With property values at record lows and vacant abandoned infrastructure all around, Detroit has started to capture the imagination of a generation of young adults flocking to the Motor City with the intent of building a new vision of the city in the 21st century. Among those are participants in the Green Economy Leadership Training  (GELT) program.

For those unfamiliar with GELT, watch this video from 2010. This chick rocks!!!

Now here we are in 2012. 100 years ago Detroit was on the cutting edge of the industrial revolution, and was one of the most important cities in the world.  Flash forward to 2011, Detroit is once again one of the most important cities in the world as a microcosm of a broken economy that is quickly leaving behind the working class and a growing disparity between rich and poor.

In newspapers and on TV, Detroit is depicted as the most dangerous city in America, backed by recent reports showing the highest murder rates in the country.  Journalists have come from all over the world to document the decay, creating a new class of journalism labeled, “ruin porn.”

But underneath the stories the media portrays and the pictures many journalists project, a new generation of Detroit is rising. Artists, activists, organizers and entrepreneurs from all walks of life are descending on the city to take advantage of the wide open spaces, massive abandoned factories and warehouses and projecting a new vision for the 21st century American city.

The Green Economy Leadership Training program is on the forefront of this movement.  The 2011 GELT program wrapped up last August, completing its second year of transformative action in Highland Park, Michigan, in the shadows of Henry Ford’s iconic Model T plant, the first automobile industrial assembly plant.

Over 25 people participated in the 2011 GELT, ranging from grandmothers born and raised in Detroit, to high school students from local schools, to college students and recent grads from all over the country.

Participants went through over 250 hours of trainings in urban agriculture, solar energy, energy efficiency, entrepreneurship and community wealth building.  In addition to the trainings, participants spent most of their time this summer working in one of four project areas: solar energy, urban agriculture, waste manufacturing and deconstruction.

Participants in these projects took the lead on installing solar panels, building a 4-season greenhouse, remodeling an abandoned house and building a playground out of recycled tires for the neighborhood kids.  Participants also received certifications in permaculture and the “NAPCEP” entry level solar photovoltaic.

So what’s next? GELT 2012, of course, and YOU are invited to apply!
We encourage you, or anyone you know, to apply for the third Green Economy Leadership Training from June 11-August 18, 2012.

Want to participate in community-led projects focused on developing local green economy resources? Interested in learning to organize social entrepreneurship ventures? Between the ages of 18 and 99? Want to spend the summer in Highland Park, MI and meet like-minded people from across the country working for social justice while working with the local community? Then apply to GELT today!

To apply for GELT 2012, click here. Application deadline: April 10th

If you cannot attend, you can still support the GELT project and sponsor a GELT summer fellow. Consider making a special gift today.

Watch the GELT video “We Will Carry the Fire”:

The GELT house in Highland Park, Michigan

It’s important to venture outside of our comfort zones once in a while to see what the world has to offer away from home. I was grateful for this chance when I traveled far from Global Exchange headquarters in sunny San Francisco to chilly Highland Park, Michigan last month.

My trip was centered on an Open House party that the Global Exchange midwest region Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) program staff held in Highland Park to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments over the last two years.

GELT is an initiative of Global Exchange that educates, engages and empowers both youth and adults to be active agents of change in building the necessary clean energy, green economy future. The program trains youth and community members in practical skills that will empower them to improve their communities, such as environmental justice, energy conservation, renewable energy, green building technology, water conservation, waste diversion (recycling and composting), urban agriculture and food security and urban forestry.

GELT living room

I attended the GELT party not only as a representative from Global Exchange headquarters but also as a curious observer eager to see for myself what I had only learned about in blogs and news pieces.

I won’t go into great detail about the deep and complex history of Detroit and Highland Park (you can read more about the city’s rise and fall over the last several decades here). Instead I’ll share some of what’s happening in Highland Park now and the vision folks I met in Detroit have for their tomorrow.

Driving into the small city of Highland Park at night (which is literally a city within a city entirely surrounded by Detroit), I passed by the massive vacant former Ford factory and countless abandoned homes – many of them burned and crumbling. It was particularly dark it was on the side streets. I learned later that the city of Highland Park recently removed the majority of city streetlamps to cut electricity costs. This is one of many examples of the lingering effects of a diminishing economy and a case in point for building up the green economy which Global Exchange is working towards in the area.

