Grassroots environmental groups are blooming out of Springfield’s Southwest sides
After a recent investment from the Ohio Climate Justice Fund, the nonprofit Green Environmental Outreach hopes to bring more people to learn how to effect change around social and environmental justice.
As research continues to emerge on the disproportionate environmental and health impacts on low-income communities and communities of color, a Springfield organization is bringing awareness to these issues at home.
Green Environmental Outreach, or GEO, is a nonprofit that got its start during the pandemic in 2020 to address lack of access to food and medicine for Southwest Springfield residents.
The organization maintains a community garden on South Plum Street in Springfield and holds health resource events throughout the year.
“It's not just for food and justice, it becomes therapeutic,” GEO president Gerald Moore Jr. said.
Moore studied health administration at Ohio University. He got looped into the group after meeting founder Kenneth Tyree, a Black veteran and Springfield resident.
Since then, he said he’s been “boots on the ground” trying to invite residents to learn how environmental issues affect the Southwest neighborhoods differently.
“It’s hard because we're talking about these things with people and they’re like ‘Well, how does heat equate to violence or how does heat equate to worse health care?’” Moore said. “But if you go to the other side of town, you have more parks, you have more trees, you have less abandoned, vacant properties that are a detriment to the community. Those things directly impact the overall health and well-being of the community.”
Moore said some issues that residents have called attention to include the lack of access to grocery stores and not enough green spaces or parks in the Southwest quadrant of the city.
Last month, the Ohio Climate Justice Fund, an initiative to invest in Black and Indigenous-led organizations working at the intersection of racial justice and climate action, awarded the group $30,000.
Moore said this grant will allow them to expand their work.
“Part of our [work] is educating people on why we need to be involved in policy and telling our legislators ‘hey, we have funds, but somehow these resources aren't making it to this side of the community’.”
The organization will host an event called "Listen, Lead and Learn” on December 1 at Central State University to discuss how to decrease these types of inequities, with Moore expecting the group to hold two more environmental justice events in the coming months.
Moore said young adults can help to advance their cause and that they’re always looking for volunteers.
“But also speaking to a historically Black university, letting [students] know there are job opportunities in this space for climate justice, for environmental justice, for sustainability and policy work as well.”
Moore said they’ve recently joined a coalition called the Unified Collective with other Springfield environmental justice groups such as The Conscious Connect to work on policy changes.
The coalition is currently looking for Southwest Springfield residents to take a survey on their current level of access to parks and green spaces.
“The hope is that we can get some of these resources and funds to start funneling through this side of the community, hopefully bringing jobs, hopefully bringing a safer, healthier area to live, work and play for people on the south side of Springfield,” Moore said.