EAST PALO ALTO – Four East Palo Alto residents, a.k.a. “The “Michoacanos,” won first place in Nuestra Casa’s Environmental Justice Academy awards. Their video project—Creating Community Gardens in Confined Spaces—demonstrates how to repurpose recycled materials to create fun and environmentally sustainable edible garden designs in small spaces.
Nuestra Casa’s Environmental Justice (EJ) Parent Academy inspired the Michoacanos to undertake this project. EJ Academy empowers community residents to take ownership of their advocacy abilities. Participants learn about historic environmental injustice and climate change in East Palo Alto and what they can do about it. The goal is to ensure low-income and immigrant communities’ inclusion in discussions and policies related to climate change.
In addition to using repurposed recycled materials from home to build a container garden, their project pushes the idea of environmental sustainability. They used recycled materials and built a water-saving drip irrigation system. “Since East Palo Alto is considered a food desert, we also wanted to create a resource for our neighbors to teach them how to grow crops at home for everyday cooking,” explained one of the project participants.
The award includes a cash prize of $1,000, which they plan to use to expand their project by training family members and neighbors.
Menlo Atherton High School student Heleine Grewe won second place and $500 for her project to promote green infrastructure in East Palo Alto. When asked how she would implement her ideas, Grewe talked about holding developers accountable for building sustainable projects: “It ultimately starts with us fighting for [green infrastructure]. Because if we don’t fight for it, then [developers] won’t know we want green streets, we want to be resilient, we want to fight sea-level rise.” She continues: “When developers come into our community, they don’t care like we do, so we have to fight and make sure our voices are heard.”
Two other projects received awards. Parent participant Alicia McKean won third place and $250 for her project to build a supportive, sustainable tiny housing community to house local individuals and families in need. Parent participant Roselia won fourth place and $100 for her ideas to conduct street clean-ups and urban reforestation.
Projects were judged based on content and the strength of their ideas to improve East Palo Alto’s environment, accuracy, and appearance. Judges included facilitators and staff of Nuestra Casa’s Environmental Justice Parent Academy. To watch the full set of presentations, click here.