The Intersection of Development, Movement of Goods, and Sustainability


Nine months ago the Port of Detroit launched a decarbonization project aiming to reduce its environmental impact and improve air quality. The project – in partnership with Tunley Environmental and Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV) – involves a range of initiatives, beginning with a full assessment of the port’s current fossil fuel emissions. Concurrently, the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge is well underway, due to be completed in September 2025, which has many implications involving sustainability in Southwest Detroit. SBN Detroit interviewed, Mark Schrupp, executive director of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, to get an update on the decarbonization efforts and obtain some insights on how those efforts overlap with the bridge development and the future of air quality and sustainability in that area. Q: We last spoke in August, at which time you were just launching the decarbonization project. Where does it stand now? A: The baseline assessment of the carbon footprint of the Port of Detroit is near completion. This is a significant milestone. We have measured all emissions of bringing materials into the port, including equipment used to move materials, emissions from tugboats, and ships, and broke it down by terminal and operator. Next, we’ll lay out plans for eliminating that footprint over the next twenty years. Q: What will initial strategies involve? A: Most of our focus will be on diesel. Ships and heavy equipment operate on diesel and the quickest fastest way to reduce emissions is to convert to biodiesel. We are pushing hard for that. The long-term solution may be hydrogen, but this involves major upgrades and renovations to the vehicles and ships, and the infrastructure. In the meantime, we can reduce carbon emissions by 14% to 15% by switching to a biodiesel blend right away. This will have immediate impacts on global warming and air quality. Q: Is the use of electricity an option? A: It’s not a good option. The heavy-duty equipment used in the port region would need massive batteries to power them, and there are just not a lot on the market today. All U.S. ships that operate in the Great Lakes are being encouraged to convert to biodiesel. Canadian ships are already switching to B20 and higher blends. This will help when ships are docked and running on generators. Q: How does this intersect with the development of the Gordie Howe International Bridge and the use of diesel and biodiesel in heavy-duty trucks? A: The significant increase in truck traffic in Southwest Detroit makes it more likely to get funding to convert those trucks to hydrogen or biodiesel. The concentration of diesel fuel in this region makes a strong case for that. The switch to biodiesel would help immensely, as the heavy equipment used in the ports can run on that too. It would have a massive impact on the air quality. The challenge is getting enough biodiesel supply. It is a supply and demand issue. Also, without government incentives, biodiesel costs more than regular diesel. Other states have implemented tax credits or financial incentives to the producers, and a mandate for the users, creating a carrot and a stick scenario. What is needed is legislation to create funding to increase the supply and incentives to bring down the cost. Canada has created a penalty in the shipping industry for those who don’t use biodiesel. In the Port of Detroit, there is one fuel company – Waterfront Petroleum – that supplies the fuel for most ships. That company has received some funding and is ramping up its ability to provide biodiesel for the ships in reaction to this Canadian penalty. We are working to help them secure funding, etc. At the same time, we are helping to educate ship owners on using biodiesel. There are some extra filter changes and small operational things that need to be done to get the most from the fuel. Industry players promoting this to help ship and truck owners understand how to use it. Q:  Overall, do you think the development of the bridge is a negative or positive for the port? A: The bridge has driven up prices on land in the area. One of the projects we are working on is to extend a rail line to the waterfront for a private partner, and the prices for land to run that rail line have gone up because of speculation around the bridge. But it will have a positive impact on our region in terms of manufacturing. The bridge will help keep Detroit as the epicenter of most of the automobile production. If auto manufacturing remains strong, those sectors will need more raw materials that flow through the port. This will be bolstered by the bridge because it will make the movement of goods more efficient. This will ultimately have a ripple effect on our economy – for the positive. We are also looking at ways we can leverage the bridge to help make the port of Detroit more of an intermodal hub for finished goods and other kinds of goods. For example, instead of big ships unloading on the coast in Quebec or New York and then putting materials on trains to reach our region maybe having the bridge makes Detroit/Windsor a better destination for those shippers to reach midwestern customers. We are still researching this. The challenge is that the really big ships can’t get into the Great Lakes. But we are looking at ways to be more efficient with smaller ships and other solutions. The idea is ultimately to take some of the railroad traffic off the East Coast rail lines and get the goods closer to the customer. Q: What are the next steps in terms of your decarbonization project? A: We are planning a community event to showcase the process and planning and next steps.  We are really pleased with the work and collaboration efforts involved in this project and are looking forward to sharing it with the community. We are also in a

