19. October 2017 · Comments Off on SD Board Retreat! · Categories: Articles

Beth Weiner 19 October, 2017.

Beth is a guest writer for Sustain DuPage from the Lil’ Green Warrior blog- check out her awesome work!

(680 words)

It is early on a Saturday morning and four sustainability warriors gather at Andrew Van Gorp’s home. Their mission: gather knowledge, inspiration, and hope from those who have come before them blazing a trail in sustainable community development. Their destination? Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and three sustainable organizations there.

It is important when we seek to create change in our communities that we listen to the voices of those who have gone before us, learning from their successes and the positive aspects of their work. It is also important to learn from their mistakes so we can alter our approach and better ensure our success. What works in Milwaukee, for example, may not be an exact fit for the Chicagoland suburbs of DuPage County. Learning from our elders can provide valuable lessons and incredible inspiration… (in light of the recent DAPL court decisions, some native american traditions might come to mind, no?)

Crammed into one car, they set out North. After two hours of driving and deep conversation (surprisingly energetic, considering the early hour!), they disembarked, stretched their legs, and breathed in the delicious fresh air being blown in over the lake. Something in the air here was distinct, carrying a strong sense of place. You knew exactly where you were- just by the smell of the wind.

Their first stop: The Urban Ecology Center. The Urban Ecology Center is an organization that is dedicated to educating the community about sustainability. The Center is built of reclaimed and sustainable materials, has a prairie planting and a green roof of native plants, and it is located riverside along an expansive arboretum. Sustain DuPage gained inspiration from this organization and their physical space, which is a beacon of hope for the Milwaukee community and a place where people can go to learn more- a gathering space for people with shared goals and dreams.

Down by the river, they revisited the origins of Sustain DuPage– a vision which came to the Founder, of “bringing people to the river”. They sat in silence and meditated on how far we have come as a community, and also how far we have to go. Hope was in their hearts and on their minds as they trekked to their next stop- lunch!

After lunch, a stop to Growing Power, a sustainable organic farm located in the heart of Milwaukee’s urban center. This organization provides healthy, sustainably grown food at reasonable prices in what was once a food desert. The Board was inspired by the aquaponic system they used, and by the incredible volume of food grown.

They even made some new friends with the goats being raised there! Perhaps there may be an aquaponics system in the Sustain DuPage Victory Garden’s future? The Board learned some lessons about what they could implement in the mission projects, and how they might perhaps tweak a few things.

By this time, it was afternoon, and the intrepid travelers were tired, but they trekked on to the Victory Garden Urban Farm! There, they met a few folks who work on the farm and were inspired to see an operation at least five times the size of the Sustain DuPage Victory Garden. They took photos of signage, made plans to return for the garden’s harvest dinner in the fall, and headed to their final stop- a victory beer!

The Sustain DuPage board is a dedicated group of hardworking volunteers. This trip was a great opportunity to learn from sustainability in action, as well as to bond as a community. There may be opportunities for our volunteers to travel along with us in future trips, so keep your ears close to the ground!

This journey North can serve as a reminder to all of us to look to the horizon for trailblazers who have come ahead of us, reflect on our progress, and make goals and plans for the future. It is with hope and strength that we look forward to the end of 2017, the beginning of 2018, and all the plans that that the future brings. Together, Sustain DuPage has made an incredible difference for the community, and there is so much more to come.

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