opportunities for partnerships. Building on this initiative, Andrew and friends incorporated GTECH Strategies in 2007, one month before he graduated.
GTECH stands for Growth Through Energy and Community Health, and the best way to do it is from the bottom-up. GTECH Strategies currently runs two ambassadors programs – the ReClaim program, and the ReEnergize program built with support from Green For All. Over 40 ambassadors have trained with GTECH Strategies since 2007. First they go through a one-year training period to learn about environmental issues and develop skills to continue building community initiatives around sustainability. The ambassadors are selected by neighborhood and among a cohort of individuals who have already shown initiative in community or green endeavors.
The two programs were built on a core principle that GTECH Strategies has found crucial when building a broader and more inclusive network; communicating across completely different sectors, all of which use different language to point to the same thing, or think of the same issue in entirely different ways.
Andrew says that it takes a village to reclaim a vacant lot, or to create a job. GTECH Strategies is so successful because their green initiatives are not exclusively for environmental benefits, but also develop into opportunities around employment and answering community needs. Repurposing vacant lots halts the decline of property values and attracts interest. Energy efficiency leads to more money in the pockets of residents and less carbon in the atmosphere. Installing even small tracts of solar panels makes clean energy available to residents, and local electricity generation. All of these initiatives create local jobs, and communication is what cements key partnerships around these initiatives.
In the past six years, GTECH has transformed Pittsburgh in many ways. Right now GTECH directly employs 13 staff in addition to 23 ambassadors. In addition, GTECH also supported the development of 400 jobs since 2007 through partnerships and programs. These partnerships have also led to over 350 vacant lots converted, close to 200,000 lbs of mitigated carbon. Energy savings through the new ReEnergize program will soon follow through accessible energy efficiency upgrades.
As GTECH Strategies moves forward into its growth phase, it is starting to tackle a number of issues. As with all organizations on a growth trajectory, access to capital is a constant issue. GTECH is also developing new methods of evaluation that demonstrate their impact clearly.
A number of external factors could also make GTECH’s job easier. In the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy financing, repayment mechanisms such as on-bill repayment (paying back the cost of an efficiency upgrade through a surcharge on the utility bill) and PACE (paying back the cost of an efficiency upgrade through property tax) would open up options and access to more residents. Part of ReEnergize’s policy committee is also developing an initiative around including information on energy efficiency upgrades in real estate Multiple Listing Services to inform prospective homebuyers. In order to expand their work with vacant lots, Andrew is a proponent for developing a public authority called a land bank, which has authority over all publicly owned and controlled land. A land bank is a managing authority around acquiring, holding, and transferring property title for empty plots of land. This would make access to and repurposing of vacant lots much easier for the community.
GTECH Strategies’ initiatives are based on a vision of creating opportunities in ways that continue to inspire and resonate with other people to take action in ways that they haven’t thought about before. Seeing a previously vacant lot now filled with sunflowers sparks interest and shifts perspectives in a way that inspires further action. Creating that change is what empowers communities.
By Maritza Martinez
Green For All Fellow Hakim Cunningham feels that “service work is one of the highest calling a man can undertake in his lifetime.” He is the director of organizing at the Boston Workers Alliance, a community organization led by unemployed and underemployed workers fighting for employment rights.
Boston Workers Alliance addresses one of the nation’s most grim federal government statistics – one out of every six black men has served time behind bars. The organization provides judgment-free services to help members understand their rights and navigate the process for keeping their criminal histories from inhibiting the job search process. Over the past six years, Hakim has personally helped more than 2,400 people overcome their criminal records through leadership development and political and economic education. He helps the formerly incarcerated get a fresh start, find employment and build their skills.
Hakim also builds community gardens where folks who are struggling financially can access fresh produce. Across the country, too many families still have to choose between fresh produce or paying their bills. .As restrictions on public assistance increase, Hakim has developed a way for people to feed themselves and their families.
“All we have is us,” he explains. “We cannot rely on others to help resolve our problems.” Hakim provides opportunities for youth and adults to learn about resilience, gain new skills, and grow their own healthy food. Someone might begin with a small pot of basil on his windowsill,and then, before too long he becomes a regular volunteer at the garden. Engaging the community in urban agriculture and skill development is critical to Hakim’s vision for creating more resilient communities.
Last summer, Hakim worked with thirty eager young people through a partnership with the Boston Youth Environmental Network. During a six-week internship with clean energy companies and non-profit organizations in Boston, he taught the youth about the opportunities available in the green economy through The Roots of Success environmental education curriculum. Watch testimonials from students who participated in the 2012 Roots of Success Clean Energy Internship.
Investing in youth, families, and those who’ve gone through the criminal justice system are all part of rebuilding strong communities. Hakim is making it his life’s work to build the change he wants to see in his community and the world.
“What we really need is funding and donations to further the work,” he says.”This work is done out of love, but we incur a financial debt trying to do it.”
To find out how you can contribute to Hakim’s work visit: http://bostonworkersalliance.org/.
By Kaori Tsukada
Nate Dais never imagined that he’d be designing and constructing park trails—or that he’d enjoy it so much. A few years ago, he was working at a job that didn’t pay enough, and when the economic downturn came, he hit a wall; there were no jobs available. With no way out, he did what he had to do to make ends meet. When he heard about a training program his cousin was doing, it opened a door. Dais knew he wanted to transform his life.
Dais took a number of tests and was admitted to the Breaking the Chains of Poverty Program run by the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s Pittsburgh Chapter, in partnership with GTECH Strategies, the United Steelworkers, and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. He received training five days a week during the paid six-week intensive pre-apprenticeship program. On top of the training, nearly every day different speakers gave presentations about roof gardens, solar-powered buildings, and the job potential of the green economy. He earned certifications for remediation skills and graduated with an OSHA 30 training card, proving his ability to recognize and reduce hazards at work.
Dais now works for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, constructing trails on Emerald View Park. The Park covers the entirety of Mount Washington, whose coal seams fueled Pittsburgh development into coal country in the 19th century. When the coal ran out, it drained the city of jobs and left the mountainside barren and ugly. Mount Washington Community Development Corporation is taking this once devastated mountain, reforesting parts, and creating trails in others. In the process, it is bringing jobs back to local residents.
Emerald View Park is still covered with the foundations of old houses and buildings built during the coal era. Part of Dais’s job is to clear away the debris, leaving the foundations safe to walk through. He uses flags to plot out new trails. Once the path is marked, he and his crew come through with hand tools, breaking down big boulders with picks, and defining a path through the forest. Water used to run down the mountain directly with no clear path. Now Dais’s trail continues over a guided stream, a crossing built over it with wood the crew carried in on foot. When he first started, Dais was disappointed that he was just maintaining old trails. Now that he is working on developing new trails, he’s hooked.
