New Sun Rising is excited to welcome Zaheen Hussain to his new position as Director of Sustainability. Still serving as the Millvale Sustainability Coordinator, this position will continue to fill the role as a shared community resource working to implement Millvale’s EcoDistrict Pivot Plan with the Millvale EcoDistrict Collaborative (Millvale Community Library, Borough of Millvale, Millvale Community Development Corporation, and New Sun Rising).
Previously sponsored through a Neighborhood Allies Catalytic Grant, his work at the Millvale Community Library over the years has also been funded by the Hillman Family Foundation and the Heinz Endowments. The transition to New Sun Rising from the Library has been seamless and continues to facilitate his ability to serve the collaborative partners, as has been the case since his start in June of 2015. Hussain has studied Environmental Science and Natural Resource Economics and is excited to be given the opportunity to implement “big picture” approaches to sustainability in his new position.
Hussain first came to love Millvale in 2012 when he was working for GTECH Strategies and partnered with Millvale to develop a comprehensive energy efficiency outreach plan through a neighborhood Ambassador program. In this role, he partnered with residents to develop educational programming surrounding energy efficiency and provided residents with tools to improve their own personal and household energy efficiency. During this time, there was a competition between neighborhoods in their pursuit of efficiency; Hazelwood, Homewood, and Millvale all participated and Millvale wound up winning the competition. As a result, they were awarded funds which were then used to create an outdoor kitchen at the Millvale Community Library that is now free for all neighborhood residents to use.
Hussain’s first big project when he started working in Millvale was the recalibration of the EcoDistrict plan. When he started, Millvale had already accomplished ~70% of the goals that they had set out to achieve in the areas of Food, Water, and Energy. It was a time to celebrate those accomplishments but also to revisit the EcoDistrict Pivot Plan. It was then that they added the areas of Air, Mobility, and Equity and extended the pursuit of these goals to 2030. The success of these early initiatives started small, were attained, and paved the way to take the community planning to a much larger scale, a task that Hussain is poised to facilitate. A number of the milestones and programs that Hussain has been elemental in the attainment of are listed below, by area:
Food – Partnership with the Pittsburgh Food Bank and the Green Grocer weekly market presence at GAP park, as well as the Launch Millvale Food Systems incubator with NSR
Water – The State of the Watershed meetings in which neighborhood partners from communities upstream combined efforts to alleviate the effect of stormwater runoff on Girty’s Run.
Energy – The solar array installation on the Millville Community Center; The installation of solar panels on the Millvale Community Library (managed by Brian Wolovich over the course of 3 years, resulting in a now self-sufficient building); The Millvale Teen Solar Fellowship.
Air – The collection of a baseline spread of air-quality data that was then compared to regional averages. It was found that industry activity in other neighborhoods has a direct impact on local air quality in Millville. That data is now being put to use in a partnership with Heinz to communicate these findings. Additionally, to pursue proactive steps to reduce the impacts on individuals through low cost and accessible interventions.
Mobility – Working with the Millvale Borough Bike-Ped committee for safer connectivity and to improve transportation options within the neighborhood and facilitating better connectivity to communities outside of Millvale.
Equity – Efforts to increase fairness in the future development of Millvale; to be sure that those who have been living in the community longest are not pushed or priced out. Teaching local teens new technology in an evolving industry landscape (the Solar Teen Fellowship, for example), affordable housing initiatives and the creation of partnerships with neighborhoods and organization outside of Millvale in the pursuit of this goal.
Sustainability is one of NSR’s core Vibrant Communities strategies, along with Culture and Opportunity. Since joining the NSR team Zaheen has already accomplished a handful of great steps forward. He has been instrumental in the Millvale EcoDistricts being awarded a Heinz grant that will fund educational initiatives, proactive interventions, and public visibility projects surrounding the area of air quality. Additionally, we were honored to host the regional EcoDistrict Training Conference at the Moose and also received a grant to reconvene the Millvale EcoDistrict team in the near future — Hussain was indispensable in the coordination of this programming. The team is comprised of resident leaders, all focusing on the 6 different planning areas (Food, Water, Energy, Air, Mobility, Equity). The Millvale residents will be meeting to come up with strategies to attaining the goals set forth in each of those areas while also partnering with nearby communities (Etna and Sharpsburg) as a part of the Triboro Ecodistrict initiative. Through this work, Hussain hopes to better poise Millvale to be connected to regional initiatives that deepen his work here through the augmentation of shared resources.