New Leadership to Focus on Sustainability, Connectivity, Infrastructure 

Meagan Elliott began her tenure as president and CEO of the Belle Isle Conservancy on July 1, following a decade with the city of Detroit, culminating in serving as chief parks planner and deputy CFO overseeing development and grants.  Elliott spearheaded the Joe Louis Greenway Framework Plan and played a pivotal role as the city lead in a $350 million campaign for a unified greenway encompassing the Joe Louis Greenway and the Detroit Riverfront.   The Belle Isle Conservancy is dedicated to safeguarding the natural environment, preserving historic structures, and enhancing Belle Isle as a public park for the enjoyment of all, now and in the future. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 5.6 million people visited the park last year.  SBN Detroit interviewed Elliott about the conservancy’s approach to sustainability and what impacts her work will have on Southeast Michigan businesses and residents.   Q: What part will sustainability play in your new role?  A: Sustainability is fundamental to everything we do, and I want to lift and advance it in new ways. The Belle Isle Conservancy has done and continues to do a lot of work toward this. One example is the Keep Belle Isle Beautiful campaign focused on reducing plastic waste on the island and in waterways. That initiative has taken off and now goes far beyond the cleanups themselves, focusing on environmental stewardship and informing educational programming that helps to drive our future leaders.   Caring for our planet forms the foundation of all our endeavors and is a filter for how we approach all our work, whether it be in support of habitat restoration, capital projects on the island, or new types of programming moving forward. I’m eager to collaborate with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in this ​​effort.  Q: How does your background position you for this role?   A: It’s in a couple of important ways. My tenure as chief parks planner was particularly formative, involving comprehensive work across all city green spaces, from neighborhood parks to a 30-mile greenway.  When we consider Detroit’s park infrastructure, connectivity emerges as a fundamental concept. Historically, Belle Isle has been perceived as a separate entity and not easily accessible. Moreover, with one in four people in Detroit lacking access to a vehicle, they face challenges moving around the city, ​being able to access our amazing ​metro parks​ system, ​ or getting Up North. Belle Isle is a treasure that rivals all of these spaces, and here it is right in our front yard. Connecting to a system of green space via the riverfront and the Joe Louis Greenway is essential. ​     ​  Connectedness extends beyond physical spaces to encompass the desires of residents and businesses surrounding Belle Isle as well. The Belle Isle Conservancy plays a crucial role as a steward and advocate, driving initiatives that reflect community wants and needs.  Also, my background in sociology has prepared me to spend time listening ​to residents and how they want to utilize their island ​and to make sense of the patterns that emerge in engagement with a diversity of constituents. ​     ​  Finally, I’ve spent the last three years as deputy CFO brokering partnerships between private fund​ers​, philanthropi​c entities​, and public ​partners​ and making initiatives happen by creating coalitions of folks. I want to put that same energy ​and investment ​behind Belle Isle.  Q: You led the Joe Louis Greenway Framework Plan, and were the city lead in the $350 million campaign for a unified greenway for the Joe Louis Greenway and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. How will this impact your work going forward?  A: I have an example. On my first day as president and CEO of the Belle Isle Conservancy, I was speaking at a press conference during which $20.7 million was received from the federal government ​for the continuing construction of ​the Joe Louis Greenway. This was a grant that the team worked on while I was still working for the City of Detroit. But I was there as the co-chair of the Joe Louis Greenway Partnership and was able to highlight the connection from the Joe Louis Greenway to the Iron Belle Trail, which ultimately will connect Belle Isle to Ironwood at the tip of the Upper Peninsula through a network of greenways.  Many individuals have dedicated themselves to this work for a long time, and I’m committed to utilizing my platform and voice to continue to advance this work.  Belle Isle is the epicenter of both this amazing network of green spaces and the Great Lakes. I can’t imagine a better geography for foregrounding environmental stewardship than on this island.   Q: What impact do you think the Belle Isle Conservancy has on businesses in Southeast Michigan?  A: I see the economic impact of public space as vast. It directly relates to employee decisions on where they choose to live and work.   Belle Isle ranks as the second most visited park in the country after Niagara Falls. I believe our efforts here are directly linked to attracting new talent to businesses in Southeast Michigan and bolstering our economy.   Q: In what way will you work with area businesses?  A: The conservancy already does a lot of work with businesses on many fronts.  One of the most immediately valuable impacts businesses have on Belle Isle is our corporate stewardship days. Businesses bring their teams to help clean up the park and connect with each other.   We also have a significant number of partners in the corporate community who see the value of Belle Isle for the community and invest in projects to help support the park. ​     ​  We also have the opportunity to look at the vendors utilized on the island and how to create more inroads for Detroit-based businesses to play a role in the construction, management, concessionaire, and other vendor partnerships.   There are endless opportunities to work together.    Q: What challenges do you expect to encounter from a sustainability aspect?  A: The challenge is always prioritization and how to choose projects and