GELT headquarters and house in Highland Park

My trip began with a tour of GELT headquarters in Highland Park – a formerly dilapidated mansion built in the early 1900s, which now serves as place for green learning and home to several of the staff of the Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) program (http://www.globalexchange.org/programs/greeneconomy). The staff worked day and night for weeks to renovate the massive house – now divided into four separate apartment units – in advance of the Open House. The space was glorious and proof that any of the countless old deserted buildings in the area could be turned into a haven for sustainable living and community.

Inside the GELT greenhouse

A few green features of the GELT home:

  • A grey water system installed in one of the bathrooms, which uses recycled water from the sink to power the toilet;
  • The team weatherized windows and doors to keep the heat inside during the cold months;
  • A mammoth greenhouse constructed behind the house this past summer and now has food growing in it year-round. It’s also used as a classroom twice a week for a group of 6th graders from an elementary school across the street who seem hungry to learn about the environment in a fun and educational way. I was lucky enough to witness a Northpointe Academy school assembly during my visit, where animated 6th grade students shared some of their GELT experiences with their entire school of fellow students.

With these green projects under their belt, GELT staffers have countless other big and small plans for the house to become an example of sustainable living and intentional community in Highland Park.

6th grade class at Northpointe Elementary presenting their work with GELT to the rest of the school at an assembly

The highlight of my trip was witnessing the energy and power in the room during the Open House party. Dozens of people gathered together at the GELT headquarters before shifting to the school auditorium to hear presentations by community leaders and staff members about the program successes.

Attendees included Highland Park residents and neighbors, representatives from community organizations, pastors, teachers, elementary school and college students who participated in GELT 9-week summer trainings, and passionate parents and kids. Even the Highland Park Mayor Elect’s mom was there! The excitement about this movement was palpable.

Pastor Bullock addressing the GELT community

We were all inspired by the opening words of Pastor David Bullock – a famous Highland Park leader and partner of the GELT program – who equated the efforts of GELT to bringing Highland Park out of the ashes. Pastor Bullock along with a passionate teacher, a committed 6th grader, and Brandon Knight and Scott Meloeny (the visionaries behind the program) shared stories of the program’s successes over the past two years, and their dreams and plans for the program in the future.

Thanks to all of the Global Exchange and GELT staff in Michigan who made this incredible event – and this valuable program – possible. I left Michigan looking at the world in a new and improved light.




Written by Cory Connolly, aka, “the Finisher”

Why is it that the green economy, in many ways, remains intangible? Why must those who are passionate about people and the environment choose between doing what they want and between living comfortably? What does a green economy look like in the country’s most devastated communities?


The following originally appeared on Alternet.

Our environmental laws and regulations, rather than put in place protections for the environment, instead seem to be written to exploit it. Here’s what can we do about it.

The following is excerpted from the recently released book, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, produced by the Council of Canadians, Global Exchange and Fundacion Pachamama. This book reveals the path of a movement driving transformation of our human relationship with nature away from domination and towards balance. This book gathers the wisdom of indigenous cultures, scientists, activists small farmers, spiritual leaders and US communities who seek a different path for protecting nature by establishing Nature’s Rights in law and culture. In addition to this excerpt, the book includes essays from Vandana Shiva, Desmond Tutu, Thomas Goldtooth, Eduardo Galeano, Maude Barlow and many others.

Two ways to order your copy of the book:

1) Contact Kylie Nealis – kylie@globalexchange.org. The book price is $15 including shipping within the US. (For international orders email Kylie Nealis for shipping price) or…

2) Donate $50 or more to the Community Rights campaign, and receive your own signed copy of the book.

Excerpts from Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth:

It takes thousands of years for individual drops of rain to maneuver through silent passages and gently accumulate into underground aquifers. Purified and enriched over the millennia by mineral deposits deep in the earth, groundwater is the sacred lifeblood of local watersheds upon which all life — including human communities — depend. Yet it takes no time at all to destroy this delicate balance. In fact, all it takes is a simple piece of paper.

Steeped in colonial history, Nottingham, New Hampshire, could be a picture postcard of quaint village life in New England. Yet in 2001, this tiny rural village of 4,000 residents became the poster child for too familiar “site-fights” between small towns seeking to protect local water and large multinational corporations seeking to extract it. It was then that the USA Springs Corporation applied to the state for a permit to extract more than 400,000 gallons of water a day from Nottingham’s local aquifer to bottle and sell overseas.