A Look at EGLE’s Materials Waste Management Division


The Materials Management Division (MMD) of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) oversees solid and hazardous waste programs, radioactive materials activities, a radon awareness program, recycling, and energy programs. We interviewed the director of the division, Elizabeth Browne, to get some insights. Q: How do you think energy efficiency, recycling, and pollution prevention are interconnected when it comes to fostering sustainability in Southeast Michigan? A: I have always felt you can’t have any without the others, and they are all key to having a sustainable system. Maybe it’s my biologist background. Recycling facilitates energy efficiency since it translates to diverting items from landfills. If you have a good system, you are reusing and recycling materials nearby, you save energy by not transporting material across state lines. When we look at energy efficiency, it works the same way. If we decrease the effort and resources put into heating, cooling, water usage, and transportation systems by becoming more efficient, we have more resources to allocate elsewhere. And isn’t that the very heart and definition of sustainability? Q: How do environmental justice and underrepresented communities factor into these efforts in Southeast Michigan? A: They factor in highly. There are federal funding requirements to help regulate this. The federal Justice 40 program deems that 40% of grant funds be used in underrepresented communities. Even before that, this was a focus for us. If you look at any of our requests for proposals, we pay special attention to projects coming from underrepresented communities – places where the community’s ability to be more sustainable has been stressed. We are always trying to level the playing field.  Q: You work with state and federal partners, entrepreneurs, companies, organizations, and communities to reduce Michigan’s reliance on nonrenewable energy. Can you tell us more about this work? A: We work with federal partners in seeking every grant opportunity that we feel we have a nexus with. We work with companies and organizations through the Retired Engineers, Scientists, Technicians, Administrators, Researchers, and Teachers (RESTART) program. This is a group of retired professionals who work with entities to identify where they have energy issues or where renewable energy options may be a benefit. We do energy audits for houses of worship, schools, and municipal buildings. In many cases, these buildings are older and not efficient, so we offer ideas on how to improve efficiency and look at renewable options. This helps them save financial resources that they can then allocate elsewhere. We have received grant money through the Charge Up Michigan Program to install fast chargers in communities. Within this program, the cost of charger installation is divided amongst the location owner, the utility provider, and EGLE. This allows us to install more chargers, and it helps the utilities get closer to their energy efficiency goals and benefits the property owner or business. We have worked with communities to replace diesel- and gas-powered vehicles with electric ones, including Willow Run Airport and the City of Detroit. In Detroit, we replaced diesel-powered garbage trucks with EVs. We work heavily with NextCycle and the Centropolis Accelerator program at Lawrence Technological University.  These are both programs to support businesses in their early stages.  NextCycle is geared toward recycling activities, and the Centropolis Accelerator focuses on clean technology and the circular economy. Q: What are your biggest challenges in materials management? A: The thing that keeps me up at night is navigating grant programs. There is this huge influx of federal money, but there are a lot of checks and balances, and trying to manage the funding appropriately is a challenge. There is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait involved. We have a phenomenal team, and I don’t want to break their backs as they work to move the money out to recipients. Q: What are your highest priorities? A: Moving as much of the funding to those who need it and doing it in a way that is equitable and fair and hits the highest needs. Sometimes we make decisions that aren’t flashy, but the impact they have on that community is significant. A small community getting a few solar panels to help power their community building so the kids have someplace to go after school is a good example. We try to disburse the money in a way that supports as many communities and people as possible. Q: What does the future look like? A: I think it keeps getting brighter. The Michigan Legislature recently passed an eight-bill package that updates solid waste laws and will ensure we have sufficient landfill capacity. We just held our Virtual Michigan Materials Management Conference and had almost 600 people from 11 states represented. Getting EV chargers out across the state and seeing more and more interest in communities in terms of electrification is good progress. There is so much potential for economic growth in the energy and recycling fields. It’s astronomical. This excites me. Every day, I see people and companies that are looking for support and direction on becoming more sustainable. More and more companies understand the need to be sustainable because the public is demanding it, and it’s also for their own good. I encourage everyone to reach out to us. People interested in any EGLE grant programs can go to\EGLE and search for “grants and financing.” For more information about all things Materials Management Division, our web pages can be found at   Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

