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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.

25. July 2017 · Comments Off on Defining Biomimicry: A Trial/Error Mission · Categories: Articles

Sally Jungblut 23 July, 2017.

Sally Jungblut, born and raised in Lombard IL, is currently enrolled as a Biomimicry Master’s student at Arizona State University. She has worked in many different communities in as an environmental educator, volunteer, artist and solid waste coordinator. Sally is currently working with Biomimicry Chicago on their Deep Roots Initiative to inform the Chicago community about their environment and a future in sustainability.

(605 words)

Biomimicry – the word does not fall off the tongue easily. Even though I’ve been studying this subject for over a year, whenever I pronounce that word I still feel my tongue trip just a little. It’s not a word you’re
expecting either. When people have asked me what I’m studying they’ll lean in as I say, “Biomimicry,” to which the instant reply is, “What?” Once it’s explained though, it’s very easy to relate to because it’s all something we’ve done through our entire history…in a sense.

Let’s break down the word. ‘Bio’ – the brain instantly refers to biology or something living. Biology is the science of life on Earth and how it continues to dazzle us with new and amazing properties every day. It’s what you see when you look outside or touch when you go to the grocery store. It’s our story of how we came to be and how we are able to continue to live. “-Mimicry” or to mimic: to imitate or mirror. I do not know any kid that hasn’t gone through one phase of imitating an animal noise. I can’t speak for kids all over the world, but every kid I’ve encountered always knows “Old McDonald had a Farm.” In fact, as we grow from infant to toddler, toddler to child, child to pre-teen and so on and so forth we’re constantly imitating what we see and learn. As a kid
you’re imitating animals or your older sibling; as teenagers you try to emulate people you look up to or think are ‘cool’. So as it turns out, mimicry is an integral part of our life as biology is.

So if we put the two together “Bio-mimicry” we can understand that we are emulating the processes of nature. We are imitating what we see. Now you might say, “Haven’t we always done that?” and it’s true, we have. Since the beginning, we as humans have taken and used nature as our template or inspiration. When gardening, you use a rake to loosen up the soil which helps get rid of unwanted plants. What is the rake tool if not a claw based off a
badger who uses its claws to dig a home for itself? Scuba divers use fin-like extensions on their feet for mobility underwater. Fins that fish and other aquatic life use to move as well. Biomimicry is an age old process – something that we’ve all used throughout our lives, but we’ve never given true thought to
how it actually works in nature. Nature is a test lab. It has a certain amount of variables, a diverse set of players and an exact, even calculating manner in which it operates. The first signs of biological life began 3.8 billion years ago. That means that within 3.8 billion years nature has experimented, trialed and tested organisms through many different climates and changes until we’ve arrived here at this time. We are the latest in evolutionary chain. Those organisms that couldn’t adapt went extinct. We’ve survived because in nature we have succeeded. Yes, humans are awesome – but we’re not the only ones who have succeeded and that’s something worth pointing out. All living things that we live with are champions too and so we have to realize why they are champions and what we could learn from them.

Biomimicry is our chance to look at where we came from, who we are and who we want to become. It’s our chance to learn from the 3.8 billion years of trial and error so that we lead more sustainable lives. This is it. It’s time to mimic.


 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

16. July 2017 · Comments Off on Goodbye to a Good Friend · Categories: Articles

Andrew Van Gorp 15 July, 2017.

(523 words)

I first met Karen Vanek at the Resiliency Institute a few years ago at a workshop on vegan eating. We struck up a conversation quickly- and I still remember talking about the DuPage deer cull and how excited we both were dreaming up an idea that the Forest Preserve could sell culled deer meat in DuPage as jerky or sausage with all profits going directly back toward DuPage conservation efforts. (Perhaps sold at Kline Creek Farm?) Looking back, it’s pretty hysterical that we held an in-depth conversation about sustainable meat-eating at a workshop meant to encourage veganism. “The rest is history” as they say.

