Posts Tagged ‘Stephanie Chueh’

Interns’ Labors Leave a Stronger, More Sustainable Metro Detroit

August 22, 2011

Southgate was just one of the cites where interns made their mark...

Threescore and some days ago, our interns entered the ranks of the UniverCities Connection program. Now, as the days grow shorter, they’re bidding us adieu and headed back to school or, in Jordan Eizenga’s case, moving on to post-college life. The offices of the Suburbs Alliance will be a little emptier without them.

Don’t shed too many tears, though, for there’s much they’ve accomplished. Their regional climate and energy work this summer testifies to the power of tapping young minds from Michigan’s universities to take on the challenges of its cities.

...leaving them greener (hoop house, Highland Park)...

Stephanie assembled a strategy library that the cities of Ypsilanti, Southgate and Hazel Park will use to build individualized climate action plans. It includes more than two dozen entries on everything from A (anaerobic digesters) to W (wind power), detailing energy savings, ancillary benefits, funding and implementation mechanisms, and real-life examples for each strategy.

Jordan Eizenga tunneled through reams of municipal energy bills to assemble data on total energy consumption for the nine cities that have adopted the Millennial Mayors Congress Energy Protocol. Now, for the first time, this data gives them a yardstick to measure their progress towards the Protocol’s 25%-by-2015 energy use reduction goal.

Jordan Garfinkle used his energy expertise to write policy briefs describing how the cities can meet that target. Do they need to know the relative merits of community-based and corporate energy strategies, or learn what conservation strategies have been working for other Michigan cities? It’s all here.

Michael participated in what sometimes seemed like every aspect of Southgate city government. Whether digging up energy records, manning City offices, discussing regional initiatives, or directing traffic, Michael reveled in the “extreme glut of things that need to be done,” and did them with gusto.

...and more vibrant (Crossroads Festival, Ypsilanti, outside MSA office).

The interns’ work struck at “the real meat of environmentalism in local policy,” in Jordan E.’s words. These young people have made the region’s first collaborative effort to curb energy use possible. Putting their university training to work outside the ivory tower, they’ve done what cities couldn’t accomplish on their own. The Millennial Mayors Congress and Regional Energy Office will ensure their work doesn’t sit on a shelf, but reverberates far into the future, as cities establish mechanisms for meeting the Energy Protocol and pilot local climate plans.

Just as important, though, is how the summer’s work has sustained and strengthened the interns themselves. Don’t go yet; we’ll be checking in on them later this week!

Advertisements

To Help Beat Heat Wave, Says Intern, Spruce Up Metro Detroit Streets with Shade Trees

July 21, 2011

Michigan is sweating through its fifth-warmest July in a century. Detroit and other local cities have designated libraries and other public facilities as “cooling centers” where residents can take refuge from temperatures in the mid-90s. Unfortunately, the long-term forecast offers little hope of a respite. Scientists predict that global warming could triple the number of  hot days in Detroit, posing a particular threat to the city’s elderly residents.

UniverCities Connection intern Stephanie Chueh has been researching one climate change mitigation strategy that promises relief to the sweltering streets: shade trees.

Two blocks of the same Ypsilanti street, with trees (L) and without (R).

Trees inhale some carbon dioxide through their leaves, but that‘s not their only climate benefit. By sheltering adjacent buildings from the sun, they can cut down on the use of air conditioning and reduce electricity consumption. In that sense, they serve as both a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy, not only curbing climate change but lightening the global warming burden that we will have to bear. “I love it when things are multifunctional!” Stephanie says.

According to her research, the average street tree costs the famously leafy City of Ann Arbor something like $250, plus $30 annually in maintenance. The City calculates the estimated yearly energy savings per tree at $47.55. That’s a darn good deal, especially considering the benefits of trees for the human environment. A green canopy makes for more comfort, natural beauty, and higher real estate values, too, suggesting why new tree plantings are so often a part of streetscape improvement plans in cities’ business districts.

Turning over a new leaf: added street trees figure prominently in Ypsilanti's plan to revamp Cross Street. (City of Ypsilanti)

Ideally, Stephanie indicates, tree planting would be just one element in a suite of climate strategies applied to city streets. “A bunch of projects can work together and serve different purposes,” she says. “For example, just building more sidewalks by themselves may not reduce a ton of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, but coupled with LED streetlights that light the way and trees to shade pedestrians, we can begin to take more cars off the road and build more vibrant, livable communities.” After all, what’s a cool city if not a comfortable place to chill?

Called to Contribute: Stephanie Chueh’s Path to Climate Planning

June 17, 2011

Chueh: Looking to clear the air in metro Detroit.

Born and raised in the Ann Arbor area, UniverCities Connection intern Stephanie Chueh says she didn’t always feel a strong connection to her metro Detroit surroundings or have much familiarity with Tree Town itself. During her first semester at the University of Michigan last year, she had to call a friend from Malaysia for directions when she got lost on campus, and took two weeks to find her way through the University’s Diag.

Stephanie’s attention to national media helped her make that connection to surrounding communities. While still in high school, she’d been shocked to read an article in Time that stated less than half of Detroit’s students passed the state writing test. She herself couldn’t stand to get less than an A- on tests, while less than an hour away her peers could “barely…dream about graduating high school and attending college.” Clearly, the region faced enormous challenges. Yet at the time, she wasn’t sure what she could do to help.

At UM, Stephanie caught the student community’s growing enthusiasm for serving the metropolis. “All around me, friends at classrooms and at church constantly talked about lifting up the Detroit region,” she says. The excitement in these campus spaces, an excitement that captivated newcomers to the state as well as longtime Michiganders, spurred Stephanie to strengthen her own commitment. “If they were so dedicated to this region, then I, who have lived and been blessed here all my life, certainly had a responsibility to metro Detroit.”

Thanks to a grant to the Michigan Suburbs Alliance from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Stephanie has a chance to contribute to the region in a sweeping way: building a library of strategies that cities across the nation are using to cut pollution. Out of the library will come a guide for metro Detroit communities seeking to save money, reduce emissions and combat global warming. That work can help improve the prospects of today’s young people and generations to follow.

In less than a year, Stephanie’s come from getting lost on campus to showing the whole region the way forward, making sure metro Detroit finds the best path to sustainable prosperity. We look forward to hearing what the future will bring!