Finding a Way Forward: SMSBF

SMSBF is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing sustainability in southeast Michigan’s business community. A sustainable business, according to SMSBF, is one that thinks beyond profits and losses. It uses the triple bottom line (social, environmental and economic justice) to gauge its position in the economy and its ability to survive in the future. Mike Shesterkin, SMSBF’s executive director, envisions a strong network of local business leaders who actively contribute to positive change in southeast Michigan by embracing and sharing just and Earth-friendly business practices. While it’s admittedly a challenge to try to fundamentally change decades of entrenched single bottom line thinking—in which profitability is pursued at all other costs—Mike emphasizes the fact that half … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: livingLAB

livingLAB is a collaborative landscape architecture and planning studio focused on community-driven design. Based out of the Green Garage for nearly eight years, they work on open space planning, landscape design, pedestrian/bike mobility projects, stormwater management, and green infrastructure development for a wide variety of clients throughout metro Detroit. You might know their work from such recent projects as Beacon Park in downtown Detroit, MoGo (the city of Detroit’s bike share program), and the transformation of Bagley St. in southwest Detroit into a walkable and bike friendly commercial corridor.    livingLAB’s four person team is among the millions of Americans who have been primarily working from home since the pandemic started. Principal and planner Leah … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Global Detroit

It’s perhaps the understatement of the year to say that 2020 didn’t go quite as anyone expected. For Global Detroit, a nonprofit organization committed to revitalizing southeast Michigan’s economy through immigrant inclusion, this was a milestone year—their tenth—and they had planned to pull out all the stops and throw their biggest annual fundraising event ever.   Naturally, the coronavirus made that impossible, but the Global Detroit team pressed on and had their anniversary celebration nonetheless, in October, on Facebook. The virtual event included a keynote speech from executive director Steve Tobocman, an animated video detailing their ten years of impact, and speeches by a host of immigrant entrepreneurs whom the organization honored with awards. Kristin Palm, Global … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Strawberry Solar

Green Garage business-in-residence Strawberry Solar installs rooftop solar panels throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula. They mostly work on residential properties, but occasionally do small commercial projects as well (including the last two expansions of the Green Garage’s own solar array, which have helped us get ever closer to our net-zero energy goals). Strawberry’s managing partner, Will Held, says that during Michigan’s initial COVID19 shutdown in March, their seven person team decided to take three weeks off to “observe and do office work from home.” During that time, Strawberry successfully applied for a PPP loan. Will says that while the loan provided relief and allowed them not to lay off any employees, his team quickly grew concerned over lost revenue. “We’re a physical … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Detroit Food Academy

Detroit Food Academy (DFA) is a nonprofit organization that develops young leaders through good food and entrepreneurship training. They have typically done this through a mix of robust in-person activities for middle and high school students, including a year-long after school program and a summer leadership program, through which they explore concepts around nutrition, cooking, triple bottom line business leadership, local food systems, and food justice (among others). DFA’s remarkable success engaging young people has a great deal to do with their place-based, person-to-person approach. While the pandemic has made in-person gatherings impossible, they are working hard to continue shaping the next generation of leaders in Detroit. DFA’s program director Tiffany Brown says that as … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Great Lakes Environmental Law Center

Nick Leonard is the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC), an environmental justice organization based out of the Green Garage. GLELC advocates on behalf of local, often marginalized communities to ensure that they are able to enjoy the benefits of a healthy environment. They’re the organization that brought legal action against the now-closed Detroit Incinerator in 2019. Nick says that the COVID19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the nature of GLELC’s work, which is rooted in community meetings and interpersonal interactions. “All of our community meetings going virtual has made our work a lot harder,” he says. “It’s harder to reach the people we work with, who might not have Internet access or who might not be available to hop on a Zoom … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: Eco Achievers

Lindsey Elton is the co-owner and President of Eco Achievers, a company that helps new and existing buildings achieve green certifications like LEED, ENERGY STAR, NGBS, and Passive House. Eco Achievers is based outside of Chicago, where Lindsey’s four colleagues live, and where about 75% of their business is. She began working remotely out of the Green Garage after she moved home in 2019 to open their Detroit office, which was a longtime dream of hers. This was also the same time that she and her colleagues purchased the business from its previous owner—a move that brought simultaneous excitement, opportunity, and a whole new set of anxieties. Lindsey says that as a small business “without a lot of backup,” her tight-knit team entered the COVID19 crisis prepared for the worst, … [Read more...]

Finding a Way Forward: FoodLab Detroit

FoodLab Detroit is all about connecting food entrepreneurs to the resources they need to be successful. They’re a network-based nonprofit organization, having worked for more than eight years to cultivate nourishing relationships in support of a thriving good food ecosystem in and around Detroit. Currently, they do that work on two different tracks: the first provides “business 101”-type resources and technical assistance to more than 100 members, and the second convenes a twice-a-year fellowship that takes 10 food entrepreneurs on a more intensive journey to success. Photo by Val Waller When FoodLab’s executive director Devita Davison reflects on the pandemic’s effects on her work, she describes it as a profound upheaval. “Everything we do in the restaurant industry and in food … [Read more...]

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