Even though Dais loves his job, he knows that his position will last only as long as there is funding, so he’s also saving up to start his own business. His plan is to create a car wash and lawn-mowing service so that his customers can complete two chores with one call. He intends to put his strong work ethic and dedication toward his one-year-old son into his business. In 20 years, he hopes to supervise a team around his budding business and expand into other regions.
Dais hopes that local and state government will continue to encourage programs like Breaking the Chains of Poverty. Many of his crew members used to be in jail, or are on probation. Now, they arrive at the jobsite on time and work with dedication. From his own experience, Dais knows that getting paid to do work like this stimulates the mind and gives people opportunities to improve their lives. Trails also draw local residents. Joggers and hikers enjoying the trails often drop by while the crew is working, stopping to say thanks and showing appreciation for their hard work. Programs that create pathways out of poverty benefit society as a whole.
Amery Romero’s family has lived in Truchas, New Mexico for generations. Since the 1600s, they’ve farmed and raised cattle in the area. But over the past few decades, more and more of Truchas’ residents have streamed out of the town, leaving to work at the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory, or heading to Santa Fe in search of jobs.
And life in Truchas has gotten tougher. Today, there are almost no real opportunities to make a living in the town. And prospects aren’t much better even when you leave. At 23 years old, Romero has watched many of his neighbors turn to the one way they know how to make a living: Selling drugs.
“Nobody wants a life where you barely get by,” he explains. “Selling drugs is the only promising career. Or you’re going to be so stressed out from the facts of life that you’re going to escape with using drugs.”
It is a painful reality in Truchas and other small rural towns in the region. “You see a lot of people running head-on into this problem,” he says. “You can’t just say ‘you’ve got to get your life right, you’ve got to go to school.’ For people like us, going to school is harder. We have to get jobs.”
But Romero has fought to find another way. A few years ago, he signed up with Santa Fe YouthWorks, an organization that has spent the past decade expanding opportunities for low-income youth. Through the program, Romero joined a crew charged with restoring the Santa Fe River through clean up and erosion control.
Determined to claw his way out of poverty, he woke up at six each morning so he could hitchhike 60 miles into Santa Fe to work.
As a result of his experience on the river crew, Romero became more and more interested in water conservation issues. That led him to the Santa Fe Water Conservation District, where he works today. As an intern with the District, his focus is on promoting water conservation by educating community members about rebates they can receive for installing rain barrels or water-efficient appliances like clothes washers.
Now, he hopes to find a long-term career in water conservation. The deeper he dives into the field, the more promise he sees in green jobs—not just in water, but in energy efficiency and solar and wind power.
But Romero is also honest about his motivation. He wasn’t initially drawn to the sector because he wanted to protect the environment. He was just determined to find a way to make a decent living, and his research led him again and again to green industries.
“I kept turning over rocks, and everywhere I looked, people were focused on the environment,” he explains.
He credits Youth Works with supporting him on his journey and opening up doors in the green economy. But he recognizes that there are many more young people like him who don’t have the same kind of opportunities.
“There are a lot of kids in my position who come from poor towns, but they don’t have a lot of mentors. When people leave and succeed, usually they don’t look back. They close the door behind them.”
Romero wants to change that. He hopes to enroll in a program that will allow him to get an associate’s degree in environmental technologies, and pursue a career in water conservation. But as he plans for his future, he is keeping one eye on the community he came from, and on finding ways to help others escape poverty.
“What I’m really passionate about is my people,” he says. “I’m passionate about helping them out of their struggle.”
By Maritza Martinez
There’s a lot of talk about community resilience, but what does it really mean? How can we make sure our communities are ready to survive—not only in the face of disasters wrought by climate change, but during economic downturns and whatever else may come our way?
Green For All Fellow Naomi Davis has a solution that she calls “green village-building.” She defines it, at least in part, as having a walk-able community, with everything we need within one mile of where we live. This vision does not include big box stores—she wants to make sure the money we spend in our communities stays in our communities. “Neighbor-owned businesses are the Holy Grail. Without them, all we have is a colony. You just exist for someone else’s wealth,” she explains.
This past weekend, Naomi, the founder of Blacks in Green (BIG), presented her model at the Green Festival in Chicago. She described the conservation lifestyle that she calls “The Beautiful Life.” It’s based on the idea that going back to a simpler lifestyle, like the one our parents lived, is the way to alleviate many of the problems that afflict our communities. During her parents’ time, she explains, “Everything they ate, they grew. Everything they wore, they made. And wealth was having a skill, not pieces of paper.”
She uses performing arts to share the principle and teach others about The Beautiful Life. And that’s just what she did at Green Festival—using a stage show to teach participants about crowdfunding.
Recently, Naomi teamed up with Michael William Cunningham, author of The Jobs Act: Crowdfunding for Small Businesses and Startups to build blackcrowdfunding.net. This is not just another crowdfunding site. It provides support to entrepreneurs every step of the way to make sure they are successful. Participants are raising money for gardens, new businesses, solar generators, and much more. Meanwhile, BIG has also launched BIG Black Crowdfunding Clubs to support crowd-raisers as they launch and manage their campaigns. These clubs are being piloted in Chicago and will soon be across the country.
You can join Naomi in living The Beautiful Life, and be part of the movement to build resilient communities by supporting projects on blackcrowdfunding.net. Download the campaign packet, and like them on Facebook. Let’s ensure that all of our communities have enough resources to survive.
By Maritza Martinez
After spending four months in Southeast Asia, Dana Frasz returned to the U.S., a country where more than one in five children don’t know where their next meal will come from. Yet she watched as institutions from colleges to restaurants to farms throw perfectly good food into our landfills. It was a jarring contrast after seeing so much poverty and hunger overseas. Seeing leftover food poured into the trash in her college dining hall sparked Frasz into action.
While at Sarah Lawrence College, Frasz started a food recovery program to reduce waste and provide food to the hungry. By her senior year, forty-five students had joined the effort. Each day the team packaged and transported extra food from the dining halls and local businesses to Part of the Solution, an organization in the Bronx that feeds the hungry.
After she graduated, Frasz spent three years working at Ashoka, a network of social entrepreneurs, where she supported social innovation and discovered how to create sustainable systemic change. Despite national efforts to alleviate hunger and food waste, from her perspective the problem was only getting worse. She knew the field was in need of some innovation. So she set forth to create a food rescue organization, Food Shift. Food Shift goes beyond traditional food recovery and food assistance to create income-generating solutions that feed the hungry and create jobs.