Through the years Karen has inspired me with her unique insight into quirky and esoteric knowledges. We have had the funkiest conversations, and I always have enjoyed that Karen is never afraid to turn a commonly-accepted worldview on its head- questioning everything we think we know. When we needed more Sustain DuPage Board Members, Karen stepped up to the plate.

In her time as Sustain DuPage Board Member, Karen has helped put on the successful First Annual DuPage County Environmental Commission & Committee Symposium, tabled many events, participated in workshops, taken down the minutes at meetings, and started conversations about a permaculture pilot project at our Victory Garden.

That’s why it’s hard for me to reconcile the fact that Karen is moving away. John Muir famously wrote, “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” As Karen leaves DuPage to start an exciting new chapter in her kick*ss life, I feel saudade. Of course I’m happy for her new adventure- and I know she will excel at whatever she does wherever she goes in life- but truly, I’m sad for our community’s loss.

I’m constantly railing about the importance of community- how without a community support system people are more likely to act out aggressively, suffer from depression and anxiety and drug abuse (and the list goes on!) but today I find myself weirdly resentful of just how tight-knit the Sustain DuPage community has become. Because, loss hurts. Loss hurts a lot! When I think of Karen living a few states away, it makes me want to cry. And, to be honest, as I’m typing this, I’m crying a little. 

Karen has a sharp mind, a caring heart, a passion for sustainability justice. I find my heart has become fully hitched to Karen’s friendship and support. I will always treasure the beautiful memories I’ve shared with Karen, and her shoes will be hard to fill.

But fill them we must. The movement Karen has helped to build here will continue on. The eco-movement, the pro-earth movement, the environmental movement, the sustainability justice movement- whatever you want to call it- it’s bigger than any one of us. It is an ancient struggle and it will surely continue to be waged long after we have all walked on from this life. As Karen moves East, we will be looking for a new Board Member.

If you are interested in filling this crucially important role in our community, please read this article to see if you are ready to apply!

Karen, you can move away, but we will always know you to be a DuPager Abroad. 😉

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

13. June 2017 · Comments Off on The Storytellers · Categories: Articles

the storytellers

Beth Weiner





Beth Weiner 13 June, 2017.

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

(617 words)

If a tree gets infected with Emerald Ash Borer and nobody is there to tell people that the ash trees are endangered, do they still die?

If baby oak trees get outcompeted for resources by honeysuckle and buckthorn, but nobody rallies the troops to fight them, do they still fade away?

If roadways intersect habitat, causing fragmentation and destruction, but nobody is there to explain why we see roadkill, do those lost animal lives mean nothing?

If the community meets, and shares stories and lore, and culture and ways of life are taught, but there is no one to document and pass it down, does it die out?

If the stars disappear, and nobody is there to tell the stories of their beauty and to inspire others to bring them back, were they ever really there?

Words shape our reality. Stories shape our truth. If there is no one to tell the truth, how do we know things at all?

In many ancient cultures, the role of the storyteller, and the role of the artist, was a special one, often sacred. This is because art and stories told of ancestors, of tradition, of religion, and of culture. They didn’t have facebook, they didn’t have Instagram, they didn’t have photographs, and before written language, the only way to pass on stories, culture, and heritage, was through verbal storytelling and other art forms such as music, drawing, weaving, painting, and more.

We are the shapers of truth, my fellow artists. Now, in a time of global upheaval and turmoil (though to be honest, what time is not a time of upheaval and turmoil? All times are fraught with such things, it seems), six media corporations control most of the news. This means that the truth, the reality, that most people see and experience in the world, is painted by six large corporations driven by profit. Even local media is often controlled by corrupt governments.

It is for such a time, then, that the Sustain DuPage Artists Collective exists. The Sustain DuPage Artist Collective seeks, through community and art (of all mediums), to provide a sounding board for artists to showcase their work and help fundraise for environmental issues. Each year, the collective will hold an exhibition of work around a sustainability topic that Sustain DuPage as a whole is seeking to make a difference on. This is an all-hands-on-deck call to you, you beautiful artist, or any artists you know who seek to quench their fiery inner desire to affect positive social change through their work, and gain a community of like-minded artists.

