People + the planet: Cleveland’s push for environmental justice

We love to learn about how urban centers become healthier, more environmentally responsible, and more energy independent. In the heart of the Rust Belt, Cleveland, shows us how a city can meet climate challenges while supporting equity and inclusion

cleveland-69006_640Cleveland, Ohio has two distinct groups of challenges with one surprising solution. One set of challenges includes the city’s struggle with climate change and pollution, which contribute to infrastructure decay and public health risks. Meanwhile, the city struggles with economic inequality that’s particularly acute among minority communities. In a city that where minorities constitute the majority, 1 in 3 Clevelanders (and 1 in 2 of the city’s children) live below the poverty line. Activists, organizers, and entire neighborhoods have found that pursuing environmental justice is a powerful way to create healthier, greener, and more equitable and cohesive communities.

How did Cleveland boost environmental justice? Top 5 Takeaways

  • Supporting grassroots solutions allows each community to tackle its unique needs with its unique resources. The Cleveland Climate Action Fund, for instance, offers grants to smaller scale projects such as urban homesteads, community gardens, and public bike repair stations. By 2017, the Fund plans to have projects in every one of Cleveland’s 33 neighborhoods.
  • Installing solar power might not seem like an obvious choice in light of Ohio’s freeze on energy standards and Northeast Ohio’s cloudy climate, but businesses, households, and nonprofits understand the many advantages of solar. According to Green Energy Ohio, Northeast Ohio is home to 30 major solar installations.
  • Focusing on local food production shrinks food deserts and reduces carbon footprints. So far, over 300 community gardens have sprung up across Cleveland, and projects such as the Kinsman Farm integrate education and opportunity for local food producers.
  • Making neighborhoods greener not only beautifies, but canopy cover also makes homes more comfortable in the summer and less reliant on fans and air conditioning.
  • Preparing for winter means a lot in the Great Lakes region! Weatherizing homes in low-income communities can make a huge difference in a family’s comfort– and budget.

Congratulations to everyone who works to make his or her community a little bit greener.

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