Earth Day should be every day.
Natalie Jakub, Executive Director of Green Living Science is creating a sustainable future by educating the next generation of environmental advocates – the youth of Detroit.
EXP: What is the mission of Green Living Science?
NJ: Green Living Science (GLS) is a not for profit organization with a mission to inspire youth, businesses, and communities to imagine and create a more sustainable future through education and environmental advocacy.
GLS was created as a program to advance environmental education in schools and through its initiatives, it is transforming the way children think about recycling and green-living.
“By engaging and heightening the connection today’s youth has with sustainability early on, we hope to empower them to make a difference in their communities and the world in which they exist.”
Over the past ten years, GLS has been working with businesses and residents of the City of Detroit helping to reduce waste, improve recycling, and educate citizens about the impact our choices and behaviors have on our planet.
EXP: Living Green Science hosts Art & Amble. What does the fundraiser support and where can we learn more?
NJ: Art & Amble is an annual fundraising event and silent art auction focused on raising money to support our youth education programs offered in Detroit schools.
We are the not for profit arm of Recycle Here, Detroit’s drop-off recycling facility which has become a space for many local Detroit artists to showcase their work. Over the years these artists have graciously given back and supported us to help raise funds and support the mission.
This year is our 10-year anniversary and rather than hosting Art & Amble, we’re celebrating on September 15 – our actual incorporation date. Stay tuned for more details and save the date! Check in at GreenLivingScience.org to sign up for our newsletter or follow us on social media to learn more.
EXP: As a committee member of the Detroit City Council Green Taskforce, what does the future of recycling in Detroit look like?
NJ: The future of recycling in Detroit is looking up! The city recently onboarded its first-ever Recycling Coordinator dedicated to improve waste and recycling initiatives throughout the city. In the coming months we’ll kick off a recycling expansion project to offer City recycling services to the 1,800 commercial properties and multi-family housing they currently servicing for trash pick-up.
This is a great step towards introducing a city-wide recycling program at multiple types of facilities. While we’re still far from being a Zero Waste city, I’d say we’re on the right track!
The Recycling & Waste Reduction Committee is dedicated to advancing policy that supports the reduction of the amount of waste produced and disposed of in Detroit. We have some really great projects in the works, including an event guidebook on how to reduce waste and how litter can be reduced on freeways and in public spaces.
EXP: For those who do not recycle regularly, what are three easy ways to get started?
NJ: This may seem cliché, but if you Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle you’re on the right track! Adopting the 3 R’s is a great way to get started and they are in that order for a reason. We need to be mindful of the waste we produce so we can try to reduce it. A great example is to not purchase something if you don’t need it or to purchase a product with a smaller plastic/packaging footprint. Purchasing reusable water bottles and carrying tote bags to the grocery store will really help reduce the amount of waste one produces at home.
EARTH DAY CHALLENGE: Identify something you usually purchase in plastic and switch it out to a recyclable material instead!
EXP: What are the best recycling spots in or near Detroit?
NJ: My favorite recycling spot is Recycle Here! Not only is it the building where GLS is located, but it is a fun and unique space that makes sorting waste fun! The staff is always helpful and friendly. Recycling has become a part of my Saturday routine. One of the greatest parts about this location is that you can recycle Styrofoam! This is a hard material to get rid of and terrible for the planet, so I love having a place to recycle it.
EXP: What is the one easy thing people should be doing at home to support the cause?
NJ: While recycling is great and an easy thing to do, the reality is – it’s not enough.
We have become a disposable generation – we want everything to be quick, easy, and convenient. We would rather buy a plastic water bottle than carry and refill a reusable one, and we would rather purchase Styrofoam or paper plates than wash dishes.
Our waste doesn’t magically disappear from the street curb once a week, it enters a whole new world of waste disposal where it then affects our planet, ecosystems, and our health.
EARTH DAY CHALLENGE: Take time to recognize how your choices impact our planet. Make a point to be informed to learn more about the environmental challenges we face.
EXP: How can someone get involved and volunteer at GLS?
NJ: GLS is a thriving not for profit organization because our amazing volunteers help us achieve our mission everyday.
Depending on your skills and interests we can find and assign you a special project. We especially love working with college students who are eager to get professional experience and learn new skills. If you’d like to get involved, visit the ‘Get Involved’ section of our website to learn more!
EXP: What are Bee Green Businesses and how can people join?
NJ: Bee Green Business is a program we created to help businesses reduce waste and build recycling programs. We have worked with over 30 businesses throughout Detroit including Wayne State University, Fourteen East Café, and many more! If you’re interested in getting your business involved, visit BeeGreenBusiness.org and fill out the form for us to connect. The goal of the program is help set up a recycling and waste reduction program that is easy and simple for businesses that don’t always have a dedicated sustainability person on staff!
EXP: What one item are people most surprised can be recycled?
NJ: Gum! But, not to confuse anyone, gum can DEFINITELY NOT be put in your curbside recycling cart at home, but there are so many innovative recycling programs. There’s a great focus on how we can create a circular economy by recovering waste and keeping it out of landfill.
Michigan is dedicating energy and resources to initiatives like these and I’m hopeful and excited to see what the next few years will bring! Visit Terracycle.com to see some of the other odd items that can be recycled into new products.
EXP: Do you have a favorite restaurant or coffee shop in Detroit that is leading the charge in sustainability?
NJ: There are many great restaurants and coffee shops leading the charge, but if I have to pick just one it’s PizzaPlex. Yummy pizza coupled with sustainability. Right on the home page of their website, it states Pizza. People. Planet. It is a restaurant dedicated to the triple bottom line – they recycle, compost, and are dedicated to their community by offering a community room for meetings and their Sospeso “Pay-It-Forward” pizza program. If you haven’t been there, make sure to add it to your list!
EXP: How will you be celebrating Earth Day?
NJ: Last year (2020) was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and we had so many great things planned! Unfortunately, the world had other ideas for us. This year, to kick off Earth Every Day, we will host a celebration event at Eastern Market Brewing Company on Thursday, April 22, 2021. On Saturday, April 24, 2021 we will be at the Belle Isle Beach parking lot educating youth about the importance of protecting our planet. Please stop by on either of those dates and come say hello!