We believe everyone should have safe, affordable and healthy housing. Our organization was started to help low-income residents organize to improve affordable housing through policy change. In other words, we were focused on getting legislation and rules changed. But as we visited residents, we would see problems caused by unhealthy communities — people suffering from increased rates of asthma and obesity. Looking into some of these health issues revealed solutions that were astounding in their simplicity. For instance, cleaning with low-cost products like baking soda and vinegar instead of toxic household cleaners could significantly reduce instances of childhood asthma. Access to fresh produce significantly reduced obesity in residents.
We were already using the power of community to address housing problems in low-income neighborhoods…it was a natural progression to use that power to promote sustainability. Shouldn’t all low-income residents be part of the green revolution?
We still advocate and support all efforts to increase the stock of affordable housing. But we are also helping residents make direct changes in their own homes with what we call a “whole home” philosophy. Whole home includes not just the bricks and mortar improved through building green and legislative advocacy, but also a focus on how residents live in those buildings.
So, we are providing information to help reduce illness caused by poor indoor air quality and increase participation in nutritional programs. That means listing and educating about all the ways you can clean and maintain your home with non-toxic products. It means finding innovative programs that promote our green cleaning and nutrition education and access goals. It means compiling every single farmers market in the country and detailing which ones accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (food stamps). It means promoting and educating about urban farms, community gardens and Community Support Agriculture.
What is sustainable living in low-income communities? For us, it’s social, health and environmental equity. What is it for you?