Frasz envisions the creation of a food recovery service sector as an extension of our current waste management system, and as an opportunity to create jobs in the green economy. Businesses have to pay for trash pickup and food recovery could significantly decrease their costs in that area. Food Shift aims to provide a high-quality professional service that would collect and redistribute food at a fraction of the cost of sanitation services.
In addition to this innovative food rescue model, Frasz and her team at Food Shift are developing other revenue-generating models. They are exploring the creation of value-added products and the creation of a market in West Oakland using surplus food. They currently donate food to St. Vincent de Paul and have a program with Oakland Unified School District to recover food from the schools and provide meals to students and their families.
By Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Van Jones
As we celebrate Earth Day, it's a good time to remember that pollution and climate change aren't just environmental issues. They're justice issues.
Worldwide, people of color shoulder a heavier burden from toxic water, contaminated air, and dwindling natural resources. The same is true in America.
For example, African Americans living in Los Angeles are twice as likely to die in a heat wave than other city residents. As a result of climate change, urban heat waves are on the rise and the risk is growing. In cities across the country, poverty and inequality have created a perfect storm that traps black families in neighborhoods with few trees, little shade, and lack of access to air conditioning or cars that allow them to escape when severe weather hits.
It's not just the record heat. When disasters strike, no matter where, people with the fewest resources have a harder time preparing, escaping, and recovering. Just look at what happened with Hurricane Katrina or how the BP oil spill dramatically impacted Gulf Coast's Vietnamese-American community. When Superstorm Sandy hit, it wreaked havoc on New York's poor neighborhoods, including causing pervasive respiratory illness among low-income residents whose homes were struck by mold.
The pollution that's driving climate change also disproportionately affects communities of color. In fact, 78 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a toxic-spewing coal plant, which helps explain why one out of six black kids suffers from asthma -- compared with a national average of one in ten.
According to Hector Sanchez, chair of the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, more than 80 percent of Latinos live in counties that violate at least one federal air-pollution law and Latino children are two and half times more likely to develop asthma than non-Latinos.
Given that communities of color pay the heaviest toll, it's not surprising that they consistently demonstrate the highest level of support for protecting clean air and fighting climate change. A 2014 Green For All poll showed that 68 percent of minority voters favor immediate action to address climate change. Last month, a Benenson Strategy Group poll showed that a whopping 85 percent of African Americans support global commitments on climate--the largest percentage of any demographic group. Climate change will likely be a major issue for our nation's 17.8 million black voters in the 2016 presidential election.
People of color need to play a larger role in the decision-making on climate and clean air. A recent report by the group Green 2.0 shows that "Despite increasing racial diversity in the United States, the racial composition in environmental organizations and agencies has not broken the 12% to 16% "green ceiling" that has been in place for decades."
We need equal protection from the worst environmental problems. We also need equal access to the best opportunities in the clean energy economy--including jobs in solar, wind, and energy efficiency. These kinds of jobs are growing--and they tend to pay more while requiring less formal education, which is a recipe for escaping poverty.
There are millions of black voters who are ready to act on climate; they just need access to the right opportunity. And once they're in the ring, big polluters won't stand a chance. Polluters know this--that's why they have begun a misinformation campaign claiming that clean energy hurts African American families.
The path forward is clear--and people of color are already leading the way.
In fact, they are largely responsible for one of the country's most cutting-edge--and wildly successful--efforts to slash pollution and poverty: California's cap and trade bill, which makes polluters pay for their climate garbage, and then directs the funds to hard-hit neighborhoods. A coalition of black, Latino, and Asian community groups rallied to advance the legislation in 2012, and it raised $262 million for disadvantaged communities in its first year alone. By 2020, the law will keep a projected 78 million metric tons of carbon pollution out of the air--the equivalent of taking one out of every fifteen cars in America off the road. And it never would have happened without the genius of the state's communities of color.
Climate solutions and pollution safeguards are about so much more than protecting the environment. They're about creating work, health and wealth. They're about righting the ship in neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of racism, divestment, oppression and poverty.
That's why groups like Green For All and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) are working to connect more of our folks to the climate policy and clean energy decisions that affect our future. Because the more engaged we are, the better America's solutions to climate change will be.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents the East Bay and serves on the Budget and Appropriations Committees. Van Jones served as President Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and is the founder of Green For All.
Photo credit: Tim Fuller, photographer www.timfuller.com
Written by: Kaori Tsukada
La Tauna Tortillas
Diana’s son was four years old when he started to suffer from severe migraines, eczema, and poor health. For five years, doctors struggled to diagnose and treat his condition, which they finally found was due to extreme sensitivity to preservatives and additives in his food.
Diana and her family immediately cut processed foods from their diet and switched to natural foods and whole grains. They saw visible improvement in her son’s health. Only one thing bothered her family about their diet; the lack of tortillas, their traditional staple food. Not one to let this limit her, Diana spent six months developing the perfect whole wheat tortilla with olive oil and that homemade taste they craved. She started bringing the tortillas to her lunches at work, and to potlucks. Eventually, friends began to specifically request that she bring her tortillas to get-togethers.
Then her husband lost his job, and economic difficulties set in. Just as they were faced with foreclosure and unable to make ends meet, one of her friends suggested that she start making tortillas – not just for family and friends, but for everyone in the community. Working with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Diana and her husband put their first batch of commercial whole wheat tortillas on the stand at their local farmers market in June 2010.
Things took off from there. Now La Tauna Tortillas employs six including herself and her husband. She sells 300 12-packs of tortillas a day. The demand for her tortillas is growing so fast that they will soon have to invest in a wider oven and dough press to keep up. Her son, now 15, is bright, healthy, and at the top of his class in math.
Diana never expected to be working in the food industry before she woke up to the fact that unhealthy food is so prevalent. The Tucson-born entrepreneur grew up in a farming community in Mexico, where all their food was natural and whole because there was no other way to eat. When she came back to Tucson for college, all the food around her was so easy and fast that she got used to it. As her awareness of our eating choices and healthy food has grown, her priorities have shifted to making these healthy choices, and helping others make them too.
And that’s what Diana loves most about her job – it’s an opportunity to educate her customers and community members on the importance of eating healthier, and that they don’t have to sacrifice taste. For customers who come in to buy her white flour tortillas, she offers them a little burrito with a whole wheat tortilla and vegan beans. She finds that this almost always converts them to the whole wheat tortillas.
Diana is working on other initiatives, too. She’s speaking with the local board of education about bringing healthier food to school lunches. She finds that even the kids are getting tired of so-called “kid’s food” like chicken nuggets, and she knows that there are healthier options. Diana is also trying to go more local – she’s working with San Xavier Cooperative Farm, run by a group of O’odham Native Americans toward using their organic, non-GMO corn in her tortillas. She hopes that they can cultivate a large enough crop to keep her company supplied year round.
Diana is passionate about her work and her community’s health. As with most small businesses, she has trouble getting the small loans that she needs to buy the equipment necessary to expand her business. Right now their equipment’s capacity is their greatest limiting factor. Her dough press can only press one tortilla at a time. Her dough divider can only divide one ball of dough at a time.
Banks are wary of making these small loans. On top of that, Diana and her family are often deemed unworthy of lending, a legacy of their past financial difficulties during her husband’s unemployment. She is starting to look into crowdfunding and other sources that have a larger community base to fund the equipment they need. Her aim is to stay the kind of business that touches each product by hand so that the people eating her tortillas know that they weren’t turned out by machines, but with love by real people. You can order some for yourself online at La Tauna Tortillas.
Have you ever come to a point in life when you realized that you needed to make a change? That’s what happened to Mark Davis. He was running a successful information company in Washington, D.C., when he started to think about the environment and the importance of clean energy. So in 2009, he started a new company dedicated to solar power: WDC Solar. He got into the clean energy industry because he felt it was the right thing to do.
The power of clean energy to help people became very clear in 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti. WDC Solar had been helping to develop and conduct solar job training with Potomac Job Corps and the ARCH training center in Washington, D.C., which provide job training and other career resources to residents of the Anacostia community. Following the Haiti earthquake, WDC Solar worked with ARCH trainees to put together “solar suitcases” with portable electrical systems that could be used to power orphanages, hospitals, and other critical facilities in the wake of the disaster.
Even more than that, Davis is proud that he’s been able to help community members find employment after completing their training programs.
Thanks to a grant from Health and Human Services and the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, WDC Solar is opening a solar manufacturing facility in the neighborhood. It will be the only African American-owned solar panel manufacturer in the nation, and will create 100-125 high quality jobs for local residents, who face one of the highest rates of unemployment in the area.
Davis recently won a contract from the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) and is currently opening a new office at the WDC Solar warehouse where they train workers to install solar panels on low-income family housing in D.C. Participants have already earned valuable experience—they’ve helped install solar panels on twenty homes in less than two months. They have also installed several systems on commercial buildings.
Training local workers is a big priority for Davis—and a big challenge. Obtaining funding for training programs is extremely difficult, so much so that he’s funded many training programs with his own money, training dozens of people over the years. He hopes to train many more residents of the community, which is predominantly African American.
“Without some type of federally-funded training, we’re going to be left behind,” he says. “Training is very expensive. We’re going to be left out and unemployed, and we’re going to have people who don’t look like us coming into our neighborhoods with these jobs. We’re going to be on the outside looking in and trying to figure out what happened.”
Davis continues to be a strong advocate for federal investments in job training programs, and hopes he can secure funding to train future program participants.
In Howard County, Maryland, the READY (Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth) program is changing lives while keeping local water clean and healthy. The organization works to create good green jobs for youth while reducing stormwater runoff and improving watershed health. READY trains young adults in the design and installation of green stormwater systems. Crew members install rain gardens on institutional properties including schools, congregational grounds, and large properties held by non-profit organizations.
The concept for READY originated in a community of congregations and organizations known as PATH (People Acting Together in Howard). During a strategy session, members identiﬁed two common issues affecting them all: the need for environmental stewardship, and the lack of jobs for young adults in the area.
The group approached officials in Howard County, Maryland with the concept of linking youth employment to the work required under Howard County’s stormwater permit. The idea received strong backing from the County Executive and the program kicked off its first year in May of 2012. The program is administered and managed by the Alliance for the Cheseapeake Bay, a nonproﬁt organization that for nearly 40 years has been dedicated to protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, streams, and surrounding communities.
READY began with a crew of 31 participants in its first year. They underwent an intensive education program, where they learned about stormwater management and other conservation issues. The trainings led to widespread behavioral changes among participants; even those who didn’t pursue environmental careers are better prepared to be stewards of the environment.
Today, staff members are extending the breadth of the program in its second and subsequent years to form a more generalized conservation corps capable of addressing a variety of green infrastructure needs, including installation, operations and maintenance, education within the community, auditing, and landscape cultivation.
Lou Etgen, Associate Director of Programs with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, describes READY’s first year in operations as highly successful, with plenty of opportunity to grow. READY’s detailed report of its first year reveals that the biggest challenges to the program are logistical hurdles, such as managing scattered sites, finding locations in which to store materials and equipment, and securing access to heavy machinery that can speed up larger projects. Finding sites to install green infrastructure was not a challenge for READY in the first year; indeed, 2013 starts with an open backlog of several dozen customers. READY’s partnerships with faith-based groups, schools, non-profit entities, and homeowner associations allowed the program to install GI improvements at no cost to the participating private entities.
READY is one of a number of programs delivering the triple bottom line benefits that green infrastructure investments promise. READY’s work demonstrates successful private/ public/ nonprofit partnerships that protect the environment, increase access to economic opportunities, and improve the social conditions of disadvantaged groups. The organization is cultivating a new generation of environmental stewards that come from communities most affected by environmental and economic crises. These programs are using green infrastructure work to create on-ramps to career opportunities in a variety of professions. They are also performing a critical task that creates real opportunity rather than dead-end, low-quality employment.
When Green For All Fellow Ashara Ekundayo moved to the Bay Area from Denver in 2010, she brought her passion for creative place-making, a track record of community organizing, and an expertise in execution. Three years later, she is serving as a catalyst and connector through her work as Co-Founder and Director of External Affairs at Hub Oakland.
Hub Oakland is a social enterprise that is equal parts inspiring workspace, entrepreneurial incubator and a community of socially-minded people. As a membership-based business, they cultivate, support and connect social entrepreneurs and purpose-driven people as they pioneer solutions for a sustainable and equitable world. Hub Oakland actively challenges the entrepreneurial status quo by operating at the intersection of money and meaning.
