Celebrating 5 Years of Green Growth!

February 18, 2016, marked the fifth anniversary of Greentopia’s incorporation. So what does our five-year-old organization have to show for those years? Plenty!

  • Four years of free Greentopia festivals to raise awareness of sustainability and green assets in downtown Rochester, bringing more than 50,000 people (many for the first time) to High Falls.
  • Four years of Film Festivals to call attention to green issues and sustainability.
  • Three Futures Summit conferences, bringing in speakers from around the country to talk about urban sustainability and green redevelopment.
  • Purchase of a large section of the High Falls cataract to preserve it as part of the GardenAerial project.
  • Three years of Green Visions, a job training program that has provided 20 weeks each year of job training and employment for young people in the JOSANA neighborhood, while producing beautiful gardens to beautify the neighborhood and provide cut flowers to sell.
  • The beginning of New York’s first EcoDistrict, a district that will share ideas and green projects to work and live more sustainably in and around the north side of downtown Rochester.
  • Awards and recognition, including being named a  “top priority” transformational project by the Sustainability Workgroup of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.
  • A massive Dinner on the Bridge, calling attention to and raising money for Greentopia’s initiatives, including the GardenAerial circling the canyon around High Falls.
  • The completed FlourGarden: a running water, native plants garden with sculptures and lighted fixtures on Brown’s Race, the very first capital development project of the GardenAerial.
  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council; Metabolic Studio; The Farash Foundation; The Community Foundation; Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation; and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (among others).
  • And the support of hundreds of individual and corporate donors for events, programs, and capital projects. Won’t you join with us?

And we’re just getting started.

Grassroots efforts aren’t just green; Antwi A. Akom will be at the Futures Summit


There’s a reason people often use (or misuse) the word “urban” when they really mean “African-American” or possibly all people of color. Most large American cities are like Rochester, in that their urban hearts are filled with mostly minority, mostly low-income people, surrounded by mostly white, more affluent people in the suburbs.

Antwi A. Akom, associate professor of environmental sociology, public health, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at San Francisco State University, focuses on improving cities for all people, not just the well-to-do. He’ll be a plenary speaker at Greentopia’s Futures Summit Oct. 21 at Monroe Community College’s Brighton campus.

“How do we create more just, sustainable and smarter cities and schools?” he asked during an ecodistrict conference in Boston in 2013. “How do we create more democratic models of civic engagement?”

Akom tells a heartbreaking story about a talented high school student he taught who was shot and killed before she could attend the college into which she had been accepted. In fact, he’s lost a student to murder every year. Sound a little like some neighborhoods in Rochester?  In some urban neighborhoods, Akom said, “when there’s gunfire, students know what to do more than they know the Pledge of Allegiance.”

But Akom doesn’t just point out problems. He’s working on solutions, as co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational, and Environmental Design (I-SEEED), which focuses on building sustainable cities and schools. Akom and his colleagues have created a mobile app that can help urban residents use their phones to locate resources in the city quickly and easily. The tool also relies on users’ feet-on-the-street knowledge to recommend services and point out gaps. That’s evidence that grassroots are at work even in the cement-covered city.

Learn how to build a better city block at the Futures Summit

When Jason Roberts wanted to improve his neighborhood in Dallas, he found many of the things that make cities livable — flowers planted on the street, café tables, trees and bike lanes, were actually illegal or came with a heavy fee. So he decided to do them anyway for a single block over a single weekend to help people visualize how welcoming their community would be with this forbidden features.

Storefronts were decked out as temporary stores. Trees destined to be planted at a hotel made a two-day rest-stop at Roberts’ barren block. Guerilla city planners painted a verboten bike lane. A bike tour was organized that drew 150 riders. Then people were invited to shop at the temporary boutiques and eat at temporary outdoor cafes.

After neighbors and city officials enjoyed the event, the neighborhood began to change to match that vision. City ordinances were amended to allow more neighborhood-friendly amenities. One of the fake stores, an art studio, stayed on and became a real one. And that was just the beginning. He told the story breathlessly for a TED talk.

Roberts and the organization he co-founded, Team Better Block, continue to work at making Dallas a more livable city, and not just for those folks who drive cars. He’s the opening keynote speaker at Greentopia’s Futures Summit Oct. 21 at Monroe Community College. To find out more about the summit or register, visit here. And dream about a better city.

7 reasons you must attend Greentopia’s Futures Summit Oct. 21

Greentopia’s Futures Summit, where exciting ideas for the future are discussed today, comes to MCC’s Brighton Campus Wednesday, Oct. 21. “We want to disrupt people’s thinking – get them to critically analyze everything that is happening in our city,” said Michael Philipson, co-founder of Greentopia. Here are some great reasons to get involved and get informed about “Cities of the Future,” the 2015 Summit’s theme:

  • It’s dirt cheap: Thanks to support from NYSERDA, the summit is free to students and educators with ID, $20 for senior citizens. Regular admission is $45, $55 for last minute arrivals. Admission includes keynote talks and workshops by leading national thinkers on urban reclamation, energy and green development. There’s also free parking, continental breakfast, lunch and snacks. You can register here.
  • Jason Roberts of Dallas, co-creator of Team Better Block, which finds ways to make city blocks more livable and walkable without years of municipal foot-dragging. He’s the opening keynote speaker.
  • Antwi A. Akom, professor at San Francisco State University and co-founder of Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational and Environmental Design. ISEEED focuses on building sustainable cities and schools, as well as improving living conditions of poor people. Akom is also the summit’s closing keynote speaker.
  • Taras Grescoe, Montreal author of Straphanger, a book looking at the public transit systems of the great cities of the world and advocating for a rebirth of public transit to take back cities from the wasting influence of automobiles. Grescoe is the summit’s lunchtime keynote speaker.
  • Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of The Greening of Detroit, which reclaims forsaken green spaces in the Midwest city to encourage community connections. Once devoted to boosting the urban forest (17,000 trees planted,) the organization now also oversees community gardens and workforce development, with 400 seasonal employees.
  • Ted Trabue, managing director of District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility, a utility company devoted to saving customers money through energy conservation. Previously, Trabue help create and was executive director of Green Builders Council of DC, the largest green training program in Washington.
  • Several other speakers and plenty of time between sessions to rub elbows with them all.