If we’re ever going to have a just economy, we’ll have to build it from the ground up. Flowing resources to front-line communities that face the worst of the climate crisis and the racial wealth gap is the ideal way to plant the roots of a new economy. Not only is it essential for justice, but it’s also a practical, scalable strategy for seeding system change. As executive director of the Just Economy Institute, I’ve collaborated with many JEI fellows who are leading promising community wealth-building initiatives. These financial activists share a set of principles: They support community self-determination and ownership.
Meet Wake Robin Fermented Foods, a small company based in the city of East Cleveland, Ohio, focused on local sustainability. About 90% of its vegetables are sourced from farms in Northeast Ohio; all vegetable waste goes to compost; paper, cardboard and metal is reused or recycled; fermented products are packaged in reusable glass jars. Wake Robin would be impressive if it stood on its own, but it’s part of a larger vision to establish a closed loop, community-owned supply chain in the three square miles comprising East Cleveland. The organization leading the work is called Loiter.
ILSR’s new report, Advantage Local: Why Local Energy Ownership Matters, finds that local ownership of clean energy can address many of the most pressing challenges we face today, from the climate crisis to economic inequality to corporate exploitation. The report details how local clean energy ownership — as distinct from local siting — can boost the economic impacts of clean energy, cut through public opposition to project development, and put power back in the hands of people instead of polluting utility monopolies. As shown in the report, local ownership of clean energy, such as rooftop solar panels and shared solar gardens, offers numerous benefits to individual clean energy owners and their communities.