Just sustainability in practice in US cities

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I want to turn now to a set of examples. These are not specifically programs or projects of the national membership organizations in my JSI survey, although they may have had some influence. Neither are they full case studies; rather, they are short, focused vignettes. I have simply put together a collection of five sustainability issue categories - land-use planning, solid waste, toxic chemical use, residential energy use, and transportation, and representative programs or projects [of which two are included below] that are providing proactive, balanced efforts to create a just sustainability in practice in U.S. cities. [...] Many are based on multistakeholder partnerships between community non-profits, national non-profits, local or federal governments, and/or private industries. The avenues of implementation used at the community level are varied, involving tools and techniques ranging from the simplest and most reactive - street activism - through more deliberative processes and procedures typical of the JSP, to the most complex and proactive-building - local economic security through private enterprise. [...]

Issue category: solid waste management Solid waste reduction is one of the keys to the issues of the NEP [New Environmental Paradigm] and the traditional environmental movement. The most widely practiced strategy, however, is recycling, although the hierarchy of actions should be 'Refuse, Reuse, Recycle.' Recycling is promoted as a municipal effort to reduce urban ecological footprints, partly because the public has seen it as 'doing their bit,' partly because it is heavily promoted by industry associations that do not want the public to move up the waste hierarchy by refusing or reusing their products, and partly because it is relatively easy to do if your municipality has a collection scheme. At the same time, waste facility siting is one of the major issues confronted frequently by environmental justice groups (Cole and Foster 2001). [...] Sustainability advocates must use caution when proposing recycling-industry facilities as community economic-development opportunities for low-income areas. Waste facilities can be an asset in local economic development, contributing to work opportunities such as Garbage Reincarnation of

Santa Rosa, California, but some waste facilities, primarily those for toxic waste [...] can be an assault on such communities (Ackerman and Mirza 2001). [...]

Representative Program 1: The Green Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota The Phillips community is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis, and it has a long history of community activism. [...] In the 1980s, the residents of Phillips organized an environmental justice campaign to resist the construction of a garbage transfer station in their community. The city cleared twenty-eight homes for the ten-acre site, but the construction of the project was eventually halted by the residents of the Phillips neighborhood [who] created the Green Institute to create sustainable business enterprises on the now-vacant site. The Green Institute is an entrepreneurial environmental organization creating jobs, improving the quality of life, and enhancing the urban environment in inner-city Minneapolis. It now operates three revenue-generating ventures designed to combine green industry with local economic development. First, in 1995, the ReUse Center was developed to sell scavenged building and construction materials. The retail store reclaims materials from the local waste stream and sells them at low cost. The center offers living wages for employees and offers community classes on home improvement. Second, in 1997 the Green Institute began a 'DeConstruction' service to remove salvage materials from building or demolition sites. Through DeConstruction, up to 75 percent of an old structure can be reclaimed rather than demolished, with the materials sold at the ReUse Center. Third, the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center, an award-winning business center built with green building technologies, was completed in 1999 on the site originally intended for the garbage transfer station. The Green Institute and its Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center are working to attract other environmentally conscious organizations and companies to continue their pursuit of sustainable economic development within the Phillips community. [...]

JSI = 3. Main JSP points of contact: combining green industry with local economic development in a diverse neighborhood.

Representative Program 2: The New York City Environmental Justice u

Alliance, New York City NYCEJA is a city-wide network that links com- 5"

munity organizations, low-income communities, and communities of ^

color in their struggles for justice. It was founded in 1991 to support y community-based projects through a network of professional environ- 3

mental advocates, attorneys, scientists, and health specialists. NYCEJA 3

JQ allocates resources to enable its members to be effective advocates for

■¡H communities that are disproportionately and unjustly affected by the

-g environmental and health impacts of public and private actions, policies,

S and plans. In terms of solid waste activism, several communities are

£ surrounded by heavy industrial areas, especially on their waterfronts.

"5 These areas have attracted private garbage transfer stations handling

'in commercial waste from hotels, offices, and restaurants. These transfer _o o stations bring in thousands of heavy diesel trucks each day. However, m Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, the local destination for New York's garbage, was permanently closed in 2001, so the city has started sending some of its eleven thousand tons per day of residential garbage to these private facilities. This has nearly doubled the amount of garbage processed in EJ [Environmental Justice] communities. The Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods (OWN), a city-wide coalition of groups fighting for just sustainability through their solid waste plan for New York City, was founded by NYCEJA in 1996. In 'Taking Out the Trash: A New Direction for New York City's Waste' (Warren 2000), the aim is to maximize the sustainability - environmental, economic, and social - of the waste system by minimizing the export of waste and maximizing waste prevention and recycling. These options are cheaper, more environmentally sound, and can result in social benefits for low- and middle-income neighborhoods (cf. Ackerman and Mirza 2001). Together, these groups have been successful in raising the profile of sustainability and have won significant legal battles to enforce NYC transfer-station siting regulations. At the same time, NYCEJA has helped organize Community Solid Waste Watch programs and developed a manual for local volunteers about the laws governing transfer stations and how to document violations. NYCEJA is also working on transportation justice issues at Melrose station with the Bronx Center and Nos Quedamos/We Stay.

JSI = 3. Main JSP points of contact: proactive policy development: 'Taking Out the Trash: A New Direction for New York City's Waste.'

Representative Program 3: Reuse Development Organization, Baltimore, Maryland The mission of ReDO is to promote reuse as an environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economical means for managing surplus and discarded materials. Developed out of a conference in 1995 to fill a perceived information gap, reuse is the second priority in the solid waste management hierarchy after 'refuse.' Reuse means finding a use for something that someone thinks they no longer need. Although refusing something is preferable, reuse is better than recycling, the third priority, because it conserves valuable natural resources, reduces the amount of water and air pollution, and reduces greenhouse gases, and it is a means for getting materials to disadvantaged people and organizations. Recycling actually uses a lot of energy. ReDO provides education, training, and technical assistance to start up and operate reuse programs. As part of their Donations Program, ReDO has responded to many requests from nonprofit organizations and businesses that want an efficient, cost-effective way to give items that they no longer use to those who can use them. The program takes items that cost money to warehouse, transport, manage, and dispose of and provides a way of getting the materials to nonprofits that focus on people with low incomes, the ill, those assisting children, or the needy or disadvantaged. This gives businesses tax benefits (Internal Revenue Code Section I70e3, 'enhanced deduction') while building social capital in local communities. It also ensures that the donated materials stay out of the new-products marketplace.

JSI = 3. Main JSP points of contact: focusing profits from environmental industry on low-income and underprivileged people.

Issue category: residential energy use Energy conservation in general is a win-win opportunity within the just sustainability agenda, as ACE is investigating with regard to energy-efficient affordable housing in Roxbury and as the Green Institute in Minneapolis is doing with regard to its proposed urban energy cooperative and renewable biomass cogenera-tion facility. Cutting energy costs can provide economic assistance to low-income residents, particularly in northern regions. Demand management with regard to energy resources has a long-distance benefit to communities affected by their proximity to mining operations, power plants, and hazardous waste disposal facilities.

However, the investment necessary to increase the environmental efficiency of existing homes and reduce the ecological impact of new home construction is often seen as incompatible with affordability goals. The result is that cities often rely on the 'filtering principle' to generate affordable housing stock: namely, older, less energy-efficient houses become occupied by lower-income residents while wealthier residents purchase new houses. Older rental housing units create a particularly difficult problem in energy-efficiency policy, as the benefactor of home infrastructure improvements is not always the owner. Even as new green u building technology improves household energy efficiency, the challenge 5" to broad energy use reduction will be creating the economic opportunity ^ for technology investment and retrofitting old infrastructure.