This year, the Collective is focusing on the importance of the stars. Sustain DuPage’s EC3 is engaged in a quest to pass a Starry Skies ordinance that will clear up light pollution in DuPage and bring back a clear night sky full of stars. How do the stars inspire you? Join us and share!

Though the exhibition itself will be focused on stories and art inspired by the stars, the Collective still welcomes work and artists who are inspired by other aspects of sustainability and is in no way closed only to pieces and artists focused on the stars.

If you would like to get involved or learn more, there are several ways to do so. You can contact Andrew Van Gorp, Sustain DuPage’s founder and president, to learn more about the next meeting of the artist’s collective and other ways to get involved.

Or, if you are a writer, consider contributing a piece of writing to the Sustain DuPage blog. Contact Andrew for that as well! We are constantly seeking new contributors who have something to say about sustainability or environmental topics in DuPage county.

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

31. May 2017 · Comments Off on A Victory Garden Summer! · Categories: Articles

Beth Weiner





Beth Weiner 31 May, 2017.

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

(603 words)

Dusk has fallen over DuPage. The sky is dimming, but it is still light as mosquitos come out to play anywhere there is standing water, which, after the recent spring rains, is quite a few puddles lining the streets and potholes as cars splash their way through the roads on their way home.

Commuters are pouring out of their nine to five gigs, rushing to get home to their families for a hug and a kiss, cursing the bad roads and the dusky damp weather. It is not raining now- a miracle after the past few days. Some commuters, however, rush, not to their houses, but to a different kind of home and community: The Sustain DuPage victory garden.

They rush to join the few who have already congregated on the grounds of the Theosophical Society, mixing soil and planting potatoes in earnest. The garden has more than doubled in size this year, thanks to a gracious and welcome donation of extra space to grow from the Wheaton Theosophical Society. With this generous donation, however, comes a whole lot of work! But this community is up to it.

As they gather, hugs and squeals of joy are exchanged, welcoming people back to the garden. “I haven’t seen you!” “How are you?” “What can I do to help?” “Thank goodness the weather is good tonight!” The air is mixed with equal parts joy, family, dedication, peace, and a slight sense of urgency.

You should hear Andrew VanGorp, Sustain DuPage’s founder, talk about the plans for the garden. The passion and excitement in his voice is palpable as he walks newcomers through the plot, outlining his plans. Lindsay Zimmerman, Garden Director, spouts wisdom and assigns newcomers to tasks with a mix of leadership and welcome that instantly make everyone feel at home, and as though their contributions are welcome, whether they are pulling weeds, hauling soil, or planting. She is the garden’s wise matriarch, and seems to hold the fabric of the community together with a calming sense of urgency—she sees where people fit, and directs them accordingly. She and Andrew hold the fabric of this community together like needle and thread, sewing a lovely tapestry of plants and people.

What is the Sustain DuPage Victory Garden? Victory Gardens are not a new concept. During World War II, the United States government encouraged everyday citizens to grow food in an effort to bolster the war effort. Today, we find ourselves similarly endangered by the pressing threat of Climate Change. Part of having a sustainable community is having a sustainable food source, and teaching people how to grow their own food, and cook their own food, rather than relying on a trip to the grocery story and big companies to provide their food supply.

The Sustain DuPage Victory Garden seeks to empower individuals with a vital skill of growing their own food and cooking it. It builds nutritional literacy, along with community and resiliency against climate change.  Everyone provides skill and labor according to what they are able to give, and in return, they receive cooking and gardening skills, and food, according to what they need. On top of that, they gain community, fellowship, friends, and laughter. Join us on Thursdays, from 5 pm-8 pm. You can find more information on the Victory Garden Facebook page!

We’re looking for contributors! Want to write about sustainability in your community here in DuPage county? Want to be a featured local artist or sustainable business? Contact Andrew Van Gorp, Sustain DuPage Founder and President, by clicking here, or Beth Weiner, Sustain DuPage Volunteer Director of Communications by clicking here.


Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!