The recent announcement of a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create urban farms along Kinsman Avenue is just one example of the growing power of the green movement in Cleveland’s urban neighborhoods.
Another example is the 2009 award of a $75,000 grant from the U.S. EPA to help create Neighborhood Leadership for Environmental Health (NLEH), a partnership between three nonprofits to improve the environmental health of four east side neighborhoods. Organizers launched the program in 2010 and convened a neighborhood summit in October.
“This is a grassroots effort to help people to understand the issues, prioritize the ones that are most important, and develop ways to address them,” says Mark McLain, Director of Health and Environmental Initiatives at Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI). “It’s about taking action to make our communities healthier.”
NLEH is a partnership between Environmental Health Watch, the Earthday Coalition and the Neighborhood Leadership Institute. The four targeted neighborhoods are Central, Fairfax, Mount Pleasant and Buckeye-Woodland. Since launching the effort, organizers have brought together a group of residents and stakeholders to brainstorm top environmental issues. Currently the group is winnowing down the list to their most important concerns, as well as specific projects to address them in 2011. Issues include air pollution, energy inefficiency in homes, childhood lead poisoning and asthma.
Once the planning is complete, the nonprofits plan to apply for additional EPA funding to implement projects to improve the environmental health of these communities.
McLain says this project is unique because it uses a grassroots approach and focuses on ‘greening’ entire neighborhoods. “There is growing awareness in inner-city neighborhoods that issues like health, safety and education relate to the environment,” he says.