Representative Program 1: National Center for Appropriate Technology, 3

JQ Butte, Montana NCAT, established as a non-profit corporation in 1976, ■¡H works to find just solutions to environmental or economic challenges, -jj solutions that use local resources and assist society's most disadvan-(u taged citizens. It has developed multiple programs to address energy £ use for low-income communities. There are three noteworthy programs "5 under its Sustainable Energy Program; the first two are current, and 'm while the third has now ceased, it is mentioned because of the topicality "o of the issue. First, the National Energy Affordability and Accessibility m Project (NEAAP) is researching the impacts of energy-market restructuring and market changes on low- to moderate-income households. The project has a website and newsletter, and through the NEAAP Residential Energy Efficiency Database, domestic electric and natural gas customers can search for incentive programs offered by their local utility, such as home energy audits, energy-efficient appliance rebates, and loans at zero or low interest to upgrade insulation or replace old heating and cooling equipment. Second, NCAT operates the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as an information clearing house on residential energy conservation for those with the greatest energy cost burden and/or highest need. The program targets community groups, housing officials, energy providers, and low-income residents, providing information on conservation, energy self-sufficiency, and cooperative utility programs. The LIHEAP administers grants to help implement the goals of reducing the energy burden of households. Third is the Affordable Sustainability Technical Assistance (ASTA) program that worked with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant programs. [...]

JSI = 3. Main points of contact with JSP: multiple programs to address energy use for low-income communities.

Representative Program 2: Massachusetts Energy Consumer's Alliance, Boston, Massachusetts Mass Energy, under its previous name - the Boston Oil Consumers' Alliance (BOCA) - was formed in 1982 to provide lower home oil heating cost through the buying power of bulk purchasing. With more than 7,000 residential members and 150 nonresidential members, Mass Energy collectively purchases more than five million gallons of oil per year, and with this enhanced buying power charges fifteen to thirty cents per gallon less than the average retail price, saving $150 to $300 per year per household.

Mass Energy's two-pronged approach is to increase both energy afford-ability and environmental sustainability. It does this through two community assistance programs: the Clean Energy for Communities Fund and the Oil Bank. The Clean Energy for Communities Fund is a new pro gram aimed at supporting the installation of clean energy technologies at community-based nonprofits within its service territory. The Oil Bank program works each year through member donations that enable Mass Energy to help a small number of people who are put in the invidious position of choosing between food and heat. In 2003, it gave out more than $12,000 worth of heating oil to the neediest people.

In 2000, Mass Energy spearheaded the Solar Boston Initiative with a number of area nonprofits such as Episcopal Power and Light, DSNI, the Fenway Community Development Corporation, and the Tufts Climate Initiative, along with members of the solar energy industry. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Million Solar Roofs Program, the goal of Solar Boston is to serve as a link between the solar industry and consumers in order to reduce transaction costs of solar design and installations. Through consumer education, demonstration projects, and member consultations, Mass Energy has helped facilitate placing solar arrays on ten thousand homes in the Boston area.

Following the state's recent deregulation, Mass Energy has also been developing a green electricity product, New England GreenStart, with options for members to purchase renewable electricity. The catch is that it is currently being offered only to Massachusetts Electric's (National Grid) 1.2 million customers in 168 Massachusetts communities. The state's major provider, NSTAR, does not yet allow its customers to purchase New England GreenStart.

JSl = 3. Main points of contact with JSP: Oil Bank and Clean Energy for Communities programs.

Representative Program 3: Communities for a Better Environment, Oakland, California CBE currently runs Toxics, Oil Refineries, and Community Monitor campaigns. In addition, through its Power Plants Campaign, it has helped Californians learn about the state's highly publicized energy issues and organize against the Mirant Corporation-owned Potrero Plant. Mirant proposed expanding its plant in an already overburdened neighborhood of southeast San Francisco, which has two freeways and two major roads that carry a lot of trucks, resulting in poor air quality, high pollution levels, and health problems. CBE argued that Potrero would produce an additional 62.5 tons of airborne pollutants per year for forty u years, the life of the power plant. [...] The December 2002 'Electricity 5" Resource Plan' by San Francisco's Environment Department and Public ^ Utilities Commission supported CBE's conclusion about Potrero and y marked the first government-proposed alternative to the Mirant Cor-

poration's plan. The plan, argued CBE, would reduce local health risks

m _o o because it would put 150 megawatts of mid-sized power plants in the city by 2004 while ramping up about 480 MW of electricity efficiency, solar, windpower, cogeneration, fuel cell, and other alternative technologies at many locations in and around the city by 2012. It seeks to phase out fossil fuel burning for the city's electricity over 20 to 30 years (www. cbecal.org/alerts/power/pP 0902.shtml).

JSI = 3. Main points of contact with JSP: low-income conservation vouchers.

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