Hurricane Katrina Four Years Later: Greening the Crescent City

Organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley.
Image credit:Sierra Club

Next Saturday, August 29th, marks four years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The Sierra Club has been actively involved in many facets of the recovery (from exposing the toxic FEMA trailers, to helping restore wetlands, and more) - and this week brought some good news for those wanting a comprehensive look at the green recovery in New Orleans.

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has provided the city of New Orleans with a unique opportunity to develop a national model for rebuilding green - and there are many, many projects under way."I knew there were lots of folks doing green recovery work that I didn't know about," said Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley, who is based in New Orleans. "There are so many projects going on."

So when two graduate students approached him looking for a project, the three knew just what to do. This week we released the results: A new report analyzing the green rebuilding efforts under way in New Orleans.

This "New Orleans Green Building Assessment" (PDF) report examines the current and former green building efforts in New Orleans, noting partnerships and potential strategies for improvement throughout.

The report's five goals are to:

* profile key agencies;
* catalog current and former green building projects;
* evaluate the capacity and needs of each business and organization;
* assess the current green building situation;
* and develop a directory of local green building service providers.

"This assessment documents and merges the disparate green building efforts into one central location," said Malek-Wiley. "Moving forward, this document provides a foundation for the city to develop a 'best practices' model for rebuilding green, focusing on the city’s existing and emerging partnerships."

The report includes the green work from non-profits, architects, construction companies, and more. It even includes programs that provide training for doing that sort of work, added Malek-Wiley.

I had a chance to look through the 53-page document and it's inspiring to see such a wide array of organizations all active in some facet of New Orleans' green recovery. Malek-Wiley agreed with me.

"It's pretty amazing what all's going on down here," he said.

He's excited to get the report out as far and wide as possible, as well as updating it during an early November conference sponsored by the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers entitled "The New Orleans Green Rebuilding Conference."

For now, he's happy to provide such a resource on the eve of the 4th anniversary of one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. Many residents lost friends and family members - and many still don't have homes. The road to recovery continues.

"It's still very personal," Malek-Wiley said.

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