Written by: Maritza Martinez, Fellowship Program Manager
Village de l’Est is a community that suffers from environmental racism. The predominantly Vietnamese neighborhood in New Orleans has been a targeted site for landfills, as well as numerous auto junkyards and dumpsites. The neighborhood’s residents have been fighting this kind of dumping since the early 1900s, when flood zones and wetlands were frequently polluted by these practices.
Now residents are working to solve the problem through an innovative composting project that could divert 30 percent of the waste currently going into landfills.
Green For All Fellow Daniel Nguyen and Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation are working to counter environmental injustice in New Orleans East by developing systems for community sustainability and resilience. After the BP oil spill displaced fishing industry workers, Daniel worked with community members to put their skills in farming and fishing to use in a different way. Together they developed the VEGGI Farmer Cooperative, an aquaponics enterprise that supplies vegetables, fish and tofu to farmers markets and restaurants in New Orleans, including Emeril's New Orleans, Domenica Restaurant, Maurepas Foods, and Midway Pizza.
With the success of the aquaponics business, the member-owners knew it was time to expand. Given the community’s history as a dumping ground for waste, reducing waste through composting seemed like an important step to tackle next. This year, Green For All invested in Daniel and VEGGI through our Fellows Fund, a micro-grant program, in order to launch a composting project.
The project will engage partner restaurants and local households to ensure that organic waste is diverted from area landfills and is instead reused as fertilizer for the produce grown by cooperative members. The composting project, like the aquaponics cooperative, is a way to create healthy, long-term green jobs for community members and increase entrepreneurship and business ownership in Village de l’Est. In addition, the project will serve as a demonstration of the viability of citywide waste management alternatives. By testing several types of composting systems, including black soldier fly, conventional and vermiculture composting, the data from this project will be vital if the city is to follow suit.
You too can invest in the development of resilient communities in New Orleans by sponsoring a VEGGI farmer to rebuild and expand their aquaponics system after Hurricane Isaac! Click here to learn how: http://www.facebook.com/VeggiFarmersCooperative
Invest in more local leaders like Daniel by donating to the Fellows Fund.