Corporate water withdrawals — siphoning off hundreds of thousands of gallons a day from local aquifers — impact both surface and groundwater resources. They deplete drinking water and can contaminate aquifers and wells. In addition, withdrawals dry up streams, wetlands, and rivers, as well as reduce lake levels, damaging habitat and harming wildlife.

For seven years the community of Nottingham came together to stop their water from being mined. Upon discovering that our own laws forbid communities from saying “no” to the wide array of dirty, destructive and unwanted practices allowed by law, they attempted to protect their local groundwater using all the tools available under the law. They did everything “right” by traditional, conventional environmental activism. They lobbied their state legislature, petitioned their government, testified at hearings, protested, rallied, educated and organized their neighbors and filed lawsuits. But as is so often the case, it just wasn’t enough.

When the people of Nottingham beseeched their state environmental agency, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, to take effective action and protect the aquifer, their requests went unmet. Instead of helping them protect their water, the agency was in fact responsible for issuing permits to the corporation to take it.

Is the system broken or working perfectly?

The experience of Nottingham is shared by thousands of communities across the United States and around the world that discover that their government officials and agencies — ostensibly in place to protect them — are, in practice, serving other interests.

The question that the people of Nottingham were forced to ask is, “why?” Why are corporations allowed to override community concerns and put destructive projects in our midst? Why do our environmental laws and regulations, rather than put in place protections for the environment, instead seem to be written to exploit it? And why is our government helping a corporation to extract water from a community and sell it for profit, when the impacts from such projects are so significant?

These are the questions that people and communities find themselves asking when they face the threat of water extraction, mining, drilling, or a range of other activities. Based on the assumption that environmental legislation was in earnest set up to protect Nature, much of our environmental activism has logically been spent trying to “fix” what appears broken; seeking to improve the types of laws and regulations that Nottingham ran into.

But what if the system was never designed to put Nature first?

Under New Hampshire’s Groundwater Protection Act — initially lauded as an important legislative tool, corporations are awarded permits by the state to siphon off water from local aquifers. Thus, despite the Act’s title, the law in fact authorizes the exploitation of water within the State of New Hampshire. It is much like the federal Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, which govern how much pollution of our air and water can occur.

This is not a mistake or somehow unique, and it is not about corruption within a generally functioning system. Rather, the major environmental laws in the United States, which have now been exported and adopted around the world, are laws not borne of protection, but of exploitation.

Although it’s rarely said out loud, it is often the industry to be regulated that creates the laws we ask our legislators to enforce. And when it becomes too expensive to comply with the regulations, corporations are often exempted from them, or the regulations are simply rewritten. By design our environmental laws place commerce above nature, and in so doing they legalize certain amounts of harm to ecosystems. And by design regulatory agencies administering these laws are in place to operationalize that exploitation.

This isn’t to say we haven’t protected anything while toiling within this system of law. Whatever limits to damage have been achieved have come from dedicated vigilance by the hands of caring and concerned people. But taking a step back to look at the big picture, we must also recognize what has been lost.

By almost every measure, the environment today is in worse shape than when the major U.S. environmental laws were adopted nearly 40 years ago and replicated worldwide. Global species decline is increasing exponentially, global warming is far more accelerated than previously believed, deforestation continues unabated around the world, and overfishing in the world’s oceans are pushing many fisheries to collapse. With so much at stake, the question is — why haven’t we been successful at ending this destruction?

It certainly is not from lack of effort by communities or activists. Rather, the system of law within which their efforts are taking place is based on entirely the wrong premise — that Nature is property.

The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and similar state laws legalize environmental harms by regulating how much pollution or destruction of Nature can occur. Rather than preventing pollution and environmental destruction, these laws instead codify it. How else could we justify the damming of rivers, the blowing off of mountaintops for coal or fishing to extinction?

We codify our values in law, and thus for time immemorial we have treated nature in law, as well as in culture, as a “thing” — as amoral, without emotion or intelligence, without any connection to or having anything in common with us. In this way we justify and rationalize our exploitation, our destruction, our decimation. It is the long history of humankind’s relationship with Nature as a possession, rather than as a system governing our own well-being.

So when the people of Nottingham asked state agencies for help that was not forthcoming, the lack of assistance was not sheer unwillingness; rather the state agency was simply carrying out the law of the land in assisting the corporation to take their water.

The nature of property: Is Nature a slave?

