Veronika Scott and Her Amazing Dream Coat

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By Tom Murray

I don’t know about you, but when I watch the nightly news, I look forward to the last news item of the broadcast. You know the one. It is usually a heartwarming story of how one individual is reaching out to another, oftentimes in the most inventive way imaginable. Well, I didn’t hear about this story from my nightly news but it does fall into the same category.

This story comes out of Detroit and is about a young lady who is literally stitching together new hope and dreams for the homeless. Her name is Veronika Scott. Veronika, who is only 23 years old, had a radical idea, and she is now acting on that idea to the delight of many in the city of Detroit. She makes coats out of scrap material and delivers them to the homeless. But this is no ordinary coat and the scrap comes from no ordinary source. You see, this coat converts to a sleeping bag. Further, the scrap material she uses is unused material from the production of vehicles donated by General Motors Corporation. John Bradburn of General Motors tells me that he gave 2,000 yards of scrap sound-deadening material used inside select GM cars — enough to make 400 coats. Oh, and did I mention that these coats are actually stitched together by women in Detroit, who just months ago were homeless?

John is GM’s Global Manager of Waste Reduction and is also a member of the Suppliers’ Partnership for the Environment, an organization of automotive manufacturers and their suppliers who work together to advance the sustainability message throughout the automobile supply chain. This is where I met John, as EPA attends the Suppliers’ Partnership meetings as a federal liaison.

John and Veronika’s efforts here are a classic example of sustainability. Unused scrap material is diverted from the landfill (environment) and is being used instead to help a fledgling non-profit enterprise grow (economy). Further, it is offering a helping hand to the homeless (social). John hopes to invite Veronika to the next Suppliers’ Partnership meeting, and I intend to be the first in line to shake her hand.

Veronika’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by those outside of Detroit. The word is that she will become the youngest person ever to receive the New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. See more on Veronika’s remarkable efforts..

About the author: Tom Murray is a senior scientist with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and is currently Chief of the Prevention Analysis Branch in the Agency’s Pollution Prevention Division.  Tom has 40 years in government service.  Tom and his staff are the architects of several environmental partnership programs including the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment program, the Green Suppliers Network and the new E3 (Economy, Energy and Environment) initiative, a cross-agency collaboration with industry focused on manufacturing growth, energy efficiency and environmental.