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Laprisha Berry Daniels, Executive Director of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Shares Insights

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Published On February 5, 2024

LAPRISHA BERRY DANIELS IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DETROITERS WORKING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND A LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS NETWORK DETROIT

DWEJ’s vision for sustainability is rooted in the three pillars of sustainability: health and happiness of community members, a healthy local environment free from hazards and harm, and economic vitality.

As an organization that focuses on environmental justice and strives to have the voice of the community-centered as decisions are being made that impact their health (physical, mental, spiritual, and economic), we assert that community members can envision and create healthy communities that meet their immediate and distal needs.

LAPRISHA BERRY DANIELS
LAPRISHA BERRY DANIELS

A healthy community is one in which all systems work together to support the health and well-being of all its members. Local businesses are part of the community’s ecosystem and thus play a unique role in supporting the health and well-being of the community. Ideally, the relationship between community members and local business is mutually beneficial as they prioritize health and co-create a healthy community. Local businesses and community members can work together to identify threats to community well-being and create strategies to address challenges.

In Detroit, and beyond, climate change threatens our ability to achieve and maintain physical, mental, spiritual, and economic health. As we experience more extreme weather locally, such as extreme heat and annual “100-year floods”, we recognize that our built environment may not be able to weather the storm (pun intended). Unfortunately, our existing residential housing stock and current construction practices are too often ill-suited for current and future climate conditions. The mismatch between what is available and what is needed creates threats to the health of people and planet.

DWEJ developed a contractor accelerator program that focuses on contractors increasing their awareness about ways to improve the built environment to mitigate risks related to climate change while centering sustainability. DWEJ’s contractor accelerator program, Building Health, serves as an incubator to support peer-to-peer learning among Detroit-based, Detroit-serving contractors of color. Building Health increases contractors’ awareness and implementation of “environmentally responsible and resource-efficient” practices that have:

  1. Bottom-line business benefits
  2. Individual and community health benefits
  3. Decrease environmental degradation.

Building Health increases contractors’ understanding of the impact they can have on health. For example, participating contractors are presented with strategies for upgrading and greening residential housing in ways that include the use of various building methods and materials that can make homes more energy efficient. These improvements decrease greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health and comfort of the home, and improve the economic health of the occupants by reducing the cost of utility use. Participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement practices as part of the program as well. Additionally, contractors learn how to best communicate the benefits of sustainable repair and rehab practices to clients.

The role of local contractors is just one example of the opportunity our community has to transform our ecosystem and economy for the better. There is a unique and distinct role that local business plays in supporting people and planet. Sustainability is an iterative process where we must work collectively toward the goal of having healthy and vibrant places in which to live, learn, work, play, and pray.

Check out Laprisha Berry Daniels’s recent TEDTalks: Lessons from the Past on Adapting to Climate Change

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

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