In the United States, title to property carries with it the legal authority to destroy the natural communities (which include human communities and ecosystems) that depend on that property for survival. In fact, our environmental laws were passed under the authority of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which grants exclusive authority over “interstate commerce” to Congress. The migration of birds, rivers flowing to the sea, or almost any natural process you can name is, or can be classified as interstate commerce. Treating Nature as commerce has meant that all existing U.S. environmental law frameworks are anchored in the concept of Nature as property.

But history shows that with enough will, unjust laws that deny rights can change. Slaves and women were once considered property, but through massive shifts in law and culture they moved from being “right-less” to being rights-bearing.

During slavery in the United States, the economies of both the North and South were based on slavery. Slaves provided the labor force upon which the new country depended. Slaves were the property of the slave master and a series of “slave codes” were put in place to regulate the treatment of slaves. Slave codes in South Carolina required the whipping of a slave who left his master’s plantation without permission. In Louisiana, any slave who hit his master was to be punished by death. In Alabama, teaching a slave to read was illegal and violators were required to pay a fine.

Many advocates of slavery argued that the slave codes would somehow lead to a gradual end of the slave system; that slaves themselves did not “need” legal rights in order to be sufficiently protected. It is easy from today’s vantage point to see that this regulatory framework did not and could never protect the slaves or end slavery. To the contrary, it codified, enforced and upheld the system of property and the continued enslavement of human beings. Today in the United States and in much of the world, Nature is treated in the same way, and laws and regulations have been put in place to regulate ecosystems as property.

What does it mean to recognize the Rights of Nature?

If we believe that rights are inherent, then Nature’s rights already exist, and any law that denies those fundamental rights is illegitimate.

Under existing environmental laws, a person needs to prove “standing” in order to go to court to protect Nature. This means demonstrating personal harm from logging, the pollution of a river, or the extraction of water. Damages are then awarded to that person, not to the ecosystem that’s been destroyed. Women were once considered the property of their husbands or fathers, and as such had no legal standing. Prior to the 19th Amendment, if a married woman was raped, it was considered a property crime and damages were awarded to her husband. In the wake of the BP oil spill, the only damage deemed compensable by the legal system is the financial damage caused to those who can’t use the Gulf ecosystem anymore.

Communities in the United States are turning their backs on a system that cannot provide true environmental protection. They are beginning to craft and adopt new laws that recognize that natural communities and ecosystems possess an inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish. Residents of those natural communities, as stewards of the place where they live, possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of those ecosystems. In addition, these laws require local governments to remedy violations of those ecosystem rights.

Under a rights-based system of law, a river has the right to flow, fish and other species in a river have the right to regenerate and evolve, and the flora and fauna that depend on a river have the right to thrive. It is the natural ecological balance of that habitat that is protected. Just as the lion hunts the antelope as part of the natural cycle of life, recognizing Rights of Nature does not put an end to fishing or other human activities. Rather, it places them in the context of a healthy relationship where our actions do not threaten the balance of the system upon which we depend.

In essence, these laws represent fundamental changes to the status of property in the United States. While not eliminating property ownership, they do eliminate the authority of a property owner to destroy entire ecosystems that exist and depend on that property. These laws do not stop development; rather they stop the kind of development that interferes with the existence and vitality of those ecosystems.

This represents a true paradigm shift, one that recognizes that we can no longer tinker at the margins of a legal system that places property at the apex of civilization. It makes no apologies for recognizing that a linear system of development cannot be sustained on a finite planet and that we enslave Nature to our own demise.

Building a movement for the Rights of Nature

Environmental and community rights attorney Thomas Linzey has been known to say that, “There has never existed a true environmental movement in this country” because movements drive rights into fundamental structures of law, which environmentalists have never sought to do. It’s a provocative statement sure to raise the ire of many an advocate for Nature.

On September 19, 2006, the Tamaqua Borough Council in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, became the first municipal government in the United States to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature. Working with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, they drafted and adopted a local ordinance recognizing that natural communities and ecosystems have a legal right to exist and flourish, that individuals within the community have the authority to defend and enforce the rights of those natural communities and ecosystems, and that the Borough government has a legal duty to enforce the ordinance.

Over a dozen more communities in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, and Virginia have now adopted ordinances recognizing legally enforceable Rights of Nature. Communities in California, New Mexico and elsewhere are in the process of adopting similar laws. The people of Nottingham adopted an ordinance in 2008 that recognizes the inalienable Rights of Nature and bans corporate water extraction.

That same year Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature in its constitution; after generations of watching its fragile ecosystems destroyed by corporate mining, drilling and other practices. The new constitution was approved by an overwhelming margin through a national referendum on September 28, 2008. With that vote, Ecuador became the first country in the world to codify a new system of environmental protection based on rights, leading the way for countries around the world to make this necessary and fundamental change in how we protect Nature. The constitution reads, “Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain itself and regenerate its own vital cycles, structure, functions and its evolutionary processes.”

In 2009, international leaders that gathered in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference predictably failed to reach an agreement to save humanity from its own destruction. In response, the World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth convened in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Some 32,000 people from around the world attended and, led by indigenous communities of Latin America, proposed the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

This work is now expanding as people and communities and governments conclude that we have pushed the Earth’s ecosystems to the brink and that our existing frameworks of environmental laws are not only inadequate to reverse this destruction, but were never intended to do so.

In September 2010, an international gathering was held in Tamate, Ecuador, to develop a strategy for building an international movement on Rights of Nature. The gathering brought together individuals and organizations from South Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and the United States. The outcome of the meetings was the formation of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Key areas of work will be education and outreach, as well as assisting local, state, and national governments around the world to put Rights of Nature laws in place and to build and support a global movement for the Rights of Nature.

A new cultural context for Nature supported by law

How different would our world look if the Amazon could sue oil companies for damages, or if those responsible for the oil spill could be forced to make the Gulf of Mexico “whole”? What if communities could be empowered to act as stewards for their local environments and say “no” to massive groundwater extraction?

As a species we have come to value “endless amounts of more” to our own detriment, and we have codified that value into law. Of course it is up to us to begin the process of deprogramming our society and dispelling our arrogant belief that the Earth “belongs” to humans. Like all successful movements for rights, the cultural change necessary needs only be enough to change the law ¬- the law itself forces the larger cultural change that must take place. However, both are needed in order to truly recognize rights for the right-less.

In 1973, Professor Christopher Stone penned his famous law review article, “Should Trees Have Standing?”. He wrote, “The fact is, that each time there is a movement to confer rights onto some new ‘entity’ the proposal is bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable. This is partly because until the right-less thing receives its rights, we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of ‘us’ — us being, of course, those of us who hold rights.”

This is the challenge that every rights-based movement comes up against — not only an illegitimate structure of law that defines a living being as property, but also the culture which is built upon this concept.

The Abolitionists faced this — with slavery not only providing the labor force in the South, but being the driving engine of the economy of the North. Abolishing slavery meant abolishing a way of life. Most said it could not and must never be done. That is the argument we hear and face now. But it can, and we must.

Shannon Biggs directs Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program, working to place citizen and Nature’s legal rights above corporate interests. She is the author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots (PoliPoint Press, 2007), a former senior staffer at the International Forum on Globalization and a lecturer of International Relations at San Francisco State University.

Mari Margil is the Associate Director of the U.S.-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund where she conducts campaign and organizational strategy, media and public outreach and leads the organization’s fundraising efforts. She is a co-author of the recently published The Public Health or the Bottom Line (Oxford University Press, 2010).

In 2 weeks, the Global Exchange Michigan team will embark on our second Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) program.  GELT is a 9 week training program that brings together residents from the community of Detroit & Highland Park together with youth from communities throughout Michigan and the U.S. for technical trainings in the green economy and community organizing.

Since last summer’s bootstrapped project with 5 participants and no funding, our dream has grown from a start-up concept project to a full-fledged program.  Now we are anticipating the arrival of 25 young entrepreneurs from all over the country who will descend upon Detroit in 2 and half weeks to kick off the program on June 6th 

When we started out, our concept was simple: create a training program in Detroit  on renewable energy, energy efficiency and urban agriculture and directly apply the training to the community in Detroit.

We worked with our long-time ally, Pastor David Bullock, of Greater St. Matthews Church in Highland Park to find vacant property to use as our training grounds.  As a majority of Detroit’s once vibrant infrastructure is abandoned and in decay, the decision for where to start was mainly based on how we could most effectively deploy our energy and resources for a deep impact in the green economy. From there a localized training program, combined with direct application of what is taught, became the most logical move.

While most people may look at Detroit and see problems, when you look at the resources needed to build a clean economy, there really is no better place to start than Detroit.

After developing the initial concept and building foundational partnerships we then partnered with Energy Action Coalition and Grand Aspirations to recruit people to come be part of our training program.  Low and behold, 10 people showed up to participate when we launched the training.  We were ecstatic, but not everyone was able to stay with the program.  A few people took jobs for economic needs, and a few others had to move on to other opportunities.  But at the end of the summer 5 GELTers stuck it out for the entire program and over 20 people participated in some aspect of the training program.