The Cleanup Club: Working to Mitigate Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes

HANNAH TIZEDES IS THE FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CLEANUP CLUB Before founding The Cleanup Club, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting our communities and Great Lakes from plastic pollution through cleanups and creativity, I amassed a collection of over 100,000 pieces of plastic debris from the Great Lakes shorelines during solo cleanups. I used the colorful found objects to create thought-provoking art pieces and installations to inspire conversations about how we can all play a role in protecting the places we love.  Creativity has continued to play a key role in The Cleanup Club’s mission to protect our communities and Great Lakes from plastic pollution while having fun. We aim to serve as an approachable source to help educate and spark dialogue with people online and in person about the urgent need for action to protect our freshwater resources.  In 2016, a study from the Rochester Institute of Technology revealed that nearly 22 million pounds of plastic pollution enter our Great Lakes every year, with major cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Toronto being primary sources. By 2024, plastic production has continued to increase globally, and so has the urgent need to protect our waterways from harmful impacts. This is particularly crucial as these bodies of water provide drinking water to over 40 million people across the US and Canada.  Recent studies have shown that topics such as climate change and plastic pollution often leave people feeling frightened and negative. With the rise of terms like “eco-anxiety” and studies emphasizing the growing harms of plastic pollution, The Cleanup Club aims to push forward crucial work for a more sustainable future and cleaner waters. At the same time, we strive to create an uplifting community that empowers individuals, communities, and businesses to take action together through joyful and collaborative experiences.  We understand that working together is essential when it comes to finding upstream solutions and mitigating plastic pollution in our region. This is why The Cleanup Club values collaborating with aligned local businesses and global brands. We aim to educate and expand the conversation about Great Lakes plastic pollution through community cleanups, educational programming, and interactive creative projects around Michigan, focusing on Southeast Michigan.  When partnering with The Cleanup Club, local businesses enjoy the benefit of a passionate group of volunteers cleaning up their neighborhoods while driving awareness and business to their unique offerings. Past partners, contributors, and sponsors include Walking Lightly and 86 Plastic (local zero waste stores in Metro Detroit), Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters, HiBAR, Detroit Shipping Co, Belle Isle Conservancy, Royal Oak Sustainability, and more.  Community events are not only fun ways to get outside and take part in collective action but also serve as a way to collect data on top-polluting items and top-polluted areas for advocacy and research efforts that further promote upstream solutions.  While we acknowledge that cleanups are not the ultimate solution, we strongly believe they play an accessible and active role in education and advancing our collaborative efforts for a brighter, more sustainable future for people and the planet.  Learn more at and follow on Instagram at   Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice’s Vision for Sustainability

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. 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: Bottom-line business benefits Individual and community health benefits 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.

