Climate Crew: How a Detroit man turned a trash-filled lot into a community asset | Michigan Radio
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Climate Crew: How a Detroit man turned a trash-filled lot into a community asset

Oct 17, 2019

With all the news about climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the environmental challenges facing the world. Our Climate Crew series features people who are stepping up in their own communities to do something about it.

Mark Covington started a community garden in 2008. More than 10 years later, the seeds he planted with that garden have grown into a nonprofit called the Georgia Street Community Collective. It owns 22 parcels of land that feature a farm, a fruit orchard, a community center, and more. 

In late 2007, Covington lost his job and was staying with his mother and grandmother. He didn't like seeing the trash pile up on a lot near their house. Some of the lot’s trash was even covering the storm drains and causing flooding in the streets.

So Covington grabbed a stick and got to work cleaning up the lot, but he soon realized that wouldn't be enough.

“I figured that if I cleaned it up, they was just going to start dumping on it. So I figured I’d put in a community garden,” Covington said. 

It started as just a few rows of vegetables and flowers. The garden quickly caught the attention of the nighboorhood's seniors, Covington said. Many were in need of fresh, healthy food, but couldn't afford it. To help them out, he decided to plant more crops.

Now, his little garden has grown exponentially. He runs all of it under the umbrella of a nonprofit called the Georgia Street Community Collective. Its goal is to make the neigborhood cleaner, healthier, and more connected.

“It’s actually brought neighbors closer together," said Mark's mother Lorraine Covington. "Before you would see a neighbor and they would just pass you by. But if we’re out there now, we get a honk every time a car passes or a wave." 

At first, Covington's only help came from his mom and his brother Michael. But not long after they got started, help began pouring in from both inside and outside of his neighborhood. In the garden’s first year, he had 25 youth helping out in the garden.

All of this has led to a more environmentally healthy neighborhood, said Covington. The plants and dirt are healthier, and he's seen more birds and insects in the area than ever before. 

Kids and families in the neighborhood get to eat healthier too.

Eleven-year-old Marquiz Morgan, standing among the crops he helped plant, proudly proclaimed: “(We) planted a garden for us to get vegetables, so we can eat healthy!”

We know there are many others like Mark Covington out there, but we just don’t know about them! So we need your help. If you know of anyone who is working to make their part of Michigan a greener place, please let us know.

To nominate someone, just send us an email about who you're nominating and why to stateside@michiganradio.org. Put “Climate Crew” in the subject line. 

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