By: Jonathan Gomez
For the average New Yorker the Bronx might not be associated with sustainability and raising awareness on how to have a positive effect on the environment, but throughout the borough there are organizations playing a vital role in how to approach environmental health. With their efforts to protect natural lands and educate the community through research, conservation, and awareness these organizations are changing the narrative of sustainability in the Bronx.
More importantly these nonprofit organizations and co-ops are native to the Bronx, ensuring that there is a full understanding of how environmental injustice has impacted residents––in particular the communities of color.
Whether you know it or not, the Bronx is green and these are the groups making sure it stays that way.
The James Baldwin Memorial Outdoor Learning Center is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to strive for inquiry and project-based solutions at the juncture of food, environmental and social justice. Their goal is to build a healthier and greener Bronx community by engaging, educating and serving students and community members.
The organization has a myriad of programs with the goal to engage and educate the community. From their Garden Community, and Farmers Market to their internship and food relief programs and even their Harvest Festival and Spring Banquet, the James Baldwin Outdoor Learning Center has a dedication to a more sustainable Bronx.
Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) is a non-profit community-based organization created in 2001, by Majora Carter. The organization began out of a desire to advocate for parks and green development in the South Bronx and to promote environmental justice in a neighborhood that continues to bear, a heavy environmental burden for the rest of the city.
With programs like SSBx, NYC CoolRoofs, Intervine, and YouthBuild the organization is dedicated to training their members for the workforce in the green space.
In 2015, Sustainable South Bronx joined forces with The HOPE Program, to further their efforts with more holistic, best-in-class green jobs training.
Green Worker Cooperatives build, grow, and sustain worker-owned green businesses to create a strong, local, and democratic economy rooted in racial and gender equity––Specifically for the immigrant communities and communities of color in the South Bronx.
The vision for Green Workers Cooperatives is a world where all people enjoy working cooperatively, while having equitable power, wealth, and resources.
They achieve this with their Co-Op Academy, which is an intensive 5-month long training and support program that helps teams of aspiring entrepreneurs develop worker-owned green businesses. Essentially it is a business boot camp for cooperative start-ups.
The program includes classroom trainings; business coaches; and business support services such as legal incorporation, and access to fair financial services. The course is specifically designed so that each team is able to get their business up and running by the completion of the course.
Their Co-Ops are made up of 12 different start up companies ranging from birthing services, to construction and fashion
The Bronx River Alliance serves as a coordinated voice for the river and works in harmonious partnership to protect, improve and restore the Bronx River corridor so that it can be a healthy ecological, recreational, educational and economic resource for the communities through which the river flows.
Whether it is river clean-up and restoration by the Ecology Team, or turning the 23-mile Bronx River into a classroom through their Education Program, the Alliance ensures that the community is a part of the conservation of the river.
The Alliance also works in close partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to achieve these goals.
In 2016 the Marble Hill Community led by Jacki Fischer, founder of Marble Hill Garden Project started working with artist Juanli Carrión to establish the first OSS permanent garden. This first garden was planted in May 2017 with 11 beds designed to reflect the shape of the buildings’ blueprint – each bed representing one of the towers of Marble Hill Houses.
The OSS utilizes urban farming, storytelling, educational programming and community building to dismantle systemic and structural issues of social inequity. With two operating gardens in the Bronx––Marble Hill and Terrace––the OSS Project hosts over 30 pluse gardeners who grow organic food for themselves and the extended community. They also host workshops on healthy cooking, nutrition literacy, medicinal plants, renewable energy, sustainability, self-sufficiency and more.
After COVID-19 forced them to move all their programs to a remote model, it prompted the creation of Soul Gardens, a show on BronxNet that brings the essence and power of their projects into the homes of Bronxites.