University of Research Corridor Sustainability

BRITANY AFFOLTER-CAINE, IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MICHIGAN’S UNIVERSITY RESEARCH CORRIDOR Students and young adults see climate change and the preservation of our planet not as an impending challenge, but one with grave consequences that are impacting humanity today. Generation Z is more likely than older generations to act on their climate concerns through their purchasing power and in career choices. A majority of Gen Z are willing to spend 10% more money for sustainable brands according to a 2019 McKinsey report, and 42% of Gen Z respondents have already changed or plan to change their job or industry due to climate concerns according to a 2023 Deloitte survey. For these future leaders and doers, the greatest priority is to develop sustainable solutions to mitigate these impacts and the forces causing further environmental harm.  Gen Z is not alone. Many university researchers, staff and administrators across Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC) share their climate concerns and have made sustainability a priority area of research, education, innovation and service. An alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for its region while advancing knowledge at a global level, the URC is committed to bringing all its resources to tackling climate change and mitigating its impacts today and in the future.  Sustainability is an imperative we define as efforts to discover ways to meet the economic and health needs of people today while meeting the needs of future generations to thrive in ways that are effective, just and equitable. Sustainability includes decarbonization, clean energy innovation, reducing waste and pollution and managing limited resources, such as water. The sustainability work of URC researchers and students stretches across dozens of academic fields and within dedicated schools and colleges, such as U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability, and includes partners in our communities, government and industry. Development of sustainable technologies, knowledge and practices is critical for addressing climate change and is good for our economy.  For example, Michigan’s mobility sector is accelerating its transition to a more sustainable and eco-friendly industry. It is reshaping the way people think about transportation, pushing automakers to innovate, and encouraging governments and businesses to invest in a cleaner future. The URC universities play a key role in developing new technologies to support the mobility industry’s transition. Over the past five years, Michigan’s URC universities conducted more than $565 million in mobility-related R&D, which included sustainability-focused research, such as light weighting vehicles through advanced materials, energy storage to extend battery range for vehicles and alternative fuels that are more sustainable, such as hydrogen.  The contributions our universities are making to support sustainability in the market can be seen in our strategic innovation partnerships with industry, like at MSU’s top-ranked School of Packaging, where researchers are working alongside industry leaders to reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfills and water systems by streamlining the different types of plastics that are used in manufacturing.  MSU is also a leader in mass timber research, studying everything from structural performance and cost savings to fire resistance and sustainability. Made from a renewable resource, mass timber stores carbon and is less carbon-intensive to produce than other common building materials. U-M’s BioMatters team has developed their own sustainable solution for construction using upcycled sawdust. This fully biodegradable, reusable and recyclable material is formed into molds using 3D printing and can replace concrete formwork traditionally used across the construction industry. These molds are like giant LEGO pieces that can be used again and again. At a time when the consequences of climate change are increasingly evident and devastating, the need for sustainable solutions across all sectors has never been more urgent. This starts on our own campuses, where we all have implemented comprehensive sustainability initiatives that encompass various aspects of campus life. We’ve invested in energy-efficient infrastructure, adopted renewable energy sources, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions through innovative technologies and conservation efforts, showing that the URC is not only contributing to a greener Michigan but also setting an example for institutions nationwide. From lead in drinking water and intergenerational impacts of pollutants to mitigating development of fatbergs in our wastewater systems to storm water management, Wayne State has been studying the impacts of climate change and environmental threats to human health on residents and communities in Michigan’s largest city, Detroit. Old pollutants left behind by factories and other industries in the past are causing problems for people and the environment today. Supported by an $11.5-million National Institutes of Health grant, Wayne State University’s Center for Leadership in Environmental Awareness and Research is studying these old pollutants in cities, identifying how they move around and their impact on the health of mothers and babies.  Our commitment extends to our work in sustainable action in communities across Michigan and the world. Michigan is renowned for its abundant freshwater resources, including the Great Lakes, which contain about 20% of the world’s surface freshwater supply. The presence of these vast water bodies makes our institutions leaders in research on water-related issues and solutions. The United Nations tapped Wayne State University and the University of Windsor to head its Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development in the Detroit-Windsor region. The partnership will address community health, equitable city-building practices, public transportation, clean water, sustainable urban planning and housing policy, to better our two communities that share an international border.  U-M recently received a $5 million grant to study how climate change is affecting water resources in different areas, especially when those areas share borders. This research will help us understand how rising temperatures and changing weather patterns are impacting our water supply, like rivers and lakes, and lead to better ways to manage and protect these vital sources of water.  Sustainability is already becoming the heart of academic and industry research. Not only are environmental and economic pressures mounting, but our next generation of thinkers and leaders are dedicating their lives to addressing these

