Growing the next generation of green leaders in Detroit
Justin Schott ( MS, 06 )
Executive Director, EcoWorks
The Earth Day celebration with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which SNRE helped to convene.
Don't think too hard about the things you can't do or the obstacles in the way of what you want to do. Listen to your passions and take the plunge, even when you don't know what the outcome will look like.
There is a perception that green initiatives can be a hard sell in urban areas facing seemingly intractable problems like poverty, food scarcity, and unemployment. But Justin Schott sees these issues as a way into the conservation conversation, especially when the average household learns that his organization saves its clients an average of $559 on their water bill and 14 percent in energy costs annually. Schott is the executive director of EcoWorks in Detroit, which all told has put a whopping $30 million in energy savings back into the pockets of its clients — predominantly low- to moderate-income families — through education and training.
Ten percent of that $30 million has been generated by the EcoWorks Youth Energy Squad, which Schott founded in 2010. Today, more than 3,000 YES students a year learn how to lower utility bills for their families, implement sustainable solutions in their schools and neighborhoods, and gain the leadership skills and confidence to pursue higher education and careers. In addition to millions in local energy savings, YES has contributed over $360,000 in summer stipends and AmeriCorps scholarships to 192 high school student crew members.
Schott also oversees EcoWorks’ residential education and green consulting initiatives, as well as Reclaim Detroit, a social enterprise that fights blight, creates jobs, and reclaims valuable resources from the landfill using deconstruction and innovative reuse practices. Reclaim Detroit trains workers facing barriers to traditional employment to carefully dismantle parts of buildings slated for demolition, salvaging lumber to create products like office tables and cutting boards. Participants also gain valuable experience in the construction and demolition industry, with a near-80 percent job placement rate after graduation.
“I have the privilege of leading an amazing organization at the intersection of sustainability and social justice — and there is no shortage of this work in Detroit,” Schott said. “We are reframing adversity as an opportunity to create a green and equitable society.”