These are the types of spaces we need to continue to build the green economy and develop solutions that will transform impacted communities. Ashara works with her Hub Oakland team to execute a triple bottom-line platform that honors people, our planet, and the profit margin, while also cultivating opportunities to be generous with one another through a shareable gift economy. “Hub Oakland is not only a start-up business endeavor. Being a founder has provided me with a platform to explore all of the facets of myself including educator, artist, tech enthusiast, burgeoning food blogger and public speaker” explains Ashara. Just like the mixed-use space of the Hub Oakland, Ashara’s talents go beyond entrepreneurship. She is an artivist, a curator and a food blogger as well. Check out her Greens and Grits food blog.
Ashara weaves together the artistic, political, entrepreneurial threads of her work as Gallery Curator at Omi Arts, which will be located at the permanent home for Hub Oakland and is slated to open in Fall 2013. Ashara explains the seamless connection between the gallery’s name and the sustainability mission of the Hub Oakland “Omi, meaning ‘water’ in the Yoruba language of West Africa, is essential to the survival of all life in our collective eco-system. Making sure that the uses of arts and culture as tools for problem-solving in my work assures me that our business will be sustainable.”
Right now, the Hub Oakland is raising funds for their new 16,000 square foot space in Uptown Oakland through a Kickstarter campaign. Their campaign Come Alive with Us will ensure that their new office space is sustainable and funded by the people, for the people. As an integral part of their Kickstarter, backers can support others by sponsoring workspace for community members who would not otherwise be able to afford membership. Ashara describes the work of the Hub Oakland as “forging pathways to fund each other’s dreams while spurring economic equity in Oakland.”
Whether you live in the Bay Area or just support the development of creative spaces for solving problems that plague our communities and our planet, I hope you will join Ashara and her team by investing in innovation and coming alive with the Hub Oakland. You can also hear Ashara talk about their Kickstarter journey next Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at our Crowdfunding Roundtable.
When Generation Water’s CEO Marcus Castain started the organization, his goal was to develop the next generation of leaders for the green economy who can combine technical best practices and business skills to solve complex sustainability challenges. Five years later, Generation Water has employed and trained more than 250 youth and adults, installed 125 rain gardens, and conducted over 240 water audits and irrigation surveys for clients in the Los Angeles area including the Department of Water, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Metropolitan Water District, and the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, among others.
Generation Water is one of seven organizations profiled in our recent report, Staying Green and Growing Jobs: Green Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance as Career Pathway Stepping Stones. Each of the organizations is helping eradicate poverty and create a sustainable future by linking members from disadvantaged communities to opportunities in the green sector.
Castain created Generation Water in 2009 with the goal of providing employment opportunities for students to do hands-on environmental work. In 2010, Generation Water was awarded the State of California’s $2.5 million Green Innovation Challenge and since then, has worked with water agencies, large landscape property managers, and homeowners to save them water, time, and money.
Generation Water prepares young adults for careers in water use efficiency, sustainable landscaping, and habitat restoration. This begins with recruiting college-educated students to work on irrigation system assessments in parks and public schools; sustainable landscaping installation on private property; and landscape restoration through the removal of invasive plant species.
Generation Water has effectively combined hands-on experience, classroom education, and the use of technology to provide community members with experience that fits their professional development aspirations. By offering a wide array of work, Generation Water allows participants to select which type of work they want to do, depending on their interest in physical labor or analytical, technology-based work.
Like many organizations in the field, finding contracting opportunities is one of Generation Water’s biggest challenges. As a social enterprise, Generation Water faces stiff competition from private contractors. Castain does, however, see increased opportunities for the organization in the near future, especially in the outdoor landscape water efficiency sector where the work requires specialization and efficient water systems installation techniques. Castain is a strong advocate for bringing labor and business interests to the table to discuss workforce needs and to identify ways to collaborate on maximizing opportunities for a new workforce.
Generation Water is one of a number of cutting edge programs that are delivering triple bottom line benefits from green infrastructure investment. The organization’s work is an example of a successful private/ public/ nonprofit partnership that protects the environment, increases access to economic opportunities, and improves the social conditions of disadvantaged groups. The organization is cultivating a new generation of environmental stewards that come from communities most impacted by environmental and economic crises. These programs tap into water operations and maintenance work to create on-ramps to a variety of high-quality careers. Generation Water has shown it’s possible to perform a critical task, like managing water problems in Los Angeles, while creating real, long-term, high-quality career choices for disadvanted residents.
Written by Maritza Martinez, Fellowship Program Manager
Last year, all eyes were on Occupy Oakland as protestors exposed economic injustice and challenged the status quo across the country. Though the issues they brought to light are still relevant, they are no longer in the global spotlight. But the movement has continued in many ways and the inspiration it provided lives on in the work of many around the world.
Green For All Fellow, Ashel Eldridge was inspired by the energy of Occupy and this, coupled with his day-to-day work with youth in the Bay Area, led him to realize that good health is a prerequisite for participation in activism. He wanted to find a way to help heal activists and other members of the community and ensure their good health. And he decided natural, healthy juice was the way to do it.
Ashel launched SOS Juice to provide free juice to the community. SOS stands for System Out of our System. As a hip hop artist and member of Earth Amplified, Ashel created community events that combined music and hip hop culture while introducing “live juice” to participants. And it worked.
With the support of Green For All’s Fellows Fund Micro-grant, SOS Juice is developing a cooperative business model that combines healthy fresh juice, youth employment and composting. Ashel recognized that employment can also be a barrier to health and participation in the green economy. In fact, when youth are able to get jobs, they are usually employed at fast food establishments that supply unhealthy, processed foods to their communities. In response, Ashel set out to create an alternative for youth employment where young people could be surrounded by healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables. Youth not only receive healthy juice and a job, but they become models for sustainable living in their communities.
Ashel has big dreams for this business. He wants to see SOS Juice become a national franchise, making fresh healthy options available in every neighborhood, as ubiquitous as fast food is today. But he needs all of us to get involved.
He will be launching solar-powered juice truck here in the Bay Area this year to pilot the idea and strengthen the model. He is looking for financial support in the form of investments and donations. Click here to find out how you can be part of this transformative experience.
Written by: Maritza Martinez, Fellowship Program Manager
In many communities around the world, people are struggling for basic access to clean water. Here in the United States, many of us see water as an unlimited resource that we take for granted. But the truth is that much of our country’s water infrastructure is decaying, including in places like Indianapolis, where both unemployment and sewage overflow plague communities. But today, intergenerational entrepreneurship is creating solutions to both problems.