America Recycles Day in Detroit, November 15th


NATALIE JAKUB, IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR GREEN LIVING SCIENCE, AND A LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS NETWORK DETROIT America Recycles Day held annually on November 15th holds immense importance as it serves as a powerful reminder of the critical role recycling plays in conserving resources, reducing waste, and protecting the environment. This annual observance encourages individuals, communities, and businesses to take concrete steps toward sustainability by pledging to recycle and promoting recycling education and initiatives. It reinforces the idea that recycling is not just a one-time effort but a continuous commitment to creating a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come. America Recycles Day inspires collective action and underscores that every small recycling act contributes to a significant positive impact on our planet. ENHANCING RESIDENTS’ ACCESS TO RECYCLING SERVICES For nearly two decades, Detroit has been proactively enhancing residents’ access to recycling services as part of its broader sustainability mission. Acknowledging the importance of diverting recyclable materials from landfills to minimize environmental impact and conserve resources, the city has implemented initiatives such as expanding curbside recycling pickup, improving access to public space recycling, and fostering partnerships with local organizations. These strategic moves aim to make recycling more accessible and convenient for Detroit’s residents, empowering the community to actively participate in sustainable practices and contribute to a cleaner, greener city for all. GREEN LIVING SCIENCE At the forefront of Detroit’s sustainability journey stands Green Living Science (GLS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating Detroit residents about waste and recycling. Initially established in response to the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s request for recycling and conservation education, GLS has grown to provide a range of educational programs aimed at instigating behavior change for a more sustainable society. SERVING RESIDENTS GLS serves Detroit’s 600,000+ residents who have been adversely impacted by the trash, air pollution, and debris pervading communities. The city launched a curbside recycling program in 2015 and contracted GLS to teach residents about recycling and sign them up for free recycling carts. GLS remains the recycling and outreach contractor for the Department of Public Works (DPW), educating residents about recycling services available to them and working closely with block clubs and community groups throughout the city. One of GLS’s flagship programs, the Bee Green Business initiative, launched in 2014 in response to the corporate sector’s need for effective recycling and waste reduction solutions. This program educates and certifies companies in Southeast Michigan committed to responsible corporate citizenship. By training businesses to establish waste reduction and recycling systems and educating their staff on correct usage, Bee Green Business supports companies in minimizing their environmental footprint. Moreover, it recognizes and celebrates businesses that are leading sustainability in Michigan. Southeast Michigan, with its historical legacy of manufacturing and innovation, has emerged as a vibrant hub for sustainability initiatives, embracing the principles of responsible business practices. GLS envisions a future for the region where sustainability is integral to business operations, and where companies prioritize environmental impact alongside financial success. To realize this vision, GLS focuses on reducing waste through recycling and composting advocacy, partnering with local businesses to ensure recyclable materials are diverted from landfills, thus reducing the environmental burden. CIRCULAR ECONOMY GLS champions sustainable sourcing practices, encouraging businesses to embrace the circular economy, which minimizes waste and maximizes resource efficiency. These initiatives help bolster the regional economy while diminishing the environmental repercussions of long-distance transportation. While Southeast Michigan has made significant headway in its sustainability journey, it grapples with challenges stemming from its industrial past, including pollution and environmental degradation. Nevertheless, GLS’s emphasis on circular economy principles and waste reduction contributes to overcoming these challenges and forging a cleaner, more sustainable city. Remediation and cleanup efforts continue to address these issues. We are seeing businesses adopting circular economy principles, minimizing waste, and maximizing resource efficiency which will help address and overcome the legacy not dedicated to creating a cleaner city. Green Living Science plays a pivotal role in Southeast Michigan’s path toward sustainability by serving as a catalyst for change. Through engagement with businesses, schools, and communities, GLS offers valuable resources and educational programs that empower individuals and organizations to embrace sustainable practices. In conclusion, Southeast Michigan stands as a burgeoning center for sustainable business practices and environmental responsibility. As Southeast Michigan confronts its sustainability challenges and strives to attain its goals, the role of GLS in educating, inspiring, and facilitating change cannot be overstated. Together, Southeast Michigan and GLS are forging a path toward a greener, more sustainable future, benefiting all who call this region home.   Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

College for Creative Studies Launches Graduate Program Toward Developing Leaders in Climate Action