Daimler Truck’s Detroit Manufacturing Plant – From Diesel to EVs

Daimler Truck’s  Detroit® Manufacturing Plant produces 400 engines, 250 transmissions, and 1,300 axles daily. The 85-year-old factory is known for making diesel engines but is now working to be a leader in the transition to sustainable transportation. SBN Detroit interviewed Apoorva Mathur, remanufacturing – “reman” – electric product strategy analyst for Daimler Truck North America about the remanufacturing, reuse, and recycling side of the business. Q: How do you approach electrification? A: Our goal is to provide the ePowertrain solution that leads the transition to sustainable transportation. Everything we do pushes toward promoting sustainable transportation. Q: In your role, you focus on the sustainability of Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) Powertrain components through remanufacturing, reuse, and recycling. How does this work?  A: Clearly, part of leading the transition to sustainable transportation is providing an option that has zero emissions, but from an aftermarket perspective, it’s important to be conscious about what we do with components once they come out of the truck. We work to reuse as many components as possible through the remanufacturing process so that we are recycling what we already have. A battery has a lifecycle that extends way beyond what is usable in a vehicle, so to use that battery responsibly it has to have secondary applications. Many times, batteries that come out of a vehicle are used for peak shaving. Peak shaving is utilizing a battery storage system during peak energy usage hours to offset the amount of energy being pulled from the main grid. This reduces the load on the grid. Used batteries can also be used in a microgrid solution whereby some kind of solar or wind-powered system is connected to a battery storage system and energy from solar is used to power the batteries. This is a self-contained situation that does not rely on the grid system at all. Companies can also build used batteries into chargers to provide backup power. So, there are different ways batteries and components can be remanufactured and reused. The recycling component is pretty straightforward. We have a recycling program and a company that disposes of batteries and materials responsibly and also recycles material back into the supply chain. Q: In your role, you also support special projects that advance battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoption, such as creating a charging hub at your Redford location. Can you tell us more about that?  A: Yes. The state of Michigan secured $13 million in funding in partnership with Daimler Truck North America and DTE Energy to develop the mobility charging hub earlier this year. We will build a multimodal charging hub there, helping companies to transition their fleets. The charging hub will support heavy trucks and also passenger vehicles and more with the intent to help the entire community transition to EVs. Q: What is driving your change to electrification? A: The largest driver is a combination of emissions standards becoming stricter and also a greater focus on sustainability as a whole on the global stage. Daimler Truck is committed to the Paris Agreement globally, and we are doing our part to provide our customers with zero-emission options. Daimler Truck as a whole is looking for what best suits our customers’ needs, and we are electrifying products across the board and will continue to go down that path. We are also looking at other options such as hydrogen. We need to explore everything to ensure we are giving the best options to our customers. Q: What drives your passion for what you do? A: This is so new for all of us. I’m constantly learning.  We are faced with something new every day when comes to requirements from a regulatory perspective and we are constantly getting customer feedback. It’s unchartered territory for all of us and we are all taking this learning journey together in this industry. That’s fun for me. It’s not the business as usual that Detroit Diesel has been doing for 85 years. It’s new and different and exciting. Q: What are the biggest challenges? A: Again, it’s unscripted. It involves so much effort as an industry to make this switch. We can build the product, but we also need the infrastructure. There are gas stations on every corner but supporting EVs is brand new. Also, we need support from utilities. Grid support requires more resiliency as we switch, and there is a lot of work to be done here. When we say we are transforming the transportation industry we mean it. We are taking every component and turning it into something different and it requires so much from everyone. Q: What are the opportunities? A: We’ve seen a whole new level of energy and innovation coming from all sides. New suppliers and players coming into the space every day. It’s exciting to see these companies coming into the industry to push and innovate. On the infrastructure side, it’s the same. New data companies are looking at how to use power in areas to help the grid. There are new charging management systems, new charging suppliers, etc. It’s given the industry a chance to innovate and go outside the norm of what we provide. Q: How do you think the work you are doing impacts Southeast Michigan in terms of innovation? A: Detroit is the place to be when it comes to sustainable transportation. And Detroit is the hub for all things mobility. The Battery Show North America is in Detroit each year, and there is so much knowledge at that show. It’s all being done here. Detroit is the center of competency. It’s a great place to learn and innovate and partner and work within. Q: What does the future look like? A: We will see change on the roads around us. Electric cars are growing in production and adoption in this area. We will see different types of technology being used for different applications as we learn what’s effective. We will see a mixed mobility strategy across the board and that’s exciting. I also

