West Park resident Benjamin Krutko has been selected to compete in Cleveland Leadership Center’s Accelerate 2022 competition.
We asked him a few questions about himself and his mission. Find those below.
1.) What first sparked your interest in the Accelerate program/competition?
I was part of the 2019 CLC YP OnBoard class and was encouraged to participate in 2019 Accelerate. I was selected to pitch in 2019 and worked as a volunteer with the CLC staff in 2020. Having previously competed but not been selected as finalist I want to apply the lessons I learned from my previous application and try again.
2.) What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Lake Erie right now?
I think there are three challenges of relatively equal danger/risk to the lake at this moment; 1) The run-off and environmental damage from single-use and microplastics which iturn enter our food, water, and bodies. Lake Erie has annual waste pollution of 5 million pounds of plastic waste. 2) The introduction and spread of invasion flora and fauna which threaten the natural balance and biodiversity of the great lakes ecosystem. 3) The excess risk of algal blooms from farm and industrial run-off which creates the risk of irreparable damage to the lake and of public health crisis by cutting off our access to fresh water.
3.) Without naming any specific names, what kinds of industries or businesses do you think could benefit most from your specific pitch? (ex: auto, paint, general manufacturing, steel, etc.) What about agriculture and other factors?
The goal of LEAD is to improve the health of the lakew and increase civic-engagement on the street level. Any industry that wants to join is welcome to but those industries with the longest and detailed history of dumping and local environmental damage can benefit the most – as they continue the process of environmental reparation and responsibility. As before agricultural byproducts and run create worsening conditions but don’t contribute as readily to the plastics pollution as much as single-use and the lack of local recycling – especially within the City of Cleveland. On a state-wide policy level, little can be done about individual agricultural run-off without significant regulatory change at the State House.
4.) If given the opportunity to have your pitch supported, how long do you expect it would take to see positive results?
Ideally, I’d like to launch pilot and neighborhood cleanups in spread/early summer early 2022. From a tangible perspective every piece of waste diverted from entering our waterways is a positive result, with my previous work history and experience I’d like to construct public facing dashboards, reports, and metrics to report total pounds of waste diversion from the lake and into recycling systems. The sooner the City of Cleveland launches its recycling program, the earlier I’d like to partner with them.
5.) Have you received interest/positive feedback from others in the community or other communities? Would you start all across Cleveland or do you have a targeted area picked out for the initial phases?
After my previous Accelerate experience I am keeping the proposed framework but I have pitched to a select few to get feedback. I am working full time M-F at another job while developing this idea. Scale and growth are at least partially dependent on acceptance and engagement. I believe in this idea and its capacity to make a real difference but I need the participation of employers to bring this to fruition. The more organizations and people interested the more projects and relationships LEAD can launch. As a West Park resident I’m at least partially familiar with some of the areas in our neighborhood that can use the help. but I know that local block clus, neighborhood groups, and Community Development Orgs have their own ideas for areas and neighborhoods that could use direct help.
6.) Do you currently work with others, like the Waterkeeper Alliance, or similar individuals or groups? If not now, do you plan or would you like to in the future?
I am open to partnering with anyone who believes in maintaining and increasing the health of our waterways. To me, the most important thing is action – what can we do today, now. We’ve had generations of planning and surveys and studies and each year there are still millions of pounds of waste added to the lake. Improving the health of the natural wonder on our doorsteps is the responsibility of everyone in it’s watershed. Lead isn’t intended as a one-off but as a continuous and ongoing series of community projects and partnerships. I will continue to research partner orgs and will work with others towards our common goal.
7.) How long have you been a West Park resident?
After 10 years of being a renter in Lakewood, I bought my very first home in West Park in May of 2020. I grew up in North Royalton and went to the University of Pennsylvania. I’m involved with my local community garden and would like to get more involved in the West Park community.
8.) Is there anything that I missed or that you’d like to mention?
I bought my house in May 2020, so my going out into West Park has been *limited* by COVID. I participated in our local community garden and the Garden Walk this year, but would love to get to know more local residents and businesses (other than Common Grounds and Five Points) and connect more with neighbors.
According to the Cleveland Leadership Center’s website, he is pitching a concept called Lake Erie Action Days or LEAD, which is described as “… a community-corporate matchmaking and environmental responsibility program that empowers business, communities, and employees to reduce litter and improve the water quality of the lake…”
“LEAD recruits and coordinates volunteers from businesses that want to grow and expand their social and environmental responsibility to assist communities and organizations with neighborhood cleanups.”
Read more about the idea here. https://www.cleveleads.org/clc-events/accelerate/accelerate-2022-presenters/
Find event details here. https://www.cleveleads.org/clc-events/accelerate/