In the fall of 2023, the College for Creative Studies will launch Design for Climate Action – a new graduate program aimed at tackling the global climate action and change emergency from multiple angles. The program invites applications from designers and non-designers of all kinds, bringing together broad multidisciplinary mindsets for interdisciplinary collaboration. It will foster an understanding of zero-waste materials and processes, circular economies, civic infrastructures, and environmental stewardship. At its heart is the drive to bring about change in existing systems and transition to structures that reverse global heating and uphold climate justice and global equity. Leading the program is Dr. Ian Lambert, Dean of Graduate Studies & Research. Lambert is a designer and maker-researcher with extensive experience in academic leadership and curriculum development in higher education in the U.K., the U.S., and China. Lambert has taught sustainable design for more than 20 years and his work with ocean plastic in Scotland along with other waste streams is widely published. He has brought his work with ocean plastic to the Great Lakes and recently joined the Detroit River Coalition. For the last two years, he has been collaborating with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on the d.Tree Studio – diverting dying trees from landfills to become narrative artifacts that elevate climate justice. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a former advisor to the Creative Conscience Awards. SBN Detroit spoke to Lambert about the program.   Q: What is the impetus behind the new Design for Climate Action Master’s Program? A: In addition to further embedding sustainability across the CCS curriculum, we are looking to highly specialize in addressing the climate crisis. This is about working toward and educating about systemic change. There are many perspectives required in tackling climate action, so the program is about foregrounding design thinking at the intersection of multiple disciplines. The program welcomes scientists, engineers, philosophers, and sociologists as well as designers and other creatives. It is the synergy formed by these different skill sets that can drive change in the climate crisis. It’s important to remember that while science presents the facts and explains what is happening, the climate crisis is a cultural crisis, a social crisis, an economic crisis, and a political crisis. It affects humankind in many different ways and it’s not just for scientists to solve. The program takes the position of stating climate problems calmly and rationally.  We need to use intelligent and persuasive narratives to bring others, including business leaders and politicians, with us. The debate is often highly polarized, which is dangerous. So, it is important to temper our outrage and avoid alienating those across the divide. Q: What does it mean for CCS to offer this program? Is this kind of curriculum unique to design school offerings? A: The program is focused on action in the climate crisis and systemic change. I don’t know of any other program that takes such a multidisciplinary approach with design at its hub. Also, our grad program is growing, and part of our strategy is to consider where the needs are and identify opportunities for aligning with the activity that’s happening in Detroit. Essentially the program has three pillars that overlap and blend: The circular economy and closed-loop manufacturing and material cycles. Systems and infrastructures – How we can redesign these or make interventions and design out waste? Environmental stewardship and understanding the lasting effects of human production on our environment Q: What implications might this have for the Detroit businesses – graduates with this skill set and education coming into the workforce? A: A recent report in the Atlantic stated that the government will be spending $374 billion on fighting climate change, and some are estimating it will reach $800 billion. This will require experts of all kinds to implement and lead change within businesses, corporations, and public organizations. Experts who can galvanize collaboration and take action in multiple ways. The demand for climate design experts is only going to grow, and our graduates will go into the world with not only the expertise but the passion and capability to apply a persuasive narrative to bring about these changes. Q: Can you tell us more about bringing together broad multidisciplinary mindsets for interdisciplinary collaboration? A: At the graduate level all design programs operate at disciplinary intersections. The climate change crisis is omnipotent, and the key to this (working to solve it) is being capable of working with other areas of expertise. This is not a crisis to be dealt with by lone crusaders. It truly requires collaboration that is deep and expansive. So it’s really important to develop students into leaders who can advance this approach. When it comes to leadership, there is this concept of the T-shaped individual, where the vertical bar on the letter T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, and the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own. And then there are X-shaped individuals, with “executive” skills and deep expertise in a core knowledge area as well as strong leadership skills and credibility. We need both T-shaped and X-shaped skill sets to approach and address the climate crisis, and our program will work toward building these. Q: Will the students be involved in sustainability programs and projects in Detroit? A: CCS has an extensive and well-established set of partnerships and connections with industry and our students work on many sponsored and live projects. Currently, students are working with Consumers Energy to help implement EV charging services from a user experience perspective. Last year, our students worked with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on redirecting dying trees from landfill to narrative objects. Our students have worked on clean air projects, food waste diversion, water security, sustainable tourism, and green mobility systems, to name a few. I’m also very proud of the CCS Color and Materials Design Students who

Tracy Reese Returns to Detroit to Train Local Craftsmen and Produce For a Global Sustainable Footprint


