Writer: Kim Kisner

Education, Services, and Resources are Key Strategies

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ECOWORKS COMMUNITY PROGRAM
Published On January 2, 2024

EcoWorks is a nonprofit that works at the intersection of community development and sustainability.

Based in Detroit, EcoWorks serves residents, households, community organizations, businesses, and municipalities, working to create just, equitable, and inclusive solutions to climate change.

SBN Detroit spoke with Briana DuBose, EcoWorks executive director, to find out more.

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BRIANA DUBOSE

Q: Tell us about EcoWorks

A: EcoWorks is a Detroit-based nonprofit that addresses climate change by enabling Michigan communities to be more environmentally and economically sustainable. We provide transformative climate and sustainable solutions for communities that are underserved and often unseen and unheard.

We do this through community development, green consulting, home energy assistance, climate advocacy, education, and workforce development.

Our Eco-D program is an equitable approach to securing affordable, healthy resilient homes and neighborhoods. We design and advocate solutions that promote utility affordability, housing security, climate resilience, and resident-led neighborhood development.

We also work to engage community members to be part of learning about sustainability and provide direct service programs, upgrades and repairs, and more for underserved communities

Currently, we are working with four areas in Detroit – Hope Village, Southwest, Berg-Lahser, and Yorkshire Village to build out EcoDistricts. We offer comprehensive resources to help these areas transition to decarbonization and electrification.

The program also provides residents and community organizations with resources to achieve healthy, affordable, resilient, and energy-secure homes and neighborhoods.

Q: How do you work with Detroit neighborhoods and communities specifically?

A: We look at ways to ensure the health and safety of all households. We focus on disadvantaged communities working with people who are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – for example air quality.  We partner with coalitions to improve policy and design innovative financial models for healthy, green, housing and neighborhoods.

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ECOWORKS YOUTH PROGRAMMING

An example of this is River Rouge, which is surrounded by multiple plants and therefore has poor air quality. We go in and have workshops to discuss sustainability and energy-saving measures in their area. People are often surprised that asthma can be caused by poor air quality. We will go in and perform needs assessments on homes and work toward proper sealing and weather stripping and filters so the residents can have clean air in their homes.

We also work with the communities in a bigger way to do things like build rain gardens, create green spaces, and more toward the things the specific areas need.

Q: How does the Strategic Community Initiatives Program work?

A: We develop custom-fit climate and energy solutions for municipalities, school districts, health systems, small businesses, and nonprofits.  SCI has secured over $5 million in clean energy investments and over $30 million in lifetime savings for over thirty Michigan municipalities.

EcoWorks serves as the lead technical provider as part of the Sacred Spaces Clean Energy Grants, eliminating disproportionate energy burdens for low-income congregations, inclusive of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities statewide.

Eleven houses of worship in low-income Michigan neighborhoods from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula will become more energy efficient with support from this $1.24 million grant of federal funds through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to make improvements that reduce their consumption of fossil fuels for electricity, heating, and cooling. From this, we expect the congregations to achieve a 15% energy savings that will go back into the communities.

Q: How can a business in Southeast Michigan take advantage of EcoWorks?

A: We bring a unique blend of people and change-management skills coupled with technical assessment and project management capabilities to businesses. Contact us and we’ll set up a meeting to talk. We can develop and manage holistic energy and climate action plans collaboratively for organizations.

Q: How do you think EcoWorks impacts Southeast Michigan businesses?

A: EcoWorks can help organizations stay nimble and resilient as energy costs and climate impacts rise.  We can develop energy plans and implement energy projects by engaging people and bringing them together. We are often conveners. We are on the front line in communities, and we go into businesses to discuss how they may be contributing to the environment and sustainability in their communities.

Often, businesses don’t know where to begin or may think sustainability initiatives are going to be expensive. We help educate them and show the ROI. Most businesses want to leave a better footprint on their community; they just need the resources to do so.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities EcoWorks represents for Detroit?

A: While our roots are firmly planted in energy conservation, we have grown to emphasize all aspects of sustainable development as it relates to building affordable, energy-efficient residential housing and commercial buildings. We are committed to promoting environmental equity and we take pride in helping communities get there.

 

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

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