DETROIT — Every time Joel Howrani-Heeres even thinks about forms of sustainability, he is quick to reflect on the many of the thousands who each day bring methods of it to the city of Detroit.
“There are so many people involved in many different ways,” said Howrani-Heeres, a Detroit resident of 13 years who is Director of Open Data and Analysis in Detroit’s Department of Innovation and Technology and recently appointed on May 22 as Director of Sustainability for the City of Detroit. “So many are going above-and-beyond to find ways to improve Detroit. There’s always more ways for everyone (to contribute).”
Howrani-Heeres, a stern supporter of strengthening the economic, social and environmental well-being of Detroit’s residents, neighborhoods and businesses, was the keynote speaker at the 2017 9th Annual EcoWorks Breakfast, held Sept. 15 at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit’s New Center.
EcoWorks, a Detroit-based non-profit and leader in local and regional sustainability initiatives, hosted its annual breakfast gathering that featured a unique collection of more than 200 representatives — employees of Detroit-based companies, politicians, volunteers, activists, policymakers, media members and concerned residents alike — who share the common goal of reshaping Detroit for future generations through a wide variety of sustainability efforts that are geared for the 21st century and beyond.
The EcoWorks breakfast honored a small cast of “Sustainability Community Champions” who have gone above and beyond to improve Detroit’s innards and outlying communities and neighborhoods with an eye on the future. The awards represented the diversity of approaches to advancing sustainability methods in Detroit and the Southeastern Michigan region from community initiatives to a wide variety of industries that operate in the area and abroad.
Honored at this year’s event were:
- Danielle Conyord, Executive Director of the River Raisin Institute of Monroe and part of the Sisters and Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- Sandra Turner-Handy, Community Engagement Director For Michigan Environmental Council and member of the Zero Waste Detroit council.
- Maria Thomas, a lifelong Detroit resident who has completed work for various organizations for Charlevoix Villages Association, Church of the Messiah, Eastside Community Network, Detroit Future City, The Ecology Center, Detroit Eviction Defense, Field Street Association and Field of Our Dreams, amongst others.
- Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit-based non-profit agency established in 2002 that works in concentrated areas of the city and provides programs for food, health, housing and jobs.
This grouping of sustainability standouts and organizations is only a sliver of those that wear the heart of sustainability on their sleeves.
“(Our efforts) are not just for today, but truly are for future generations,” said Turner-Handy, who has put together tireless efforts with various collaborations to raise money for green space and recreational opportunities in Detroit. “Some of us might not be here (to enjoy the fruit) when the city is complete, but we must continue to make positive change today.”
EcoWorks, now in its 35th year, is a non-profit entity itself founded in 1982 with years of providing a variety of services “at the intersection of community development and sustainability.” Ecoworks is engaged in the area of “sustainable development relating to building affordable, energy efficient residential housing and commercial buildings.”
BY Dan Stickradt, Correspondent—GreeningDetroit.com