Wayne State University Moves Ahead As a United Nations Regional Center of Expertise


In April 2022, Wayne State University and the University of Windsor were designated as the United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development in the Detroit-Windsor region.  RCEs are networks of educational institutions, communities, governments, businesses, and other organizations that work together to advance and implement sustainability education within a region. SBN Detroit talked with Donna Kashian, Wayne State University professor and director of Environmental Sciences, who is leading the efforts at the university. Q: Tell us about regional centers of expertise. A: The RCE is a global program. Our designation is somewhat unique in that we are binational.  In our case, the US and Canada focus on the shared legacy of the region. The waterway is deeply linked to industry and economics in our area, and the two nations face similar challenges. We’ll work toward enhancing the economy to meet the sustainable era. This involves a large set of goals with a foundation in education. Part of our work is to bring together community partners and address activities related to sustainable development challenges. So, we are connecting entities such as the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, key individuals within schools and universities, the government, municipalities, and nonprofits to work on collaborative projects toward our goals. Ultimately, we will utilize these partnerships and networks to support research, training, and participation to move sustainable education forward. Q: How is this set up? A: Wayne State University has been very supportive of this effort and has contributed several resources, including support for two graduate students who will serve as sustainability ambassadors to help move things forward. Through the UN RCE, we are in the process of forming a sustainability council. We are appointing an individual from every unit within the university to report back to this council. Additionally, we will also have an external advisory board to help identify sustainability challenges in the Southeast Michigan region and the Essex region. The fellows will start tackling research and projects that are identified. Q: I understand that the goal of the UN RCE is to identify actions that address climate change, economic and health disparities, and social inequity to create a more sustainable future. How will you approach this? A: This is incredibly broad-sweeping and each university will tackle projects differently. WSU just launched a new five-year sustainability plan, and environmental justice and social inequity are addressed throughout. Many universities don’t include these front and center in their plans, so in this way, I think we can work as an example to advance university sustainability planning as a whole. Regarding climate change, we recently submitted a $3 million project to tackle climate resilience and flooding – that involves infrastructure and design – in addition to many projects in the community and education around that, which include talking to local middle and high school children. Two of my students and I have an upcoming visit to 6th-grade classes to educate young people on climate change. So our work involves projects, traditional research plus community education. Q: What are the benefits to students? A: Approximately six years ago WSU applied for and received a training grant in urban sustainability which initiated our T-Rust (Transformative Research Urban Sustainability Training) program. This program is wrapping up and has transitioned into the UN RCE. This program supported 33 graduate students and, to date, ten have graduated with seven master’s degrees and three doctorate degrees. Two of these students have been chosen to work on research and science policy on Capitol Hill. We are training future leaders, and they are walking into really great positions. The UN RCE designation will help us step into undergraduate opportunities as well, so we can reach more students and start training at an earlier stage. When the students hear the United Nations designation their ears perk up and are anxious to get involved. Watching the grad students go on to succeed and being able to extend more opportunities to undergrads is huge. Q: How will this work potentially impact Southeast Michigan businesses? A: This is one of our big agenda items. Typically, the environmental side of the university, where most of my connections are, has not been as connected as it could be to the business side. We’ve been working in silos. So we are working to form partnerships and do a better job at this. Q: What other things are you involved in around sustainability? A:  I serve as a US representative for the International Joint Commission’s science advisory board, and next year will serve as president of the International Association of Great Lakes Research (IAGLR). I also am on the Conservation and Environmental Issues Committee – Society of Fresh Water Science, and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility+ Committee (IDEA+) committee for IAGLR. Q: How do these things help drive and shape your work overall? A: I think it all ties together. People say I’ve taken so much on, but it’s all interconnected and I think it’s about centralizing the work, not creating more. It’s all focused on the health of the Great Lakes and environmental justice. I hope to use and bring my shared resources to the UN RCE. Q: Where does your passion come from? A: Growing up, I lived in a Portuguese community in Massachusetts that has a long history of pollution from the textile industry. My family has an extraordinarily high cancer rate. I’ve always loved being outside, and I’ve always been passionate about improving health. I think my drive started there. And then five years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer myself. That has pushed me. The drive was there, but I now have an even stronger desire to push forward. Q: What is the end game? A: To live in a society that is just from a sustainable perspective, and to live within a healthy climate and environment. We clearly cannot accomplish this through the UN RCE alone, but we can move the dial. Training our youth to continue the quest and vote