GELTers received permaculture design certificates, weatherized over 50 homes in Highland Park, built community gardens, and mentored the neighborhood kids.  GELT was recognized as a cutting edge organizing strategy that was featured on the Huffington Post and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (watch the segment below!) We felt like we were on to something.

Coming out of last summer we knew we were ready to take the program to the next level.  In January we bought an apartment building in Highland Park within walking distance of last year’s project and started recruiting people to come to Highland Park to start working with us.  Former organizers with the D.C. Project, the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition and the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network moved into the house.  We turned one apartment into an office and we started working full time on pulling together the best green economy training program the world has ever seen.

This summer we are adding trainings on installing solar panels, building economical greenhouses for 4 season urban agriculture, social justice classes and entrepreneurship.  Students in GELT will lead projects in the community that apply the technical skills they learn toward tangible business ideas relevant to Detroit, which will start to create economic opportunities and eventually jobs.  Students will also be mentored as they start their own project or business during and after the 9 weeks and will be plugged into a long-term support system to push their ideas into reality.

As with any program that is attempting something new and to break down the barriers of traditional activism, we are relying on supporters of all walks of life to lend us a hand as we get our program off the ground this year; this is where you come in.

We are reaching out to our community and network to help us build this program.  Right now we are looking to build a full-scale kitchen to cook and feed 40 people this summer for 9 weeks.  We put together this wish list to see if you may have resources you can contribute to help us build GELT from the ground up. This list is not comprehensive, if you have items you think would be useful to our program, or would like to arrange an in-kind donation, please contact Sarah Murphy:  gelt.sarah@gmail.com or 716-562-8211


Kitchen Equipment:

  • Refrigerators
  • Ovens
  • Shelves for food storage
  • Clothes washing machine
  • Toasters, Microwaves, Blender / food processor(s)
  • Large cooking pots & pans
  • Large plastic storage containers (approx 18 gallon capacity)
  • Knives for chopping
  • Colanders, large mixing bowls, cutting boards, etc.
  • Large stirring spoons, tongs, ladles, veggie peelers, can openers
  • Plates, bowls, mugs, cups, flatware
  • First Aid Kit
  • Ice cube trays
  • Stereo
  • Very large coffee maker

Food & Consumables:

  • Toilet paper
  • Fresh produce
  • Dry food, specifically:
    • rice
    • flour, white & whole wheat
    • sugar, honey
    • dried beans, lentils
    • spices, baking powder AND soda
    • pasta, lots of pasta
    • nuts, all kinds
    • cooking oil (veggie, canola, olive)
    • coffee and teas
    • canned vegetables and beans
  • Bleach
  • Hand-dishwashing soap
  • Sponges, scrubbies, Dish towels, rags
  • Rubber gloves for kitchen food prep

Other Equipment:

  • Bed frames – bunkbeds are ideal
  • General cleaning supplies (mops, brooms, soap, bleach, sponges, etc)
  • Dressers / drawers / shelves for clothing storage
  • Tables for dining
  • Chairs
  • Soil for raised bed gardens
  • Gardening supplies

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 GELT Segment:

For the last few months, our Michigan team has been working with the local community in Detroit to transition it to a clean, green economy starting with Highland Park. The Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) integrates education and community while applying empowering solutions derived from these community classrooms. GELT seeks to train and empower generations of people to collectively build, work and live in the green economy.

Well, we’ve been keeping you updated on the GELT teams’ progress all summer and last night, CNN’s Joe Johns of Anderson Cooper 360 caught up with the project in Detroit in his segment “One simple thing: A green makeover for Detroit.

Way to go Scott, Brandon and the rest of the GELT team in Highland Park as they work together to try to turn Detroit into a model city.

To find out more about the Green Economy Leadership Training program, you can visit their page where you can read stories, see photos and even contribute to the efforts in Detroit. Also, be sure to read the stories from the GELTers themselves. Inspiring stuff. A green economy future is possible.

(This summer, our Michigan team is working with GreenNation on the Green Economy Leadership Training program. This entry was written by GELT-er Ayoola White. Cross-posted on Solutionaries.net)

Over the course of our time in Highland Park, we GELT-ers have had a variety of learning experiences: permaculture lessons, visits to nearby farms, a lecture about the danger of nuclear power, and tutorials on home weatherizations. In addition to those classes, we’ve been taking a seminar entitled “the Freedom Movement”. In this seminar, we have discussed the history of slavery, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Poor People’s campaign.

To the untrained eye, this seminar would stick out like a sore thumb when compared with everything else. After all, our overarching goal is to create a model green economy in Highland Park. What do the civil rights battles of the past have to do with the environmental struggles of today?

In actuality, social and environmental concerns have salient intersections. After all, the most disadvantaged people in the world—women, people of color, citizens of the Global South, and disabled people—will be affected first and most severely by climate change, pollution, rising ocean levels, and the like. These groups have struggled and continue to endeavor to gain political efficacy, just as blacks, women, Chicanos, and indigenous peoples did in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the United States. Attempts to solve environmental problems must take into account human communities in order to succeed. Sadly, not everyone realizes this necessity. As one workshop facilitator at the United States Social Forum noted, news regarding environmentalism covers two topics almost exclusively: politics and polar bears. People? Not so much. How can the human population as a whole deal with environmental crises if a substantial portion is so encumbered by pernicious, institutionalized forms of negligence and discrimination? The lessons from the Freedom Movement offer tools to ameliorate the situation.

In our Freedom Movement class, we’ve sharpened the valuable skill of defending our ideas. One exercise we’ve practiced is to create a short thesis—25 words or fewer. Then, we must defend that thesis for ten minutes against probing and difficult questions from our peers. With this exercise, we have to keep cool and think on our feet, much like the countless civil rights activists who made arguments for equality to people who vehemently—and sometimes violently—resisted the encroachment on their unearned privileges. Certainly, the stakes aren’t the same, but I personally appreciated this opportunity, since persuading irreconcilables to recognize the reality and urgency of climate crisis is such a burdensome yet necessary task.

Nonviolence is another key concept we’ve explored. Although environmental activism is not typically considered to be as aggressive as other forms of activism (hey, we’re treehuggers, not tree mercenaries, right?) it is vital to remember that, as Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, “Hate multiplies
 hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” We, as environmentalists, must be proactive, not reactive. Moreover, we must make connections to other movements, not simply notice parallels between them.

(This is the final in a series of posts from our Green Alternatives Department that is currently conducting its first China-U.S. Exchange Program. These posts are written by Green Alternatives Department Intern, Antonia Malhi.)

Overlooking the Russian River at the Highland Dell Inn. photo: June Brashares

This past weekend was the final part of our US China Exchange program.  We had planned to spend Saturday around the North Bay wine country, even though are members do not drink they enjoyed the scenic views the area has to offer.  They enjoyed a picturesque dinner and sunset from the deck of the Highland Dell Restaurant on the Russian River.

Sunday morning was an early start and the beginning of the long drive from Sonoma County to Yosemite Park.  Along the drive, we mentioned important environmentally related areas along the way. As we drove through Richmond, we explained how the presence of the Chevron oil refinery has been plaguing the city’s residents with health problems caused by the pollution released into the air.  We also mentioned Global Exchange’s own Antonia Juhasz’s work on the anti Chevron campaign.  A little further down the road, we mentioned how the now Emeryville Bay Street shopping center was once and industrial waste site that underwent brownfield remediation to become the establishment it is today.  When driving through Livermore we were sure to point out the wind turbines and to explain how they provide clean electrical power to Bay Area homes.  Who would have thought that this route was a green route?

Hiking at Yosemite
photo: June Brashares

We made sure to make a quick lunch stop to watch the World Cup final since our members are HUGE soccer fans.  Happy they were able to catch the game, we continued on to Yosemite Valley.  After checking in and some exploration of the park they decided to call it a night.  On Monday, we were able fit in a short hike and made sure to get a photo of our participants hiking with their Global Exchange gear!

Unfortunately, some of our members were called back to China early for work and had to cut their trip short.  After dinner we returned to San Francisco since they had an early flight out the next morning.  We had originally planned to bring them into Global Exchange Tuesday morning to meet the rest of the staff, and then head over to the Global Exchange store for some Fair Trade shopping and a farewell lunch, but because of the unexpected schedule change we couldn’t make it happen.

We wish our participants a safe trip home and thank them for participating in our program.   We are grateful for every one of them and hope they go back to their homes with an understanding on the importance of sustainable living and that their expectations of this trip were met.  We hope to keep in touch and to keep our Global Exchange network updated on the progress they are making related to what they learned on this trip.  Thank you again and we will be in touch soon!

