About this Blog

green is coming

Some of the imagery that the Rust Belt summons to mind might be the characteristic shattered windowpanes of abandoned factories, smokestacks pumping sooty clouds into already grey skies, or vacant lots littered with fast food packaging, but what you might not imagine is that these cities are currently at the vanguard of sustainability.

With the goal of shaking off their rust to become what people are already calling The Green Belt, cities including Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Erie are using their vacant land as a resource and are realizing that their shrinking population numbers make them a “doable” size for a sustainability transformation. Rust Belt cities may have discovered the formula for using some of their most urgent threats as tools for citywide revitalization—a concept that could set them up to lead the rest of the nation to a more sustainable urban tomorrow.

This is a story that I have waited a lifetime to tell. It’s the story of the place where I grew up—Cleveland, Ohio—and how it and its Rust Belt neighbors have been slowly rising from the ashes of decades of blight through their sustainability initiatives. This story focuses on the collaboration taking place between non-profit, for-profit and governmental individuals and organizations in Cleveland to build a more sustainable city. It will also compare Cleveland’s initiatives with those of other Rust Belt cities to show how they are rapidly transforming the Great Lakes region into the Green Belt.

Most of these sustainability projects are still underway, but if they prove successful in these beaten-down cities, during this economic climate, then odds are that they could be successful anywhere at any time. I’m keeping a record of these projects—by visiting their sites, talking to their planners, and interviewing stakeholders—to see how they play out for the Rust Belt cities. Success in the pilot projects could mean that other economic centers can learn how to initiate and sustain new “green” infrastructure, supply chains and economies, to name just a few of the possible ramifications.

I am telling this story so that the rest of the nation, and perhaps even the world, can learn from how these underdog cities are reimagining, redesigning and redeveloping more prosperous futures.

Here in the Rust Belt, our legacy of adversity may be our strongest asset in combating the current crisis.

Marianne Eppig

*Note: The Importance of Urban Sustainability in the Great Lakes Region

Urban sustainability in the Great Lakes region is important to reboot our economic centers and to discontinue the environmentally- and socially-unfriendly practice of suburban sprawl.

The Great Lakes region is rich with natural resources and human capital – let’s protect and leverage them.  As the industrial and agricultural heartland of the nation, this region can and must renovate itself to improve quality of life locally, regionally and nationally.

- Just thought I’d add that in there for any of you who might be wondering ;)

(photo by Ted Ferringer)

7 thoughts on “About this Blog

  1. I was born in Ohio, but have lived virtually all of my life in the Los Angeles area. Having tired of LA ( and Califorinia in general), I visited Cleveland last month, not knowing what to expect. The city has certain problems, but has a lot going for it, including people like yourself who are dedicated to improving the city.

    I am a semi-retired attorney, and also took the opportunity while I was in your area to visit Chagirn Falls and the surrounding area. Needless to say, I fell in love with that area, and will be back next spring to look at real estate with the intent to relocate.

    I am interested in your efforts, and will continue to look for your blog regarding Cleveland. Feel free to let me know about new developments in the city.
    Regards,
    Dennis Bunker

  2. Hi Dennis,
    I can’t tell you how much that means to me. To know that people like you are thinking of moving back to our region due in part to our efforts to make these cities more sustainable brings with it a great feeling of pride and accomplishment.

    There is, of course, a great deal more work that needs to be done–but the reward of bringing in others who believe in what we’re doing is great.

    Chagrin Falls is one of my favorite places as well! I have been going to the Popcorn Shop over the Falls and the Fireside Bookshop next door ever since I was little. Not many places in the world have retained the small town charm that Chagrin Falls thrives on.

    Some trivia for you: Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, lived in Chagrin Falls from 1995 to 2005 and now lives in Cleveland. Thought you might enjoy that tidbit.

    Knowing that you and others are actually reading what I put in here motivates me to constantly improve and keep you all up-to-date with what’s going on in this part of the world.

    Best wishes and thank you so much,
    Marianne Eppig

  3. Thanks, Ann! Your comment just made my day!

    I hope you come back and continue to let me know what you think!

    Best wishes,
    Marianne

  4. I received this in an email (Thanks, Robert!):

    So I subscribed to your blog after we spoke, but have been way behind in catching up on all my reading. You are doing a good job! Your content is interesting and your writing straight forward and informative. Well done! I
    have added a link to your blog on my blog site. I hope to catch up to you at an event soon!

    Robert L Stockham LEED AP
    Principal
    http://www.GreatLakesDesignCollaborative.com

  5. I just found this comment on the Great Lakes Urban Exchange blog after an article written by Marc Lefkowitz of GreenCityBlueLake:

    “I think there’s definitely a groundswell among young creatives, but many of the ideas haven’t penetrated to the average Clevelander. I came across this blog from Marianne Eppig today -http://renovatingtherustbelt.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/the-natural-next-step-building-northeast-ohio’s-biomimicry-hub-as-a-step-towards-redesigning-region’s-future/ it refers to a biomimicry initiative taking shape here, but I really like what she has to say about the mood of our city. We’re at the turn of the tide. There’s a palpable sense of excitement heading into the Sustainability Summit where more than 600 people from all walks of life will gather and be led through an Appreciative Inquiry (See David Cooperrider) session. For three days, we’ll work on a vision for the future of the city and at the end we’ll work on projects that we think can be transformative. This is the kind of thing I envision when I hear the word summit. It is an important moment for the city and the sustainability movement here which is now firmly established at Case. Let’s hope the ideas coming out of the summit are matched by the push from the top needed to clear a path for them through the bureaucratic mindset that lingers in municipal and county government. I think the biggest impediment is the legacy of homerule and the little fiefs that were established in the creation of the suburbs. If we were to affect change on a meaningful scale, we would consider doing away with the dozens of redundant governments and bureaucracies here.”

    Comment by Marc Lefkowitz — August 10, 2009

    Thank you, Marc, for mentioning the blog!

  6. Marc,
    You are right on about doing away with the redundancy in various forms such as the replication of services created by local autonomous governmental entities. As we find these entities going bankrupt because they can’t afford to survive in this economy, this will provide an opportunity for more community involvement. I am intriqued by the Evergeeen Cooperatives and other development going on in Cleveland. Cooperatives can provide a means for people to become involved in their lives through participation. This participation can through simoultaneously encouraged cognitive (educational) development help people to develop both a “Sense of Place”and effective, efficient ways to achieve resource appreciation and management . Through interacting with each other with a new awareness of place, the various inefficiencies can be rooted out and replaced with cooperative program development that places value on people and other resources that was previosly taken for granted or generally just never even taken into account.
    I am from the Detroit /Flint area and having always been drawn to cooperative developments and am now more empowered to seek out individuals and entites that would help develop something similar to what the Evergreen Cooperatives are doing in Cleveland. Obviously both areas, just as all the individuals involved have unique resources, personalities and poentials to develop and share. I would look forward to the day when we can help each other grow new ideas and share resources as Great Lakes Neighbors. (Hey, wait a minute I guess that is what this post is doing in a small way).
    I am seriously considering a radtrip to visit Cleveland soon to witness first hand whats going on down there.
    Looking Forward,
    Jim Bates

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