Delta: Working Toward Net Zero Through Sustainability, Climate Impact

Delta Air Lines employs 95,000 people and operates 4,000 flights a day, flying to more than 280 destinations on six continents, and expects to serve nearly 200 million customers this year. 13.7 million passengers flew in or out of Detroit Metro Airport in 2022, making it Delta’s third-largest hub. We interviewed Gail Grimmett, Delta’s senior vice president of sustainability performance and strategic partnerships, to learn more about the airline’s sustainability strategy. Q: How does Delta approach sustainability? A: We are on a journey to reach net zero by 2050, so we have milestones and smaller goals we are working toward for 2025, 2030, and 2035 to help us get to net zero.  Our goals fall into two main pillars. The first is to embed sustainability in everything we do. This allows us to concentrate on things we can control today and allows sustainability to penetrate the entire business. The second is to eliminate our climate impact from flying. This is where our fuel and fleet come into play. So, we focus on these two main pillars and have set key targets and goals for each. Q: What does your sustainability team look like and how is it organized within the company? A: It’s set up to support the pillars. We have councils set up across the organization that work toward our goals. For example, we have a Carbon Council that is led by our chief of operations. This group is focused on innovation and fuel usage, looking for fuel efficiencies and savings Last year we saved 10 million gallons in fuel by weight reduction and by flying in a more efficient manner such as altitude and speed. We have sustainability embedded across the organization working on finding efficiencies and opportunities in areas we can control today. Q: Is sustainability addressed any differently here? A: All airports are different, but because we have great partners with the Airport Authority, we’re able to make changes outside of just our operation, like with LED lighting, low-flow water within the terminal, and within our catering kitchens. Since Detroit is a hub, it is a key airport for us that we look at regularly. We’ve been working on electrifying our ground service equipment (GSE) to convert to 100% electric by 2025 in five of our hubs and 100% in all of our hubs by 2035. Q: What are your short-term sustainability goals? A: In the short term, we are focusing on what we can control within our operation. For example, leveraging our councils to reduce fuel usage by another 10 million gallons this year. By 2035 we expect the Carbon Council to have saved 1.1 billion gallons of fuel, which is important from both a cost and emissions perspective. We are eliminating single-use plastics from planes. We eliminated 4.9 million pounds of plastic from planes as of last year, and on Dec. 5, we announced a new paper cup that we are testing in-flight that once fully rolled out will eliminate another 7 million pounds of single-use plastic. Changes like a new paper cup are no easy task. These cups must handle both hot and cold materials and meet international regulations that can vary from country to country.  We’re a global airline, and, operationally, we can’t just stock every aircraft differently based on the countries they travel through. We have to satisfy the sustainability regulations of all countries on all planes. Q: What about longer-term goals? A: We need to be net zero by 2050. That is the goal everyone in the industry is racing toward. To accomplish this, we need to focus on large-scale changes – things like switching to sustainable aviation fuel and hydrogen to power aircraft and building the supporting infrastructure. All this is still being researched and tested. When we think about our fleet – what we fly and how we fly – we are looking at what we can do in the medium term and the long term. For example, each new aircraft we add to our fleet generates around 25% fuel savings, so we are also updating our fleets to be more efficient. Q: What else are you working on to get to net zero by 2050? A: The number one lever we can pull to decarbonize our industry is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Currently, there is not enough of it, so we need to ramp up production of it. Today, there is only enough SAF to barely cover one day’s worth of flying for the entire industry. The government and policymakers are important as the production of SAF scales because we need the right policies and incentives to increase production and build the infrastructure to support SAF. While that may seem daunting, a positive is that SAF is an immediate solution – it can be added directly into planes right now. So, while there isn’t enough of it, it can be blended with current fuel, so we can start with 50% SAF and move to 80% and then 100% as the production ramps up. Also, this first-generation SAF won’t be the last. It will continue to evolve. This is one of the most exciting times to be in this field as there is so much need here, and so much innovation happening. Q: I read that you focus on building your fleet to have the longest, most sustainable life possible. Can you tell us more about that? A: Circularity is important to us. We look at refreshing planes, regenerating materials, and recycling. We hold onto our fleet for a long time but continually look at how to be more efficient with the fleet. Adjustments are being made to certain planes to reduce drag, which helps them become more fuel-efficient. This goes back to controlling what we can control while continuing to refresh the fleet as we can. Q: What are the biggest challenges overall? A: There are two. The first is the pace of technology advancement. It needs to speed up and I think it will. And,