Green For All Fellow Imhotep Adisa, founder of the Kheprw Institute (KI), works with neighborhood youth to develop green businesses in Indianapolis. He runs an accelerator for youth-led enterprises. One example of how the KI EcoCenter trains young entrepreneurs is the aquaponics program they created in 2012. The program is completely designed and operated by Indianapolis youth. The system is designed to grow Tilapia and vegetables to provide nutritious food. They will begin harvesting starting in Spring 2013, They also offer tours for school groups to educate more youth from the community about green entrepreneurship. The aquaponics system serves as a demonstration project for young entrepreneurs to learn, experiment, and get inspired.
Recently, Imhotep and the KI youth launched Express Yourself Rain Barrels, with the support of Green For All’s Fellows Fund Micro-grant. In addition to helping keep stormwater out of the cities overstressed sewers, the rain barrels create entrepreneurial opportunities for community members who aren’t able to work in regular 9-to-5 jobs. Express Yourself Rain Barrels is a fulfillment center that stores, markets and distributes rain barrels created by local entrepreneurs. The company is youth-led: They designed the prototype for the barrels, as well as the company website. And because being green doesn’t have to cramp your style, the rain barrels are even decorated with art created by young people. Check out the site and support this youth-led green business. Express Yourself Rain Barrels is also open to working with organizations to sell rain barrels as a fundraiser for their cause.
Twenty-four year-old Aisha never anticipated that she’d be leading her own environmental remediation company. Though she’d always been interested in environmental issues, she was largely unaware of the fact that many residents in her hometown of Baltimore faced serious health risks from living in homes and buildings contaminated with toxic substances like asbestos, mold, and lead.
Then she enrolled in Baltimore Civic Works’ Green Career Pathways program. Dorsey wasn’t the typical Civic Works participant. The program focuses on training folks who were chronically unemployed or faced barriers to employment—like ex-offenders. She was neither. Ambitious and successful, she’d been president of her high school and editor of the school newspaper. But she saw tremendous potential in the green economy—and Civic Works offered a clear path to get there. She was studying at Baltimore City Community College when she heard about the program. It offered hands-on experience that she couldn’t find elsewhere—so she decided to enroll.
She graduated from the Civic Works’ B’More Green Brownfields program in 2011, receiving multiple certifications for environmental remediation work—cleaning up contaminated sites to make them safe, and to make sure that toxics are disposed of properly and don’t end up in our air and water. After leaving the program, she spent time in the field doing environmental remediation. She quickly realized that many of the existing companies in the field didn’t take the kind of precautions she’d been trained were necessary. She saw a need for a new kind of company—one that made worker and client safety its top priority.
So, in 2012 Dorsey launched Lifeline Environmental, LLC, dedicated to helping homeowners and businesses deal with dangerous substances like asbestos, mold, and lead.
“These are very overwhelming issues,” Dorsey explains. “Some people have asbestos all over their basement. You can’t tackle it by yourself. You need certified, competent people to help.”
She finds great satisfaction in helping make her hometown of Baltimore healthier.
“You can see the relief on people’s faces when we finish a job,” she says. “To live with asbestos, mold, or lead is definitely a health issue. People get sick. It’s not like you’re just going get a cold. You’re at risk for cancer. It’s something that needs to be handled.”
One of the best parts of starting the business, according to Dorsey, was the opportunity to give back to her community—not just by making buildings safer, but by giving Baltimore something it really needs: Jobs.
After launching Lifeline Environmental, Dorsey went back to B’More Green and hired six graduates of the same program she’d finished. She knew they would be well-trained, and prepared to focus on safety, a priority for her company. And she knew first-hand just how much dedication was needed to finish the training.
“Everybody in the program works very hard. You’re there from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some people go to other jobs at the end of the day.”
The program provided something else, too—something Dorsey drew on when she decided to start her own business: Confidence. When she went back to B’More Green as an employer, she was inspired and impressed by the number of trainees who were confident in their new skills and eager to get to work. “Some people who can’t find work may just need a larger skill set. Baltimore Civic Works invests in them and trusts them, she explains. “You leave that program on a high note.”
For Dorsey, there’s no question about the value and need for more job training programs. “Traditional education may leave some people behind,” she says. “If we have more opportunities for people to grow and find their way, you’ll see it help the community. It creates economic growth.”
By Rev. Dr. Ambrose F. Carroll, Co-founder of Green The Church and works with Green For All
As a child growing up in California, my parents would joke that we were from Hollywood. Our family was from Holly, Louisiana -- and Holly was down in the woods.
Thirty miles from Shreveport, Holly was where a cadre of ex-slaves purchased 100 acres of land in 1878 and planted their fields. They also planted the St. Mark Baptist Church, which is still serving black families more than a century later. These farmers -- my ancestors -- heeded the call of men like Booker T. Washington, who urged them to stay in the South, work hard, pay their taxes, and vote. Years later, despite their hard work and belief in the American dream, most of the families lost their farms to ruthless racists and the stock-market crash of 1929. The brutality of these two powerful forces pushed the family from land ownership to a new status of sharecroppers.
But deep connection to land and spirit were always a part of our family story -- just like it is a part of the story of almost every black family in America. It's this legacy of good stewardship of the planet that drove me to help start Green The Church. In partnership with Green For All, the Green The Church initiative taps into the power of the Black church as a force for social change, while bringing the benefits of the green economy directly to congregants.
Today, Green The Church has taken on a new urgency.
We're watching climate change unfold before our eyes -- bringing severe droughts, erratic weather, superstorms and disasters. And while climate change threatens people everywhere, communities of color are on the front lines.
Consider this: African Americans living in Los Angeles are nearly twice as likely to die in a heat wave, thanks to lack of access to air conditioning, shade and cars. And when disasters strike, it's people with the fewest resources who have a harder time preparing, escaping and recovering. Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy drove that point home.
Black communities aren't just hit first and worst by climate change; we also stand to gain enormously from solutions to global warming.
The Green The Church initiative aims to bring the benefits of sustainability directly to our communities. We've joined forces with the U.S. Green Building Council to help our buildings save energy and generate clean power.
Green The Church partners like Reverend Otis Moss of Trinity United in Chicago are already leading on this issue. Reverend Moss' church is powered by the sun -- and even produces enough solar energy to power the home of an elderly neighbor. Meanwhile, the congregation is helping keep pollution from dirty-coal plants out of the air and doing its part to combat climate change.
It's not just about helping churches save energy (and money). Green The Church taps into the unmatched power of the African-American church as a moral leader and a force for social change -- one with the potential to bring millions of new people into the climate movement. Polls show that African Americans consistently demonstrate the highest level of commitment to climate solutions. We need to harness that commitment -- and engaging the church is one of the best ways we can do it.
That's why Green For All is working to bring 1,000 black churches into Green The Church this year. Black churches -- and the millions of voters they represent -- could make the difference in whether we win or lose on climate.
