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Getting around without a car isn’t easy in many U.S. cities. People who rely on public transit often contend with many challenges, including decaying infrastructure, not having easy access to a transit stop, lack of system reliability, restrictions to how late or early a system operates, and often a lack of support to fund transit improvements. These difficulties can impact people in many ways, including their ability to access essential healthcare, jobs, and grocery stores. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft can pick up the slack from inadequate public transit, but they also present challenges, like being inaccessible to people with disabilities; lacking the incentive to work along unpopular routes; creating more emissions per mile traveled; and siphoning riders (and money) from public transit. One solution to these challenges is for transit agencies to enter into public-private partnerships with ride-hailing companies to expand public transit coverage.
The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) partnered with a University of Michigan Dow Sustainability Fellows team to explore the potential for a public-private partnership that could supplement and enhance the current public transit system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The team researched the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of different ride-hailing public-private partnership models to determine which model could best be used to cover under-used bus routes and connect riders to transit stops.
São Paulo, Brazil, is a booming city. Growing, thriving, and leaving far too many people behind in the process. According to the Washington Post, a 2013 government survey found Brazil is short over 6 million housing units, a shortage demonstrated in São Paulo. A solution many urban residents consider is joining a land occupation, or “Ocupação” in Portuguese. These are settlements organized on land owned by someone other than the inhabitants.
Ocupação Anchieta started four years ago in Grajaú, a city district on the southern periphery of São Paulo, on land owned by the nonprofit organization Instituto Anchieta Grajaú (IAG). Over 800 families now live on the land, negatively impacting the Mata Atlantica forest and natural springs on the site. Currently, AIG and the residents are collaborating on a solution that balances a right to safe housing with environmental health. As part of this ongoing process, an interdisciplinary team of University of Michigan (U-M) students and faculty is working with residents, IAG, and local architectural and engineering firms to create an environmentally and socially sustainable community.
The concept of energy democracy is for people and communities to have control of their energy supply, like choosing whether it comes from fossil fuels or renewables, infrastructure considerations, and other options. Energy democracy focuses on poor and working class people of color, often most impacted by energy purchase decisions. In the case of Highland Park, the city has a majority African-American and Black population, with nearly half of residents living below the poverty line. Approximately 40% of the population reported difficulty in paying their energy bills, and multiple people reported illegal shut-offs, all of which suggest a high and possibly unjust energy burden on the population. These were some of the findings from the community survey on which Soulardarity and the Dow Fellows team collaborated.
Keywords: Energy democracy, Community Solar Calculator, Community Solar Power, Highland Park
Yuan’s trip to Ghana centered on market research for the Solar-Powered Mini Electric Vehicle (EV) Project. The project originated as a collaboration between a start-up driven by MIT adjunct professor Dr. Christopher Borroni Bird (Afreecar), and the University of Michigan School of Engineering. The overall goal is to a) create a solar electric bike trailer to be used for transportation and as a charging station, and b) demonstrate that such a vehicle can improve quality of life for urban and rural populations in developing countries and impoverished communities. Keywords: Solar-Powered Mini Electric Vehicle (EV) Project, Solar, Electric bike, Trailer, Transportation
Over the course of 2017, a team of University of Michigan (U-M) Dow Sustainability Fellows partnered with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin to assess NELD impacts experienced by their community. Students collaborated with the tribe to document and illuminate the potential adverse health, cultural, and psychological impacts stemming from biodiversity losses and destruction or alteration of landscapes. Their research highlights the interconnected relationship between the environment and tribal members’ identity, spirituality, and culture. Moreover, it demonstrates how dedicated the community is to being environmental stewards.
Keywords: Non-economic losses and damages (NELD), Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, emotional, health, psychological impacts stemming, climate and environmental change, Wisconsin
Black soldier flies are an innocuous insect with the ability to consume twice their weight in a day during the larval stage, thus transforming large quantities of most organic material like food waste, into fat and protein. This fact has caught the attention of scientists, farmers, and composters all looking for a better way to both feed an increasing population and recycle the growing amount of organic waste produced by that population. With a $5,000 seed grant from the Dow Distinguished Awards competition, a U-M student team conducted a study to determine the demand for a black soldier fly feed production facility, and how this might contribute to an emerging agriculture and waste management industry. Keywords: Black soldier flies, Kulisha, food waste, waste management, agriculture, animal feed
Southwest Detroit is a community with many needs, including access to affordable housing and healthy food. For Detroiters living in an older home, this means paying high utility bills, unless you can find a house renovated to be energy efficient. To address both the need for energy efficient housing and access to healthy food, a University of Michigan team of graduate students interested in urban socioecology developed the Crow House project. Inspired in part by the settlement house tradition popular at the turn of the 20th century, students began implementing a plan that focused on creating common ground for community and college collaboration among local activists, agencies, and scholars living in neighborhoods. Keywords: Affordable Housing, Detroit, Community Gardening, Energy Efficiency
As you enter the city, Detroit’s reputation as the Motor City is readily apparent. With wide streets and long blocks, Detroit is a city made for cars. In many places, it is difficult to access amenities – fresh food, jobs, healthcare – without a vehicle. Focus: HOPE, a Detroit-based non-profit focused on addressing racism, poverty, and injustice launched the HOPE Village initiative to improve the lives of Detroit residents and break the cycle of poverty. To address transportation challenges in the community. Focus: HOPE partnered with a team of graduate students from the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan (U-M). Keywords: Urban Transportation, Focus: Hope, Community-based Participatory Research, CBPR
A Dow Sustainability Master's Fellows team investigated the feasibility of installing a biodigester on campus to reduce food waste and capture gas to use for energy. This summary is part of the Dow Global Impact Series highlighting innovative field work projects.
Keywords: Biodigester, food waste, compost, energy conservation, engineering, sustainability, University of Michigan Dow Sustainability Fellows Program
Sustainability is a concept that can be applied across all professions, even those that may not immediately come to mind, like dentistry. But how dentists conduct their practices have both environmental and economic sustainability implications. A Dow Sustainability Fellows team addressed the dearth of data and resources on sustainable dentistry through a three-part study of 1) a review of current sustainable practices in medical and dental facilities, 2) a case study at the U-M School of Dentistry, and 3) a sustainability toolkit for dental clinics that draws on the results of the review and the dentistry case study.
Keywords: University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Green Dentistry Practices, GreenHealth, Greening the Dental Clinic Toolkit