By Zach Crafton. Last week I had the opportunity to take part in GLUE's very informative and interactive conference. The three day event, which pulled together nearly 100 individuals from the Great Lakes region, took place in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Unlike many typical conferences, participants were not confined to the boundaries of the hotel (although the arcade is quite lovely) or even limited to the downtown area. Instead, we were encouraged to get out and experience Cleveland and all it has to offer, as well as learn a few lessons from projects that are working and some that are not.
That being said, last Friday afternoon, I eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to visit and learn more about one of Cleveland’s most innovative programs. A team of GLUEsters and me hopped on a bus and headed for the city’s east side to tour a commercial-scale laundry facility created by the Evergreen Cooperative. Now, I recognize that a laundry facility might not elicit intense excitement in most, but this laundry company is different in a number of ways.
First, it focuses on environmental sustainability and exceeds all industry “green” standards. Second, it leverages its location to nearby anchor institutions (i.e. University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, Case Western University, etc.) by focusing on their current/future demands for laundry services to create jobs in the community that would otherwise be lost to businesses outside of the neighborhood. Lastly, it is a worker-owned operation, focused on creating local jobs, community wealth (rather than simply providing a “living wage”) and equity in a neighborhood that has faced disinvestment and many other barriers.
The tour of the Evergreen Laundry Cooperative was hot (literally), but thoroughly interesting. I especially liked watching the laundry move from station to station on various mechanizes, which to me resembled Mouse Trap, a wacky board game I enjoyed as a child. Following the tour we were given a short presentation about the Evergreen Cooperative and its other worker-owned companies, including Ohio Solar Cooperative and the GreenCity Growers Cooperative. For more information on this nationally recognized program visit http://www.evergreencoop.com/.