Detroit’s Own Co-Working EcosystemOctober 2, 2019
At the heart of midtown Detroit, Green Garage, a triple bottom line business incubator operating out of a former Model T showroom, is home to approximately 50 businesses and nonprofits. From sustainable food co-ops to nonprofits mobilizing Detroit’s immigrant population, the Green Garage community is diverse. But the businesses share one common thread — a love for the city and sustaining its future.
For nearly a decade now, Green Garage has been a place for entrepreneurs and organizations who meet at “the intersection of community and environment,” says co-founder Tom Brennan.
Businesses within Green Garage are encouraged to leave behind as low of an environmental footprint as possible. Practical benefits that can cut business costs while making an impact include Wi-Fi, meeting room access, weekly triple bottom line business leadership opportunities, community lunches, and more. Membership options range from a shared table for $65 per month to “makerspaces” with varied pricing, featuring mail and package receipt, access to conference rooms, and Green Garage common areas.
Brennan wants Green Garage to be a part of the next chapter of Detroit. People, planet, and profit drive for-profit businesses like Green Garage.
“We built a lot of resilience into the model,” he says. Seventy-five percent of the wood, glass, and other materials that make up the garage were already in the building during its purchase in 2007. According to the company’s website, 200 volunteers worked for three years to remodel the space. Detroit’s first “green alley,” east of Green Garage, permeates 50% of rain water to avoid over-flooding the drain system and was created in partnership with Motor City Brewing Works. There are now seven alleys like this in Detroit.
With the money businesses save on energy and space, they can invest back into their businesses by taking courses, developing a product, and buying software, Brennan says. Businesses and nonprofits share resources to make the community what it is.
“The people we have in these businesses…They are the heart of the Green Garage,” he says.
Learn about two businesses in residence within Green Garage:
Mia Zavalij is co-founder of the sustainable food waste reduction business, Eatable. Zavalij is part of a three-person traveling team based in Washington, D.C. Eatable works with the Compass Group, a global corporate company, to identify institutions to reduce waste, donate food, and measure waste.
“Just by working at food reduction on all angles reduces the amount of greenhouse emissions,” Zavalij says.
She recently moved to Detroit to seek out partnerships. Eatable is an extension of her previous work as a college student for the national nonprofit Food Recovery Network, which encourages college students to donate and recover surplus food. She hopes future projects can be tailored for “smaller companies that may not have a big budget for sustainability but still want to make a difference,” such as food businesses.
EL MOORE LODGE & RESIDENCES
El Moore Lodge & Residences is a business venture of Green Garage featuring space for 12 residents, 10 guests, and the new El Moore Garden. The bed-and-bath style inn provides residents and visitors an opportunity to connect during Tuesday night for dinners. While residency rates vary, rooms can be rented for $75 to $215 per night. Brennan says both Green Garage and El Moore became profitable organically within one-and-a-half to two years.
Nargis Hakim is a metro Detroit-based freelance writer.
Local Resources to Achieve the Triple Bottom Line:
GREEN GARAGE COMMUNITY LUNCH
Every Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., Green Garage invites community members for brown bag lunches featuring guests to discuss Detroit’s sustainable future. Learn from local small businesses and organizations and take a tour of the Green Garage facility.
ZERO WASTE DETROIT
A coalition of community and environmental justice organizations, Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD) aims to move toward recycling and materials recovery and away from waste incineration. Among its current priorities is to increase participation of its curbside recycling program and explore ways for the business community to increase recycling.
NEIGHBORHUB GRANT PROGRAM
A collaborative effort between General Motors Co. and the Detroit Regional Chamber, the NeighborHUB grant program empowers residents to affect change in their neighborhoods. Nonprofits in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park can apply for grants of up to $30,000 and additional business support. The application cycle runs throughout July and August.