Your March 29 Viewpoint [“VI and Greenpeace battle over charity,” Page 8] on the partnership of Greenpeace and the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to build a PVC-free home greatly misrepresents the nature of this effort.
First of all, what Habitat does is not considered “charity.” Instead Habitat brings together sponsors — in this case, Greenpeace, which provided the capital ($55,000), and architects from the Healthy Building Network — with prospective homeowners. Habitat provides the expertise and vision to empower hard-working, low-income families to realize home ownership. The new homeowners bring their dreams, 350 hours of “sweat equity” and a minimum income to repay their interest-free mortgage.
The New Orleans affiliate builds approximately 14 houses a year. Its mission is to eliminate poverty housing in the area and to serve as a catalyst to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.
Elsewhere in Louisiana, the vinyl industry has contaminated communities to such an extent that hundreds of families have been relocated. The people most often impacted by this industry in Louisiana are low-income, African American communities. In 1991 the entire community of Morrisonville (98 homes) was relocated to escape the contamination from Dow Chemical Co.'s Plaquemine facility. Mossville is among the Louisiana communities that are currently threatened by vinyl industry contamination.
Yes, Greenpeace welcomes media coverage of this issue — because we believe that telling the truth about the many human health and environmental impacts of vinyl production, use and disposal is the first step in establishing the need for safer materials.
The next step is showcasing the many safer alternatives to vinyl that are on the market.
We successfully convinced the 2000 Olympics in Australia to commit to minimizing the use of PVC plastic. Many major companies are moving away from vinyl (General Motors, Honda, Nike). The PVC-free New Orleans Habitat project is the most recent proof that inexpensive, safer alternatives to vinyl are widely available.
Providing a new home for one African American family in Louisiana is clearly only a small step toward achieving environmental justice on a much wider scale.
Greenpeace Toxics Campaign