Black churches are going green. It's exciting, but it shouldn't be surprising. Caring for the land and our neighbors is part of a legacy and responsibility that African-American families have upheld for decades -- in Holly, Louisiana, and in towns just like it all over America.
For more information about Green The Church--and to find out how to sign your church up, visit here.
Rev. Dr. Ambrose F. Carroll is co-founder of Green The Church and works with Green For All, a national organization working to build an inclusive green economy. Reverend Carroll currently serves as Senior Pastor at the Church by The Side of The Road in Berkeley, California.
Oakland – Some of the most influential African American church leaders in the country are joining forces with the U.S. Green Building Council and Green For All to launch Green The Church, an effort to reach 1,000 black churches and address the disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution on communities of color.
Watch the Video ~A Green For All Initiative ~ ‘Every now and again an idea comes along that is too powerful to ignore…’
At a telephone press conference on Thursday, March 12, pastors from across the country joined Green For All Founder Van Jones and U.S. Green Building Council Senior Vice President of Community Advancement Kimberly Lewis to talk about why climate change and sustainability are a priority for African American congregations.
Speakers include Reverend Otis Moss, senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, the Chicago church attended by President Obama; Reverend Amos Brown, who sits on the boards of both the NAACP and the National Council of Churches; Ambrose Carroll, who founded Green The Church; and Bishop J.W. Macklin, who is Second Assistant Presiding Bishop at the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country. Together, these leaders represent millions of black congregants and voters.
This is the first time nationally recognized African American church leaders have come together across denominations to talk about the threat that climate change poses to their communities.
The Green The Church initiative aims to bring the benefits of sustainability directly to black communities by partnering with the U.S. Green Building Council on clean energy and energy savings. It will also tap into the power of the African American church as a moral leader and a force for social change—one with the potential to bring millions of new people into the climate movement.
The initiative demonstrates what polls already show: that people of color are concerned about climate change and ready to act. It also comes at a time when polluters are increasingly trying to turn minority leaders against clean energy.
“When it comes to climate change and pollution, people of color are hit first and worst. Our communities also stand to gain enormously from investments in solutions like clean energy. The Black church is a formidable force. It could help determine whether we win or lose on climate,” -Reverend Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church Founder.
African American church leaders have partnered with the nonprofit Green For All and the US Green Building Council to combat climate change. The “Green the Church” campaign seeks to include 1,000 churches, representing congregants that total in the millions.
“The black church has always joined hands with other faith traditions and stood on the front lines as they did in Selma, Alabama, fifty years ago this week. Likewise this must be true in the fight against climate change,” said Green the Church founder Ambrose Carroll.
The clip above outlines the direct ways in which climate change affects the Black community, from the health issues that arise from environmental degradation to the food issues that develop on a broader scale.
Not only that, but the churches are looking to save money by using sustainable energy and support the green economy. Moreover, they’re hoping that this way of thinking will trickle down to parishioners, who would certainly welcome the chance to lower energy bills and other climate-related expenses.
Even before this press release landed in our inbox, the Green the Church Summit took place, bringing together church leaders to talk about this issue in Oakland, CA.
Black churches are a key way to reach African-American audiences with messages of all kind. They also serve critical roles in organizing African Americans behind a cause, event or other manner of campaign. Tapping into this trusted resource is a brilliant way to communicate with the Black community.
Moreover, a quick search of “climate change” will find that lots of groups — religious denominations, various industries, even FEMA — are now urging concern over climate change because of the unique ways that it will impact people based on where they live, where they work, or what they do in day-to-day life. This is one strategy that environmental activists are using to target important demographics to spread their message of urgency.
Who wants to praise the Lord while suffocating in greenhouse gases and other pollutants? Not I — and certainly not the nation’s top church leaders. A thousand Black churches across the U.S. are teaming up with the U.S. Green Building Council and Green for All to combat climate change.
They call it the “Green the Church” movement.
When the Black church has got your back, you’re going places. “No major movement in this nation has been successful without power and leadership of black church,” said Ambrose Carroll, founder of Green The Church. And he’s right. From the civil war to the anti-lynching campaigns and the civil rights movement,success would have been elusive without Black church leadership.
“The black church has always joined hands with other faith traditions and stood on the front lines as they did in Selma, Alabama,,” Caroll added. “Likewise this must be true in the fight against climate change.”
The alliance will work on energy efficiency projects, urban farming initiatives and renewable energy. A lot of progress, Caroll said, can be made at the churches themselves. “We as a people may not own a lot of real estate in this nation, but we do own church buildings. All those buildings can be retrofitted for more efficiency energy use,” Carroll added.
Black churches and “go green” enthusiasts might seem like an unlikely pairing, but they do share one goal: Creating an inclusive, prosperous, stable society for everyone.
Bishop J.W. Macklin of Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ gives us insight as to why he’s joining the Green the Church movement:
“The question that must be asked is ‘who is our neighbor?’ We have to identify our neighbor as the one who shouts for us, who needs us. Right now communities affected most are those who are being hit by climate change. They’re calling for our help.”
Some congregants are already benefiting from the fight against climate change. Reverend Otis Moss of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ noted that he was able to provide free solar power to an elderly member of the church.
“We were saved by the Son and now we’re powered by the sun,” Moss said.
The nation’s leading African American pastors are coming together with the U.S. Green Building Council to commit to tackling climate change and pollution as part of Green For All’s new campaign, Green The Church.
African American churches are coming together to tackle climate change and pollution. Green For All's new initiative, Green The Church, aims to reach 1,000 black churches.
It’s time for an ecology theology.
That’s the message of several influential African American church leaders who’ve joined environmental and civil rights activist Van Jones to preach the “green” gospel. Believing that fighting for climate change and protecting the environment is simply a part of good, Christian stewardship over the earth, these men and women of the cloth are looking to reach more than a thousand black churches through their “Green the Church” campaign.
During a press call on Wednesday, they discussed how African Americans are often left out on the discussion of the environment, yet Blacks are deeply affected – both in health and wealth – when it comes to our environment.
“We need equal protection from the worst of the pollution-based economy,” Jones said.
Jones, one of the founders of nonprofit Green For All and the former White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said blacks are “hit first and worst by everything” when it comes to the effects of climate change and pollution – from devastating super storms like Hurricane Katrina to being more susceptible of dying from heat stroke in smog-filled cities like Los Angeles. He also said 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles downwind of a coal plant.
“That might be why 1-in-6 African American kids have asthma,” he said.
But it’s not just pollution that’s Jones and the pastors from “Green the Church” want to address. They also want more access to “green” jobs for African Americans, citing that green jobs in the energy sector – even those that don’t require a college education – pay 13 percent better than what’s typically available.
“A green economy can get us more work, better wealth and better health,” Jones said.
The ministers involved with Green the Church come from across denominations. Their goal, according to a release put out by the group, is to “bring the benefits of sustainability directly to Black communities by partnering with the U.S. Green Building Council on clean energy and energy savings.” Organizers want to “tap” into the prophetic power of the African American church and its historical role as being a “moral leader” and “a force for social change.”
“No major movement in this nation has been successful without the power and the leadership of the Black church,” said Green the Church founder Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll. “The Black church has always joined hands with other faith traditions and stood on the front lines, as they did in Selma.”
Rev. Carroll said we must do the same now with climate change.
“According to the book of Genesis we are stewards of the earth,” she said. “Today, let’s join in together and let’s green the Black Church.”
Leaders of the "Green The Church" movement launched a new effort this week to help 1,000 African-American congregations take action on climate change.
Green The Church, its organizers said, "aims to bring the benefits of sustainability directly to black communities." It includes a partnership between Green For All, the California-based environment and social justice organization, and the U.S. Green Building Council, which will work with churches on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It also seeks to "tap into the power of the African-American church as a moral leader and a force for social change," through education and outreach to millions of black church-goers across the country.
"The black church has always joined hands with other faith traditions and stood on the front lines, as they did on 'Bloody Sunday' in Selma 50 years ago," the Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, a California-based pastor who founded Green The Church, said in a call with reporters Thursday. "So they must with climate change."
Carroll said a lot of progress, such as efficiency retrofits and urban farming initiatives, can be made at the churches themselves. "We may not own a lot of real estate, but we do own church buildings," he said.
The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, the senior pastor at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, said his church has already purchased 27 acres of land on which to build a new urban farm, housing, and health, education, and wellness centers. "It will be green from the ground up," he said, adding that they want to promote the message that it's "not only, 'Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud,' but, 'Say it loud, I'm green and I'm proud.'"
Green For All said it found in recent polling that three-quarters of minority voters expressed an interest in climate change and wanted to know more about it. Sixty-eight percent said they thought climate change threatens their communities.
"We get hit first and worst by everything negative in the pollution-based economy," said Van Jones, the founder of Green For All and a current CNN contributor. Green The Church will advocate for "equal protection from the worst, and access to the best."
The group released this video to promote the effort:
Some of the most influential African American church leaders in the country are joining forces with the U.S. Green Building Council and Green For All to launch Green The Church, an effort to reach 1,000 black churches and address the disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution on communities of color.
On Thursday March 12th, some of the most influential African American church leaders in the country joined forces with the U.S. Green Building Council and Green For All to launch Green The Church. You can listen to this inspiring tele-conference right here.
The press teleconference featured a number of prominent clergy leaders and Green For All partners including:
- Van Jones, Green For All Founder
- Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church co-Founder
- Kimberly Lewis, Senior VP of Community Advancement, U.S. Green Building Council
- Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ
- Bishop J.W. Macklin, Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ, Hayward, CA
- Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, Pastor at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco
(The first meeting of San Francisco clergy for Green The Church.)
Listen to the recording below.
By Adrianna Quintero, Director of Constituency Engagement, NRDC
Black History Month calls for a celebration of the visionary environmental leadership of black individuals and communities, as well as an examination of the many environmental injustices faced by people of color in our country. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the extreme weather events of last year and early 2015 do not visit economic, psychological and health-related damage upon all Americans equally. We have seen for decades how racism, poverty and other forms of marginalization negatively impact our experience of environmental issues such as pollution and extreme weather.
When a superstorm like Hurricane Sandy hits, it does its worst damage to families who lack access to health insurance, rent homes, are un- or under-insured, and generally already overburdened. From winter storms that bring higher heating costs and disrupted services, to summer heat waves that are felt more harshly in urban centers where, research shows, 52% of black Americans are more likely than whites to live in "urban heat islands" (dense neighborhoods without access to cooling green space), and can be twice as likely to die during a heat wave.
Given this reality, the current discourse around climate resilience--helping communities "bounce back" from environmental disasters--must be bold and equitable. As Green for All's 2014 Climate Resilience in Vulnerable Communitiesreport explained so eloquently, "vulnerable Americans need bolder, more integrated strategies to help them 'leap forward' and find a way to gain ground--not just go back to the margins." Climate adaptation measures must be conceived as opportunities to build communities and breathe life into neighborhoods through economic diversification, political empowerment, expanded green space, and better access to healthcare and other resources.
Across the country, visionary black leaders (too many to name here) are promoting innovative solutions that foster environmental and communal well-being simultaneously. From legendary leaders like Dr. Robert Bullard, the "father of environmental justice", who has spent a lifetime working to bring both academic and public awareness to environmental injustice across the country, from toxic dumping to transportation routing to economic planning; to innovators like Will Allen, the son of a sharecropper and a former NBA player, who has taken community farming to a new level. NRDC recognized Will's achievements in 2009 for his work as founder of Growing Power in 1993 to "inspire communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound," thereby improving food security while greening the environment and providing paths to employment. These individuals are among scores of others we must celebrate and look to, not only during Black History Month, but every day of the year: thought leaders who understand that our community deserves better and that fighting pollution can improve health, opportunity and equity in our country.
A clean and healthy environment is not a luxury but a right and our moral obligation to fulfill for our children. Children of all colors need a safe and healthy world in which to "live, work and play." According to polling by the Yale Project on Climate Communication, 89 percent of African-American voters somewhat or strongly support regulating carbon pollution, the primary driver of climate change. This staggering level of awareness reflects the experience of black communities, who saw the rates of childhood asthma increase 50% between 2001 and 2009. It also points to an opportunity to bring black leadership to bear on this critical issue, as policy makers seek bold yet nuanced approaches to greening neighborhoods while resisting gentrification. Thanks to President Obama's Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency is ramping up efforts to fight carbon pollution and the public health risks that come with it.
We in the climate movement must draw inspiration and direction from the history and trails blazed by the leaders who came before us. We must draw from the power and insight from the growing calls for justice and equity like the powerful Black Lives Matter movement to shape just policy across all domains and build our environmental strategies to allow each and every life to flourish. As we reflect on the gains and the daunting challenges faced by the environmental justice community, I am inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way."
Listen to Van's message of encouragement this MLK Day as we continue our fight to create a green economy Dr. King would be proud of!