This Month’s Message from Terry Barclay, SBN Detroit chair and CEO of Inforum

On Oct. 31, SBND hosted a panel focusing on business and sustainability in the Great Lakes region. The event was a collaboration with the Council of the Great Lakes Region  and featured Shanelle Jackson,  senior manager, LyondellBasell; Edna Lorenz, energy director, Corewell Health; Mark Schrupp, executive director, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority; and Lillian Woolley, senior chemical engineer, Fishbeck. It was a fascinating discussion, and I encourage you to read the story here. Before the panel discussion, Colin Bird, counsel general of Canada in Detroit, spoke about how Canada and the U.S. work together on issues that include the environment, maritime trade, and stewardship of the Great Lakes. In Michigan, we are more aware of this than most in the U.S., but some of the specifics were new to me. Some examples: In 2022, Canada was the U.S.’s largest trading partner in goods and services. About 80% of Canadian goods exports to the U.S. ‘feed’ American supply chains for final goods. According to U.S. trade data, in 2022, bilateral trade in goods and services was US$914.3 billion, representing over US$2.5 billion worth of goods and services crossing the border every day. The joint stewardship of the environment is a cornerstone of Canada-U.S. relations, from air and water quality to wildlife management. This includes at least 50 federal bilateral arrangements, more than 100 arrangements at the state and provincial level, and the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expand energy cooperation between the two countries are some examples of collaborative initiatives. Canada’s 2023 federal budget allocates $650 million over ten years to support monitoring, assessment, and restoration work in key freshwater ecosystems, many of which are shared by Canada and the US. Of this total, $420 million will go towards restoring and protecting the Great Lakes, complementing significant U.S. efforts in this regard. On September 18, the University of Michigan announced an award of $5 million from the National Science Foundation to establish the Global Center for Understanding Climate Change Impacts on Transboundary Waters, comprised of U.S. and Canadian universities and Indigenous representatives. McMaster University will lead the Canadian side, with $3.75 million in funding provided by the National Science Foundation. More trade statistics specific to Michigan can be found here.   Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

The Inflation Reduction Act and More


The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 marks the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history and provides potentially transformational opportunities for businesses and organizations of all sizes. On October 17, SBN Detroit hosted an informative discussion regarding these opportunities as well as those under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The discussion focused on clean energy programs, available resources, workplace infrastructure, integrating different forms of funding, and partnerships. A list of resources is at the end of this article. The panelists were: Jerry Davis, professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, oversees +Impact Studio and is faculty director of Business + Impact. Stacey Grant, principal and founder of Path Consulting, which offers equity-centered consulting support for communities, organizations, and nonprofits. Elizabeth Wallace, associate director, Michigan Community Programs, Elevate Energy Zachary Kolodin, chief infrastructure officer, State of Michigan The event was moderated by Nina Misuraca Ignaczak, founder, publisher, and editor of Planet Detroit, a digital media startup with a mission to produce quality climate, equity, health, and environmental journalism in the public interest. Takeaways follow:  Kolodin: Michigan is a model for the country. Our main goals are to make sure the state gets internal justice for our projects and to bring in quality jobs. It is a great time to be in state government. Grant: The funding and resources are meant to benefit your communities. We need to advocate and make this happen, and we can do this in a data-driven way. Davis: The IRA is like gelato. There are thousands of programs and a lot of acronyms. There are also some great resources to look at that are specific to Michigan. It’s really important to familiarize yourself with the basics of what is out there. Grant: We are talking about funding that isn’t a cycle. It is rolling out through 2032. This is a moment, but we are also talking about longevity. If you are not in the game, you can still get in the game, and win the game. Kolodin: When we talk about workforce infrastructure in this space, we often miss the capital needed. When we look at skills, when we look at humans, we fail to look at access to capital and replicating the needed qualities for the replication of these skills in the workforce. Kolodin: The IRA creates obvious funding opportunities to create a low-interest capital fund to support entrepreneurs in this space. We need to look into how to create a fund like this and get access to capital. We need to get creative to get money where it needs to be. Wallace: Through the IRA, there is the greenhouse gas production fund. This is funding that is going to capitalize on these clean energy products. There is pro-bono technical assistance and legal support for communities and residents to try to alleviate the complexity if you are a business owner looking to do energy projects. Wallace: There are a lot of incentives for cities to partner with other cities, community organizations, and local businesses. Davis: It’s important to focus on mid-management. Commitment from senior leaders matters, but midlevel leaders and managers make the difference day-to-day. Michigan Saves is a great resource. I felt they were really helpful specifically for contractors because there are so many details in the IRA – and they simplified things greatly. Wallace: If you are looking to receive capital, there are a lot of different ways to get into the programs and the funding that is coming from the IRA. Keep an eye on what is going on locally and regionally and see where some of these things align with your organization and if you want to expand into it. Wallace: It’s a time to really collaborate with other organizations with similar goals and local, state, and regional governments to see what programs are coming down the line that may be beneficial for your organization. Grant: We are dealing with crises daily. A shift in power is required. I invite people who are in positions of power and who have access to information and resources to make themselves available. If you do not have that invitation, then you need to create that relationship.   Click here for a list of resources. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

