New York City produces around 50,000 tons of waste every day. If you need a mental picture, imagine 25,000 SUV’s. Now imagine all of them in a single heap in the South Bronx. Such is the reality of waste disposal in the Big Apple. Nearly all of the trash from the five boroughs ends up in one place, and it’s no surprise that the people living there are low-income people of color. Neighborhoods like this are the evidence that social injustice and environmental degradation are inextricably tied.

In a number of cities around the country, from the South Bronx in New York, to the Bayview in San Francisco, residents of these neighborhoods are organizing against perpetual dumping in their communities, which carries grave health risks, not to mention the unattractive appearance and odors emanating from garbage and sewer plants. Sustainable South Bronx is one such organization. Founded by Majora Carter in 2001, the group has implemented a number of sustainable community development projects with the mission of advancing “the environmental, social and economic rebirth of the South Bronx.”

Sustainable South Bronx is juggling many simultaneous projects, including a plan for a bicycle/pedestrian greenway, the conversion of a concrete plant into a public park, and a mixed-use waterfront development. They are also collaborating with several departments at Columbia, the Cool City Project, and HM White Site Architects to create the South Bronx New Roof Demonstration Project. The project “combines green building technology and public health research to demonstrate the tangible health and economic benefits of green and cool roofs, and will be a working, productive…laboratory for urban agriculture, using permanent plantings alongside experiments in rooftop crops and a distinctive cool roof design.”

Founder Majora Carter has just been named a MacArthur Fellow, honoring the work she has done and granting a five-year stipend for the advancement of her organization. It’s exciting to see this kind of synthesis of environmental justice, community health research, and green building attain recognition on a national level. This work is essential for the true revitalization of urban neighborhoods.

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  1. PAMELA DECKARD December 20, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I will love to become a team member of substainable south bronx.I am looking foward to
    making the world a natural enviorment to live in.Thank You!

  2. Inhabitat » Blog ... July 20, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    […] The 92nd Street Y in New York hosted a fantastic panel discussion last night (7/19) entitled The New Green: The Changing Face of Environmentalism in New York. The participants (full list below) had many great insights into how a city known for innovation, but not necessarily environmentalism, is now marrying the two in a number of extremely dynamic ways. All the participants were brilliant and insightful. The one who struck me the most, however, represented a community not typically associated with the environmental movement: Harlem. Negotiating what is typically considered a white liberal terrain, Kizzy Charles-Guzman and her environmental justice organization, We Act, seek to balance environmental issues, development projects, and local economic vitality in the Harlem community. She spoke directly to the Inhabitat philosophy when she said that for too long the environment has been considered the great outdoors, and that it needs to be framed as “indoors: the places we live, work and pray.” Amen. This consideration is especially important in communities of color which have long been the dumping ground of bad products, bad buildings, and bad policies. […]

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