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Imagining a Sustainable Future: The Zero Waste Education Center

Thanks to the generous funding from a Kresge Innovation Grant, Green Living Science (GLS) is excited to share the vision and progress of the Zero Waste Education Center (ZWEC), a project dedicated to promoting waste reduction and sustainable living practices in Detroit. Over the past 18 months, GLS has been actively engaging with community residents to gather their feedback and ideas to shape this innovative center.

The Vision: Zero Waste Education Center

Currently, GLS operates from the Life is a Dreamtroit redevelopment, which also houses the Lincoln Street Art Park and our Activi-Tree shipping container classroom. This unique outdoor learning space has hosted numerous field trips and summer camp activities. However, with the establishment of a dedicated Zero Waste Education Center, GLS aims to significantly expand its reach and impact. A new facility will offer year-round educational programs, hands-on workshops, interactive exhibits, and community events focused on sustainability.

Engaging the Community

Understanding the needs and interests of the community is essential for the success of the Zero Waste Education Center. Over the past year and a half, GLS has employed various methods to gather feedback from Detroit residents. These efforts include surveys, community meetings, workshops, and a design competition in collaboration with AIA Detroit’s Committee on the Environment (COTE). Here’s what residents have shared about the activities and programs they’d like to see at the center:

  • Workshops and Demonstrations: Residents are eager for workshops on waste reduction practices, upcycling crafts, composting techniques, and sustainable gardening.

  • Guided Tours and Exhibits: Guided tours highlighting sustainable features and interactive exhibits showcasing innovative waste reduction solutions were highly desired.

  • Community Events: Many expressed interest in community events focused on sustainable living and eco-friendly practices, along with guest speakers and educational presentations on environmental topics.

  • Hands-On Activities: Activities such as upcycling crafts, composting workshops, and eco-friendly DIY projects received significant interest.

Community Feedback on the Impact

Residents also shared their thoughts on how the ZWEC could benefit them and their community:

  • Education and Awareness: Providing education on waste reduction and recycling practices was a top priority, along with creating awareness about the environmental impact of waste.

  • Practical Tips and Resources: Offering practical tips for sustainable living on a budget, access to recycling and composting facilities, and DIY projects to repurpose items were seen as valuable resources.

  • Workshops and Events: Many highlighted the importance of community workshops and events focused on waste reduction, recycling, and sustainable living practices.

Design Competition Highlights

As part of the feedback collection process, the design competition invited participants to envision what the ZWEC could look like. The competition brought forward innovative designs that reflected the community’s aspirations and practical needs. Here are the highlights from our top entries:

  • First Place: Progressive AE

  • This design excelled in addressing the program brief and AIA framework principles, with a strong focus on biophilia and human interaction. The interior spaces were thoughtfully designed to cultivate a sense of community and connection with nature.

  • First Runner Up: Bryan Seef

  • The jury appreciated the intuitive and credible room layouts and the selection of healthy, interesting interior materials. The design emphasized flexibility and community engagement, making it a practical and welcoming space.

  • Honorable Mention: Jessica Hartwig

  • This submission was praised for its realistic and practical approach, suitable for the local demographics and climate. The integration of passive solar strategies and beautifully designed site concepts made it stand out.

Moving Forward

With the support and enthusiasm of the community, GLS is more committed than ever to making the Zero Waste Education Center a reality. We believe that through education, engagement, and innovative design, we can foster a culture of sustainability and zero waste in Detroit. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project, and thank you to everyone who participated in providing feedback and supporting our vision.

Together, we can build a greener, more sustainable future for our city.

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