Protecting the Wilderness through Project Build

If you have never been to Brooklyn, NY, or if you have, what do you expect to see? You may see kids playing on the sidewalks, people walking to and from work or grocery stores, cars driving by, and tons of buildings as far as the eye can see. Then you stumble upon a sign that reads: Welcome Visitors, Come Early-stay late, Farm Stand Every Wednesday, Sign up to: Volunteer, drop-off compost, be a member, and pick up your share.

What would run through your mind to find such a sign amongst all these buildings? Well, all you would have to do is step behind the sign to see what is going on behind all these apartments. There are groups of young people that are striving to make their city a better place. One of them is the Green City Force. They have turned this area from a parking lot, into a community garden, and are working on similar projects around all of New York City.

Green City Force is a nonprofit that was started in 2009 and has engaged over 300 young adults in their Clean Energy Corps program. By 2017 they expect to have 5 more gardens built in NYC. They are one of 18 conservation corps being supported by Project Build, a partnership between KEEN Utility, The Wilderness Society and the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps helping to build the future of America’s public land stewards.

Saturday September 12th, 2015, KEEN Utility had the honor of going to help Green City Force in their large ongoing endeavor of helping protect the wilderness by making NYC green. As part of Project Build, KEEN Utility donated pairs of shoes, money, and time to this important mission of the Green City Force. The experience that we had with these wonderful young adults was life-changing, and made it worth more than any donation. These young people have done more than create a community garden in Brooklyn, NY. They have educated neighbors, friends, and family about living a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. They are all wonderful examples for the entire neighborhood. They also take an active role in helping deter others from violence in the neighborhood.

When they wear their Green City Force shirts, they said that many people of the community come and approach them curiously about what they do. This helps to create even more awareness when they can explain why they are a part of this wonderful organization.

On Saturday everyone was broken into different teams to make work more efficient. There were people working on: composting, harvesting, pruning, planting, prepping the soil for future plants, and even a team that was using the fresh ingredients people had just harvested for lunch.

If you ask some of the young adults why they are a part of such a wonderful movement, they will all tell you different reasons. Some would say they are helping to build an oasis in a food desert. They are allowing their community to have fresh food for free, in an area that has to import most of their food into the city. Others would say that they are educating the community on how to lower their power bills by changing all of their lights in their apartments from incandescent light bulbs, to energy saver bulbs. They also give them energy saving covers for their windows as well in order to keep their apartment cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This way, residents don’t have to run their air-conditioning or heat higher than they need to.

These young adults are realizing that they are not only influencing and changing other people’s lives, but they are changing their own lives. They call it building their brand. What this means is, becoming the person that he/she wants to be and not letting any obstacles hold them back. These young adults are also making themselves more marketable for jobs, by being a positive part of their community and giving back, while practicing new skills. They are challenging everyone in their community to build their own brand. The Green City Force is now challenging you. “Are you building your brand?”

This organization would not be what it is today without the wonderful people that have been shaping it. Big Shout Outs to those volunteering his/her time : Lisabeth Shepard (founder), Lawrence Harris (senior team leader), Tonya Gayle (director of development), Andrew Lewis (team leader), representatives from the Wilderness Society and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, and of course, all the wonderful young adults that we had the pleasure of working with. Shout outs to those who were not with us, but are a huge part of this organization as well!

To learn more about Green City Force and what they are doing and how to get involved, visit their website: