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Virtual Sustainable Detroit Forum: Building connections for a resilient Detroit

Lana Crouse | 3 minute read | Oct 28, 2020 | Community Publication: U.S. Green Building Council Register for the upcoming community event on Nov. 18.

USGBC Detroit Region is excited to announce the fourth annual Sustainable Detroit Forum will take place on Nov. 18 from 3–5 p.m. This year’s condensed webinar will include discussions highlighting the intersections between community development, small business and environmental justice, and the role each plays in fostering a healthier, more equitable and more sustainable Detroit, Michigan. In the past, the Sustainable Detroit Forum has convened over 200 industry leaders and influential local advocates to cross-fertilize the sustainable communities of Detroit. Although things look different this year, we hope to maintain momentum and create a virtual space to build strong network connections. Joel Howrani Heeres, Director of the City of Detroit’s Office of Sustainability, will join us as a panel moderator to facilitate discussion and bring forward his unique experience. Howrani Heeres promotes building healthy, green, vibrant and accessible neighborhoods for all Detroit residents. He brings a wealth of experience on urban sustainability to this position, having served in multiple roles in the municipal, nonprofit and corporate sectors. As our moderator, Howrani Heeres will accompany three primary panelists whom we are honored to host:

  • Donna Givens Davidson, President and CEO of Eastside Community Network

  • Jamesa Johnson-Greer, Climate Justice Director for Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

  • Ali Dirul, CEO of Ryter Cooperative Industries


Donna Givens Davidson, President and CEO of Eastside Community Network, has over 30 years of nonprofit leadership experience in areas of youth and family development, community partnerships, education and economic development. Over the years, she has developed and implemented demonstration programs and worked in partnership with a number of youth-serving organizations, with the consistent goal of increasing opportunity, building capacity and fostering growth. Givens Davidson has earned a master's degree in education leadership from Wayne State University, a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a certificate from the Harvard University Summer Leadership Institute.

Jamesa Johnson-Greer, Climate Justice Director for Michigan Environmental Justice, is a creative, thoughtful leader with over 10 years of experience in cross-disciplinary research, technical writing and grassroots advocacy focused on environmental justice, community and human rights. Johnson-Greer is a graduate of Wayne State University Law School and is also an alumna of the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, where she earned a bachelor's degree in international studies with a focus on global health and the environment. As a native Detroiter, she is passionate about protecting society’s most vulnerable people and places through advocating for transformational systems change.

Ali Dirul, CEO of Ryter Cooperative Industries, has proven himself throughout the years to be a trusted thought leader, as well as a go-to resource for unique practical solar installations and photovoltaic designs. Dirul has been committed to providing real-world alternative energy solutions to urban communities and believes in high-quality sustainability and community enrichment. Dirul studied to receive a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and alternative energy systems, which he uses to promote sustainable possibilities and education within urban communities.

Opening up community discussion

Conversations to look forward to include understanding what strong connections look like in the sustainable Detroit community, how to maintain them and where there are opportunities to expand. Panelists will also address how to incorporate new people into discussions about sustainability and how to ensure sustainability organizations incorporate environmental justice into their goals. We will continue these discussions with quarterly Sustainable Detroit Forum webinars on the path toward next year’s Sustainable Detroit Forum in 2021. We hope to host future events in-person as long as it is safe to do so. We look forward to creating additional spaces where connections can thrive, and we can continue to learn more about our city.

Planet Detroit, an environmental e-newsletter, will be providing live updates of the event. Their stories and weekly newsletter focus on explanatory, solutions-based and investigative reporting, and represent a deep commitment to community engagement on local environmental issues. Subscribe to receive their weekly updates and additional coverage of the Sustainable Detroit Forum.

Are you interested in supporting our events, or do you have products or services you want to share with the attendees? A limited number of sponsorships are available for our virtual events, and larger packages are available for the virtual events and the 2021 in-person event. Reserve your spot today—visit the forum website to register and get more information on becoming a sponsor. Please email us with any questions.

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