SBN Detroit spoke with Tracy Reese, an American fashion designer who has been featured in fashion publications that include Vogue, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, and O, The Oprah Magazine; and whose creations have been worn by Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Taylor Swift. In 2018, after 30 years in the industry, Reese moved back to her hometown of Detroit and in 2019 launched Hope for Flowers by Tracy Reese. The collection is designed and produced following three guiding principles of sustainability: the health of people, the planet, and equity in profit. Reese serves on the board of directors of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), where she has been a member since 1990. Reese also serves on the board of trustees of Nest Artisan Guild and the advisory council of the College for Creative Studies Fashion Accessories Design Program. She is also part of Turnaround Arts, a Kennedy Center program that transforms schools through the strategic use of arts. She recently served as board president of ISAIC, the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center. She is working to build an artisan studio in Detroit creating economic opportunities for women in underserved communities.   Q: Please share how Hope for Flowers and the sustainability aspect came about.A: In 2017, I had three labels and had been working in the industry for more than 30 years with my own brand, functioning as a typical manufacturing wholesaler. All of my production was overseas, and I sourced fabrics from all over the world. I started learning more about sustainability, and around that time, the CFDA + Lexus Fashion* Initiative that focuses on sustainability launched. I missed the deadline to apply in 2017 and was determined to apply the following year, so I did, and I was selected. It was an eye-opener. It was nine months of learning about everything from textiles to carbon footprint to human rights issues within the supply chain to waste in pattern making and more. At the end of the program, we were required to present a blueprint to be judged, and then to follow through with the blueprint. During this time, I started feeling a pull back toward Detroit and bought a house. I was trying to determine how I could be back in the city more. As I created this blueprint, I realized that Detroit was the perfect place to launch a brand. I started changing my perspective on how I was working. Running parallel to this was an impending departure of ways with my partners. There were things we didn’t see eye to eye on that were nonnegotiables for me. They wanted to go for volume, and I wanted to do something smaller and more meaningful and work on giving back to the community. So, I took the blueprint and headed to Detroit. Part of my blueprint included localized production, so training Detroiters to be part of this industry in a meaningful way was a natural next step. I set up a business model with a social and sustainability-focused mission. I worked with Shayla Johnson from Scarlet Crane Creations and interns from Cass Tech, my alma mater. We manufactured in Flint. This set the groundwork for Hope for Flowers. Q: Do you have a set of short-term and longer-term goals you are working toward as you grow Hope for Flowers? A: My short-term goal was and is to address the low-hanging fruit – textiles. Every product we work with falls into the mild zone. We are using bast fibers like linen – a crop that doesn’t require lots of water and doesn’t deplete the earth of nutrients. We also use organic cotton and responsibly forested wood byproduct fibers like Tencel and are experimenting with recycled wool and other fabrics. The idea is to create garments that stand the test of time yet biodegrade over the long haul. We look at biodegradable materials for buttons like natural shells or wood and try to use natural things found on the planet versus man-made We also try to design clothes that are flexible, meaning two different sizes can wear the same garment. This reduces overproduction My long-term goal is to produce in Detroit. To that end, we are training and working with local craftspeople and sewers to develop them to a stage of mastery that’s competitive with what we can import. We are launching an apprenticeship program, and our goal is to start running small-batch production in-house. Q: What impact do you think Hope for Flowers and the vendors and partners you work with are having?  A: Each one of us is proving it’s possible, and I think that makes an impression on anyone considering taking steps toward sustainability. When those in doubt see a successful business model that’s working and financially viable, that’s impactful. The more people who choose to work this way, the easier and less expensive it becomes, and we can speak collectively. We need everybody to get on board, so it’s about setting aside the competitive mindset and working as a unified industry. Q: What drives your passion when it comes to the brand and its deep commitment to sustainability? A: I don’t see that it’s a choice really – it’s a necessity. We need to work in a way that’s less harmful to the planet and people. It’s also about holding ourselves to a higher standard, accepting the challenge and being energized by it. The idea of trying to solve this is exciting and I want to be up for the challenge, continue to learn, and continue to grow. Q: From your perspective – what is the role of businesses in Detroit in terms of sustainability? A: Each business has its own role to play. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated. There are simple internal things that – when built into the company philosophy – begin to embed new habits and practices in the employees. We started composting a few months ago, and we are all working on developing new habits. Understanding

Kerry C. Duggan Works With Game-Changing Sustainability Businesses in Detroit


SBND interviews Kerry C. Duggan,national political advisor and visionary climatech executive and former Obama White House official. Founder and CEO of SustainabiliD in Detroit, and recently named the founding director of the University of Michigan’s SEAS Sustainability Clinic, Duggan shares her thoughts on a local level, highlighting key women and businesses who are making an impact and offering advice on approaching sustainability. Duggan is a board director of Perma-Fix (NASDAQ: PESI) and a senior advisor at RockCreek. She also sits on several corporate advisory boards, including Our Next Energy (ONE), Lux-Wall, Aclima, Walker-Miller, Arctaris Impact Investors, BlueConduit, and Commonweal Ventures. She is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and a member of the International Women’s Forum. Duggan’s current public service includes serving as an appointee to the (U.S.) Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board (SEAB) under Secretary Jennifer Granholm and to the State of Michigan’s Council on Climate Solutions under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  Q: Kerry, please tell us about your current work. A: I started SustainabiliD five years ago. It is a ​woman-​owned,​service-disabled veteran-owned, Detroit-​based ​diverse ​small ​business working with game-changers to equitably solve the climate crisis.So, I have no small mission statement. As such, I’ve spent the last five years working on climate solutions in two ways: On the institutional side, I’m working to help develop the business model around place-based work for larger organizations. I have been appointed as the founding director of UM’s SEAS sustainability clinic in Detroit, and we are currently focused on three goals: To seek equitable and just solutions to the city’s most pressing sustainability-related issues; to lower operating costs—particularly in energy management for city operations—while reducing carbon emissions; and to support the delivery of services directly to the city and, through partner programs, to improve residents’ quality of life. Second, I work with climate solution companies. These are the game-changers. For example, Our Next Energy (ONE) recently set a world record of EV miles traveled on a single charge: 752 miles, in December, in Michigan. This is a very big deal. I work to help these businesses navigate opportunities to scale with the speed that we all need to combat the climate crisis. Q: Your work is largely around energy, climate, and environment.Where does your passion in these areas come from? A: First, I’m a mom. Climate is the most urgent issue of our time, and I want to create a safer, more sustainable planet for the next generation. Second, I have always loved doing my work in Detroit. My ancestors immigrated to Detroit from Ireland, so from a generational perspective, I try to give back to the place that has given my family so much. In this way, I’m very grounded in Detroit. I was also blessed to spend many summers of my youth on the shores of the Great Lakes, home to 21% of the world’s fresh surface water. How lucky are we? I work to protect that and make it available for my kids. Lastly, I have a basketball background, and the skills I gleaned from playing high-level hoops have transferred to my work. I’ll give an example. There is a move in basketball called the ‘give-and-go move’ where you give the ball away, then cut to the net, and get the ball back to make the lay-up. In my work, I listen to the needs of leaders in communities, putting aside my point of view, because if I don’t listen to real and immediate needs, we are just talking past one another – and no one wins. I put the give-and-go into practice in this way a lot. Q: What is your vision behind SustainabiliD? A: I grew up in a suburb of Detroit. Kids twenty miles down the road living in the city of Detroit faced injustices that I did notand conversely did not have the opportunities I had. That’s been my charge: how can we change this and ensure the city is not only vibrant and safe but also offers equitable opportunities to everyone? Q: The SustainabiliD team is predominantly women. What are your thoughts on women as leaders in sustainability? A: I think if I created a pie chart of my calendar, we’d see that daily I’m mostly speaking with female leaders across the globe, who are mostly non-white. These are the voices that have been left furthest behind in every conversation to date on the planet. I know I don’t have all the answers, but I always try to listen to people of color, women, other minorities, and people with underrepresented identities on what their needs are and try to help them position themselves to win the future. That’s where I’ve chosen to spend my time. Q: Speaking of women, what Detroit female business leaders in the sustainability space can you point to who are making a difference? A: Carla Walker-Miller. I work with a variety of companies but one that is an absolute stand-out is Walker-Miller Energy Services. In addition to what they do, which is to help relieve folks of energy burden by doing energy retrofits, Carla is an equitable economic development leader and a woman of color. I admire her not only for her company’s work but for her leadership. She is a national figure living and working in Detroit making a great impact on equitable economic development. Her work constantly informs what I’m doing now. Carla Walker-Miller has hired Dr. Brandy Brown as Chief Innovation Officer for Walker-Miller. She is another amazing talent. Before joining Walker-Miller, Dr. Brown served as Climate & Energy Advisor within the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy. She also serves as part of the Environmental Justice faculty for the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and as an appointee to Michigan’s National Resources Trust Fund Board. A native Detroiter, Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome was recently tapped to be the new White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Senior Director for Environmental Justice. She has tackled environmental challenges from a wide range