Sustainability Starts Within: Meet NYC’s Green City Force

In New York’s most troubled neighborhoods, Service Year members are teaching their neighbors environmental sustainability — all the while learning essential job skills for the workforce.

Sustainability Starts Within: Meet NYC's Green City Force

This post originally appeared at NationSwell.

Growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Edna McKay never expected she would one day have a full-time job in the sustainable energy industry. She lived in public housing where crime was very high … and opportunity very low.

But now McKay has a full-time job installing free, energy-efficient light bulbs for Franklin Energy to people in her neighborhood. “With this position, I’m earning more money than I ever did in my life,” says McKay, who earns $17 an hour.

In this episode of NationSwell’s eight-part minidocumentary series on service years, watch how McKay transformed her future by participating in a program called Green City Force, which empowers young adults from New York City’s public housing developments with the highest crime rates.

“We started Green City Force in 2009 with the idea of connecting the dots between two major issues, youth employment and the need to transition to sustainable cities,” says Lisbeth Shepherd, founder of the organization.

The organization’s mission isn’t lost on McKay, who is now considering options that she previously viewed as unrealistic: “In the next few years, I would really love to earn a bachelor’s degree, because I feel like I’m capable of doing it,” she says.



Green City Force has received funding from Service Year.