(This is the third in a series of posts from our Green Alternatives Department that is currently conducting its first China-U.S. Exchange Program. These posts are written by Green Alternatives Department Intern, Antonia Malhi.)

Learning about categorization at Ferry Building Farmers Market. photo: Antonia Malhi

Our “walk” through of California’s green economy for our guests is turning out to be a great success. We have taken them to the San Francisco Ferry Building for an explanation of sustainable farming and continued examples of San Francisco’s trash sorting practices.  While we were there, we took in the scenic views of the Bay Bridge and then hurried off to Berkeley, where we met with Dan Knap at Urban Ore to hear his story of trash to treasure and successful business.

Then we met with GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives – Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance), an organization of anti-incineration activists.  This was a particularly special meeting.  Two of the participants in our tour work for a large incineration company in China, and feel that incineration is the greenest option that works.  This meeting with GAIA allowed them to understand that the key to overcome the obstacle of handling mixed waste is categorization.  Sorting the trash from compostables and recyclables allows each material to be disposed of properly, and thus incineration will be less necessary.

Ready to go at Recology. photo: Antonia Malhi

The essence of this program is to promote green alternatives to the status quo in China; this idea seemed to solidify for the entire group at the GAIA meeting.  June, Sunny and I felt a great sense of accomplishment as we headed to the California Academy of Sciences for a night of learning and lighthearted fun.

Friday morning we met with Recology, San Francisco’s waste handling company that has implemented the fantastic three bin model.  We took a tour of the facility and learned about the goal of a 75% waste diversion rate by 2011. Currently the city boasts a diversion rate of 73%.

At the Golden Gate Bridge. photo: Antonia Malhi

After Recology, we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was an unforgettable experience for our group.  We stopped in Sausalito for a look back at the rest of the Bay and then proceeded on to Sebastopol for a campfire and Fair Trade s’mores making. Yum!

Sunday they will be heading to Yosemite for an overnight stay.  Sadly, the trip is winding down quicker than we all expected.

(This is the second in a series of posts from our Green Alternatives Department that is currently conducting its first China-U.S. Exchange Program. These posts are written by Green Alternatives Department Intern, Antonia Malhi.)

Our US-China Exchange Group. photo: Antonia Malhi

July 6th was the official first day of the US-China Exchange Tour!  June, (my supervisor), Sunny and I have been waiting for this day for months. Finally it was time to meet our guests, whom we have been working so hard to bring here and to create an amazing and informative program for. We couldn’t wait to get started.

We all met in the lobby of the Orchard Garden Hotel, one of California’s premier green hotels.  After the simple greetings we piled into the shuttle and were off.  First stop, Ghirardelli Square.  A fantastic and yummy tourist spot right?  Yes, but it is also a great green shopping center.  We got a green tour of the square which explained to our guests, through Sunny’s translation, how the garbage is sorted in traditional SF fashion: Compost, Recyclables and Trash.  Also, how they are saving money by using LED lights in the buildings and in the famous Ghirardelli sign.  We also toured the hotel/fractional home part of the square to learn about how they are making the historic building greener while still playing by the historical sight restoration rules.  Our guests were very impressed by the amount of money saved by these simple green changes.  And saved money is a good thing in every culture!

Sunny Xiao and Ziming Yao pose at Ghirardelli Square. photo: Antonia Malhi

Next stop, Crissy Field.  We got a great presentation by one of the resident ecologists about the history of the area from pre-European times through the present day.  He gave some great visuals about how much of San Francisco was “created” by dumping debris from the 1906 earthquake into the bay. Crissy field is brownfield that had to be re-mediated to become the living marsh that it is today.  Destroying the army base and re-planting the area with native plants was a long process, but now the field has “been given back to the Bay.”  A great visual place to emphasize the fact that being more environmentally aware is beautiful as well as beneficial.

On the way to dinner we did drove to Ocean Beach, through Golden Gate Park, and to the top of Twin Peaks.  Breathtaking.  The guests loved seeing the city from a birds eye view and, with some help, were able to point out the places we had been that day.

Our group at Crissy Field. photo: Antonia Malhi

We ended dinner at Samovar, a tea room and restaurant one of my fellow GX interns works at and referred me to.  They loved the tea, but I am not so sure about the food… maybe a little too far from what they are used to.  But, they were pretty jet-lagged so we decided to call it a night.

A great first day.