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In 2016, Traverse City, Michigan committed to sourcing 100% of the energy used for city operations from renewable sources by 2020. In 2018, the municipal utility Traverse City Light & Power made a similar commitment to 100% renewable sources by 2040. These declarations created opportunities for local energy project development in the region, paving the way for renewables to benefit environmental, social, and economic issues within the community. Renewable energy projects and infrastructure are not new, but communities across the United States are still struggling to find the best models to harness this opportunity, particularly for underserved geographies and communities.
A team of Dow Fellows worked with leaders and stakeholders in Traverse City throughout 2018 and produced the Beyond Renewable document to highlight the benefits of renewable energy and methods of working effectively with stakeholders, including local government, developers, utility companies and members of the community.
Beyond Renewable, is related to the Dow Masters Fellows team project Making the Case for Renewable Energy in Traverse City. Traverse City recently committed to sourcing 100% of the energy used for city operations from renewable sources by 2020. To help reach this goal, the Groundwork Center is participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar in Your Community Challenge to create a model for harnessing the revenue from large, local, utility-scale solar projects. Through this project, the Traverse City Rural Independence through Solar Energy project (or TC-RISE), the Groundwork Center and its partners hope to create a series of solar and efficiency success stories that taken together will help rural and urban communities improve their homes, create jobs, and save residents money.
2018 Project Report: Making the Case for Renewable Energy in Traverse City
A Dow Sustainability Fellows team presented to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) the financial, social, and environmental merits of offering subsidized ride-hail services to residents in areas that cannot be efficiently covered by buses. The team proposed a subsidized ride-hail service, FlexBus. While the research, design, and analysis of this report were conducted specifically for the AAATA, the team expects the information and insight will be broadly applicable to any transit agency considering on-demand ride-hailing.
Keywords: Ride sharing, hailing, transportation, subsidized
This project set out to understand key barriers to expanding compost programs in Ann Arbor, and to identify best practices to support the city in expanding these programs most effectively.
Ann Arbor’s composting facility, operated by WeCare Organics, has the capacity to expand composting to all current residents and businesses. However, if service were to be expanded to all households, the current mechanism for financing city composting programs is not sustainable. Under its current millage system, the city’s financing structure for composting does not facilitate opportunities for increased revenues. Additionally, low land ll tipping fees, challenges with the city Material Recovery Facility (MRF), and funding restrictions have further hindered the expansion of services.
Keywords: Composing, waste management, solid waste system, zero waste
Oroeco, a website and application-based service that allows users to track the climate impacts of their everyday decisions, recently launched a beta version of a new, interactive social platform that features sustainability ratings of individual publicly-traded companies. The Dow Sustainability Fellows team worked with Oroeco to develop a go-to-market strategy and improve the beta version of the platform. The goal of the platform is to promote sustainable corporate practices and to unlock more informed decision- making by mobilizing the interests of a range of stakeholders, including consumers, investors, and experts (including scholars and non-governmental organizations).
Keywords: Information management, carbon footprint, behavior, decision-making, climate impact assessment
Like many post-industrial cities, Detroit has an outdated and overburdened combined sewer system. In a combined sewer system, heavy rains overwhelm the city’s water treatment system, resulting in increased flooding and discharges of both sewage and stormwater into local rivers. In order to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSO), stormwater must enter the sewer system at a slower and steadier pace without high peaks caused by heavy rain events. In addition, Detroit has vast amounts of impervious surface, much of which is abandoned or underused, further contributing to stormwater runoff concerns.
Our project, in collaboration with Michigan Community Resources (MCR) and Eastside Community Network (ECN), explores whether a collective, place-based approach to green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) installations can result in joint stormwater credits towards fees in residential neighborhoods.
Keywords: Urban infrastructure, combined sewer system, flooding, sewage, stormwater, green infrastructure
Soy production has led to deforestation in multiple regions of Brazil, including the states of Mato Grosso and Pará. A combination of laws, such as the Forest Code (1965), and voluntary agreements, such as the Soy Moratorium (2006), have been implemented to slow the rate of deforestation due to soy production in the Amazon. Although the overall deforestation rate has declined in Brazil from 2004 to 2013, it has increased along the BR-163 highway, also known as the “Soy Corridor.”
Keywords: agro-industrialization, soy, deforestation, Brazil, Mato Grosso and Para region, rainforest
Urban, poverty-stricken, and disinvested communities are struggling to reliably and affordably secure the energy services they need. At the same time, the moral and economic case for distributed renewable energy technologies promises transformative change for how electricity is created and consumed. Soulardarity, a grassroots community organization centered in Highland Park, Michigan, is working to make this vision of energy democracy a reality. The Dow Sustainability Fellowship team partnered with Soulardarity to assess the feasibility of installing a community-owned and operated solar project in Highland Park.
Keywords: Solar energy, community, community power purchase agreement, solar co-op
Our Dow Sustainability Fellowship Program team (the Dow team) partnered with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) to investigate drinking water quality and affordability issues at the community level to better inform statewide efforts to empower citizens and address water access concerns. The locality of focus, Benton Harbor, Michigan, shares similarities to Flint, Michigan – a city thrust into the spotlight when lead contamination was discovered in its drinking water. Benton Harbor, like Flint, has experienced an economic depression, a strained city governance, and aging infrastructure.
Keywords: water, infrastructure, Michigan Environmental Council, City Planning
Located in Mississippi, one of the least food-secure states in America, the west side of Tallahatchie County is a rural county located in the fertile Delta region and is about a 45-minute drive away from the closest full-service grocery store. Building on the stories and insights shared by community members during interviews and workshops, the Dow Master’s project team designed a regional plan that provides potential strategies for a more food-secure future.
Keywords: University of Michigan, Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, food insecurity, poverty
The Condon Crow House, located in the heart of Detroit, leverages sustainability programming and implementation for both community and personal development. It is a uniquely tangible effort, supported by the Dow Distinguished Award Program. Through this effort, U-M students are leveraging a house and side lots to demonstrate how community-driven development can reclaim place and steer the effects of social policy. Crow House embodies a wide breadth of sustainability categories, including energy, water, food sovereignty, public health, sanitation, site ecology, the built environment and community engagement.
Crow House is a non-profit organization, with a mission founded in the urban settlement house tradition. Located in Chadsey-Condon neighborhood on the west side of Detroit, the focus is on place-based community education in sustainability. Including a permaculture demonstration/teaching site, Condon Crow House also provides a community space for a range of programming, as well as for an urban scholar in residence.
Keywords: University of Michigan, Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability