• Mary-Claire Johnson

Gravier Build Day: Entrepreneurs Creating Lasting Change For Their Communities and Their Careers

After graduating from Launch NOLA’s Green Business Academy, graduates acquire hands on learning experiences through Build Days. At Build Days, Launch Alumni band together with local partners, residents, and volunteers to create lasting change thats two-fold: developing their expertise and their environment. This month, Launch Alumni happily took on a rain water management project on Gravier Street, while they reminisced on their newfound knowledge and prepared for their futures in Storm Water Management Landscaping.

Impacting the Environment

Many New Orleanians are effected by flooding year round due to the bowl-like shape of the Big Easy, the city's current infrastructure, and the amount of heavy rainfall that bombardes the city each year. Launch NOLA Green Alumni, Kaleb J. Hill, says, “maybe some of the engineers that built New Orleans didn’t know that the things they were doing would be detrimental to New Orleans now. But nowadays we take responsibility for the things we didn’t know then, and fix it with what we know.” 

Although we cannot change the weather, or the past, Launch NOLA Green students learn ways to combat flooding and make the city more water resilient. Recent graduate Cat Lagasse says that Launch NOLA Green graduates are “always trying to think bigger and more long term sustainability" by using certain measures to help reduce pollutants from soil, repurpose rain run off, and provide flood control for the city.

For the July Build Day, Lagasse, other Launch NOLA Alumni, local partners, and volunteers, used the same knowledge taught in Launch NOLA's Green Business Academy to reinvent one Gravier St. resident's home.

The Gravier Street home owner was having severe issues with flooding. The Build Day crew created a French drain that wrapped around her house to slow down and redirect rain water. Then, the crew planted a rain garden on top, which is responsible for repurposing and filtering the rain water, playing its part to create healthier water and soil for New Orleans rivers, lakes, and landscape. The crew also re-installed a rain barrel to help reduce flooding around the house.

"The goal is to make sure that all the rain that falls does not flood the house. Before we started, [the homeowner’s] house was like a little island. When it rained, she was unable to walk around her home," says David Rodas, the Project Manager at Flourish Ecoscapes Landscapes, a Thrive partner and local landscaping business.

Not only will this homeowner be impacted by the work done by the Build Day crew, but so will her neighbors, her community, and the New Orleans environment. Less flooding means better soil for healthier plants and cleaner water for our lakes and rivers.

Impacting Their Future Careers

After graduating from Launch NOLA Green, graduates participate in Build Days to jumpstart their careers and gain experience. Graduates are able to use these experiences as part of their technical training, where they apply all that they learned during their programming at Launch. For many, these are the first steps at real-life rain water management experience.

Cat Lagasse is a founding member of Big Easy Compost, a local compost nonprofit that specializes in neighborhood composting projects and providing education about compost to the city of New Orleans. “I’m a plant enthusiast. I knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know how to do that while also doing what I love. Like, being outside and doing new things.” Cat says participating in Build Days has confirmed her passion for rain water management. "It's comforting to finally get hands on experience because I feel like I’m making progress and gaining knowledge. I want to do this for my career."

"It's comforting to finally get hands on experience because I feel like I’m making progress and gaining knowledge. I want to do this for my career." Cat Lagasse

Launch Green Alumni, Kaleb J. Hill, has been volunteering at Build Days since his graduation 6 months ago. Hill enjoys participating in Build Days, because of his "pay it forward" mindset. "I knew a little bit about rain water management in passing, but I was trying to find my voice in agriculture [before enrolling into Launch's Green Academy]," says Hill, "I was just trying to figure out a way that I could still do what I was doing and be creative with it. Launch gave me the resource to help me do that."

Hill is the founder of Oko Vue Produce Co., an agricultural co-op that specializes in edible landscapes and stormwater management. He recently hired his first two employees through connections with his Build Day network. "[Participating in Build Days] helps me to continue learning about the business and create networks with other people passionate for green infrastructure."

Without the passion for sustainability that these Launch NOLA graduates possess, neighborhoods like Gravier would have to deal with flooding every rain fall. Thankfully for them, New Orleans residents can expect a safer, healthier, more sustainable New Orleans.

If you or someone you know is interested in hiring a Launch NOLA Green Graduate, or offering your home for a build day learning experience, please contact Kayti@LaunchNOLA.org.



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