Greektown Monroe Corridor Redevelopment Priorities Include Sustainability


In June, the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership was awarded a $20 million infrastructure grant by the Michigan state legislature to redesign the Monroe Street corridor. The goals of the redesign are to prioritize pedestrians, drive economic development, calm vehicular traffic, green the area, create space to accommodate outside seating for the restaurants and cafes and connect Greektown to surrounding communities as well as the core of downtown. The project also incorporates several sustainability practices layered throughout. Melanie Markowicz, executive director of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, spoke to SBN Detroit about what this means to the residents, businesses, visitors, and patrons in the area. Q: How will Greektown use this $20 million grant? A: The Monroe corridor redevelopment is going to be transformative for Greektown, Detroit, and the whole state. Greektown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Its roots go back to the 1830s with German immigrants and Greek immigrants settling here throughout history. Today much of Greektown is owned by multigenerational Greek families. There is this intimate feel with the buildings being so close together and this gorgeous architecture. It’s a special place. Monroe Street has the highest pedestrian usage in downtown Detroit with prepandemic numbers reaching up to 19,000 pedestrians per day. Pedestrians outnumber the cars. There is a wealth of restaurants and bars and entertainment. So, with this grant, we have set out to define the future of Monroe Street and pedestrianize it in a formal way. We will reorient vehicular traffic to one lane in the center of the street and create very wide sidewalks lined with trees and amenities. Currently, there is only one block that can facilitate outdoor cafés and seating, and we want the whole corridor to be able to do so. The street will ideally become pedestrian-only on weekends and possibly more often than that. We will create and activate a corridor that truly functions as a beautiful, inviting, connected, and unique public space that incorporates and celebrates its cultural heritage within the design. Q: How do you think this redevelopment will impact the businesses around it? A: I think the impact will be significant. Once done, every business that has wanted an outdoor café will have the ability to have one. Before we began planning, we met with every business owner to understand how their business functions so that we can design it to best suit their needs. When the street is closed to traffic, the center lane will become a pedestrian lane. It will also allow for programming of different kinds. We are building hooks into the ground for tents and designing the space for these activations and festivals. Pedestrianizing the Monroe Corridor has been a long time coming for this neighborhood and we are thrilled to have the support of the state. Q: What are some ways you are incorporating sustainability within this development? A: Sustainability can take a lot of forms from the environment and greening to energy to the materials being used to connectivity within a community. I think there is a sustainability element to how we approached the project, inviting everyone to the table for the conversation from property owners to businesses to residents to city departments. It’s been fully collaborative to ensure that what we develop here has a long lifecycle. There are certainly sustainability elements to seeing shifts in climate change. We are working carefully to add mature trees to provide the area with a tree canopy and control the temperature. We are intentionally using pavers for the entire corridor versus concrete, so they can be removed for utility work and reinstalled versus concrete or other materials going to a landfill. We are exploring infrastructure technologies such as ice melting and EV charging stations. Q: What do you think are the biggest opportunities? A: We are creating this intimate yet connected space in Detroit that has this authentic flair and feel. There is the greening element and the pedestrian element. Greektown is a tourist destination, so these changes will enhance that experience and allow for even more foot traffic. Greektown is a core area of downtown yet it has been largely separated. With this project, we aim to connect the urban fabric including the downtown area, Paradise Valley, and more. Another significant element is that there are all of these other projects in the pipeline around us – and that is intentional. We’ve all been working together. From the Monroe Street corridor to the Randolph Plaza Streetscape project to the restoration of Bedrock properties to the Cadillac Square redevelopment to new public spaces in Paradise Valley – the whole area will change dramatically in the next five years. Q: What are the economic opportunities? A: I think there are huge economic opportunities, especially tied in with these other projects. We have this boom of development in the area and underutilized properties. We anticipate vacant spaces being filled and activated. The businesses will be impacted with more patronage and activation of more outside space. Q: What about the community and cultural impacts? A: We will incorporate the cultural and architectural heritage in everything we do. Many of the property owners are multigenerational Greek families who have been in the community for decades and created this unique niche and it’s critically important to preserve and highlight that. We will continue to utilize and preserve Victorian architecture. We are also being intentional about incorporating public art including murals and more. Q: Is there a job creation aspect involved in this project? A: Yes. Within the construction and project itself, and also, once we can program the whole space in a new way, that will create jobs along the corridor and within the businesses. Q: What is your vision overall for the future of Greektown? A: The beauty of this is that the vision comes from the community itself. That’s what gets me excited. Incorporating and sustaining Greektown’s heritage and improving on that so that the area just continues to get better and become more connected.

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.

Automotive Leaders Discuss Navigating the Shift to Mobility

Automotive always has been a technology-driven industry, but in the next ten years, there is likely to be more change in the industry than there has been in the last hundred. And much of that change will be taking place in Michigan. That shift – which moves automotive toward becoming a more sustainable industry – was the topic of a Sept. 15, 2023, breakfast, “Navigating the Shift to Mobility – With Detroit as a Leader,” hosted by Inforum, a nonprofit focused on accelerating women’s careers. The themes included diversity, new opportunities that come with and from young and emerging talent, the power of partnerships, and the future of mobility. Panelists were: Aruna Anand, President and CEO, Automotive Group Sector; head of architecture and networking, Continental North America Kristen Tabar, group vice president, Advanced Mobility Research & Development, Toyota North America Paul Thomas, president, Mobility in Americas, Bosch (effective Jan. 1, 2024), and Alan Wexler, senior vice president, strategy, and innovation, General Motors Justine Johnson, chief mobility officer for the State of Michigan, moderated the discussion. Our takeaways follow: Thomas: When you look for talent, look for talent that looks different from you. Different countries, beliefs, and perspectives, you have to look for talent that has diverse opinions on solutions. The world isn’t as simple as you think it is sometimes. Taber: When students look for a job, remember that it is not a one-and-done deal. You may think this is your passion and you work in this space, but what we see is that people evolve. That cross-pollination and common way to move throughout your career and experience different aspects of this new mobility solution. It’s a completely different landscape that requires different skill sets and backgrounds. Anand: We need to see ourselves in those positions that we are aspiring to be. If you do not have representation, then you don’t know what it’s like and you don’t have the confidence to do something because it is not done. We need to increase the pipeline. Then you understand the reasons why you can’t do this or what else you can do to fix it. Wexler: We see a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion. Taber: It is about the products that we put out, how we operate our businesses, and the ripple effect on our supply chains. We need very clear, measurable methods so we are using similar yardsticks. Thomas: We want to invest in communities, we invest in Detroit and the Midwest very heavily to bring mobility people into our companies. We are also always on the diversity journey. You will never know when you are done because diversity is something that you always must work on. Anand: We tend to want to be perfect before we try new things. We find reasons to not be good at things. What is stopping us? We need that coaching, mentoring, role models, all of that together to build that pipeline better. Wexler: (Talent recruitment) really starts with the “why.” … We need skillsets from other industries. We’re becoming more technology-oriented … we pioneer the innovations that move and connect people to what matters, so it’s who wants to be part of that purpose and do something impactful. Taber: We have to understand that none of us is going to be able to move the technology forward by ourselves. It is going to take partnerships that we probably wouldn’t have thought of ever before. Anand: If we can provide an environment that is flexible, then the talents will be able to grow. Thomas: The ecosystem is so large and the opportunities to do different things are available to each one of you in the room. There is so much information out there on how to get involved in mobility. Wexler: There isn’t another industry that has the same opportunity to heal the planet. Experience the full event here.    Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.