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Green Streets


Can green enterprise revitalize America’s most distressed communities?

We’re working closely with entrepreneur Tyrone Mullins and his peers in low-income urban neighborhoods to tell their stories, speak the truth about waste, and mobilize many thousands of residents to recycle and compost for the first time. By showing documentary stories and organizing discussions with property managers, community leaders, public officials and policy makers, our work secures contracts and creates jobs, reducing landfill waste by 50%. Each Green Streets worker recycles approximately 20,000 gallons of waste per month, and becomes a steward of his or her community.

In neighborhoods plagued by joblessness, drugs and turf conflicts, enterprising young men and women who used to think they were unemployable are becoming beacons of hope.

Project Team

For Citizen Film:

Director: Sophie Constantinou

Producer: Sam Ball

Editor: Mike Shen

For Green Streets:

Community Mobilization Team: Tyrone Mullins, Randolph Lee, Shannon Watts, Jammal Edwards, Roger Blalark, Joseph Tokes

Strategic Partnerships Consultant: David Mauroff

MORE About Green Streets

In April 2010, Hayes Valley (San Francisco) public housing resident Tyrone Mullins was 26 years old. Like many young Black men in the neighborhood, he’d been part of an ongoing turf-conflict and he’d done time in jail. He was jobless, and he was tired of the piles of garbage surrounding his home. Mullins and a friend, DeMario Lee, said to their property manager, David Mauroff, “Give us a chance to earn money by cleaning up the neighborhood.”

Waste-management is the single highest expense in public housing, and a cycle of joblessness, drugs, turf-conflict and incarceration ravages these communities, so Mauroff said, “Save us money on our trash bill, and I’ll help you start a business.” Mauroff then contacted Citizen Film. With a filmmaker in tow, Mullins and Lee rounded up a group of their peers to clean up waste and to separate out recyclable and compostable materials. Five years later, 26 workers recycle 20,000 gallons of waste per worker per month. Every previous recycling program had failed.

Mullins believes documentary storytelling is their “secret sauce”, “bringing to light problems everyone knows are there but don’t talk about.” Unlike traditional documentaries that are filmed first, then edited, then shown, we work closely together to continually film, edit and share an evolving story with residents, property managers, public officials and other stakeholders. At community screenings, residents share a meal, then view and discuss neighborhood conditions: pressing concerns are addressed. “Seeing us in the movie, then seeing us out there on the street every day, people see how beautifying the community lifts up the people,” says worker Randolph Lee.

Frequent screening and discussion sessions for public officials, property managers, waste management executives and other key actors are also vital to Green Streets’ growth. Thanks to these sessions, influential decision-makers see public housing in a new light, and have helped Green Streets secure contracts in SF, Oakland and Richmond. Over a five-year period, the partnership between Mullins and his peers, Citizen Film, and Mauroff, has succeeded in expanding Green Streets into six public housing sites, serving a total of 7,500 residents in SF’s Western Addition, Bernal and Fillmore neighborhoods, in West Oakland and in Richmond, CA. Recycling rates in communities served by Green Streets have risen from near 0% to 50%, and more than 1.5 million gallons of waste have been diverted from Bay Area landfills to date. The City of San Francisco funds our ongoing documentary and capacity-building work, supplementing grants from ArtPlace America, the SF Foundation and the Creative Work Fund.






Posted on

March 18, 2015