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!

 

Beth Weiner

 

 

 

 

Beth Weiner 19 May, 2017.

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

(496 words)

The morning is clear, warm, and bright, and the volunteers gather in the parking lot of Churchill Woods Forest Preserve. The chatter is light, bright, and joyful: wildflowers, the weather, and the day’s mission: trash pickup on a hike through the preserve.

It’s a leisurely stroll through the woods, peppered with facts about the area and wildlife from Andrew Van Gorp, Sustain DuPage’s fearless leader, president, and founder. Something about the quiet of the morning makes it feel previous, sacred almost. Some volunteers are more eager than others, one dives into the river to pluck out an abandoned tire. A few grab bottles from off the side of the trail.

The group comes to a riffle, a stretch of rock meant to improve the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, along the East Branch of the DuPage River. The sun sparkles on its surface, and you would never know that this ecosystem is in trouble at first glance. Andrew stops the group, and excitedly explains, “If you look closely, you can see the carp spawning—it is the absolute most prehistoric thing you will ever see…imagine that these carp have been doing this for millions and millions of years…” and sure enough, there they are: at first glance, it just looks like a bunch of slashes near the surface. As you look closer, and approach the bank, you can see them: group after group of fish flopping around in a frenzy. These carp may be invasive, but they sure are magnificent.

The group’s focus is broken by Andrew again: “should I catch one?” The group stares at him, blinking. Andrew proceeds to roll up his pants and wade into the river, and one volunteer tentatively follows, barefoot but determined to follow along.

Andrew misses the first time. He plunges his hands into the icy water and the fish slips right through his fingers and his legs. The second time, a series of splashes and squeals ensues, and Andrew emerges, victorious, an enormous, mammoth carp in his hands, it’s belly sagging. She’s huge, she’s magnificent, and she definitely doesn’t belong on land.

Andrew is undeterred, even when the fish drops its eggs all over his leg. He eloquently describes to the group the reason the carp has dropped her eggs (in a last-ditch effort to reproduce), the difference between the way carp reproduce and the way humans reproduce, and the evolutionary purpose behind it. He describes that the fish outcompetes native fish for resources. He offers the fish to the volunteers to hold, and one agrees, hands trembling. There is something about that connection that takes their breath away.

This is what you will find when you volunteer at Churchill Woods, or in any way with Sustain DuPage. You will find the peace that only nature and the outdoors can bring. You will find connection with others and with the natural world that is so often robbed from us in our breakneck, helter-skelter society. You will learn, and you will be shocked and surprised, and you will walk away with a smile on your face, knowing you have made a difference.

Join us.

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

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