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!

 

 

grandfather tree oak people sitting nature connection

 

Beth Weiner

 

 

 

Beth Weiner 16 March, 2017.

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

( 967 words)

The morning is frigid. You knew it would be. You roll out of bed and look at your clock- 8:00 a.m., on the dot. You roll to one side, and the sun is streaming through the window. You’d never know it was 20 degrees out there. You curse yourself silently for volunteering to do outdoor work in Churchill Woods on a frigid March morning. Your word is good though, and so you can’t back out now, especially since there’s a text from Andrew Van Gorp, the head of Sustain DuPage, a person who you respect deeply, blinking on your phone.

So you’re awake. You guzzle coffee, grasping it firmly between your cupped hand as you sip in the morning. You pull on the five layers of clothing you’ve laid out for this morning. The last thing to come on is the hiking boots, the steel-toed wonders you bought last year. You love wearing them, because it makes you feel strong. Like you can change the world. Today, that’s what you’re planning to do. Even if it’s in a small way.

You pile into the car and enter the address that was on the meetup group into your GPS. 22 minutes. Why is it so darn far? You hope you’re going to the right place. You drive, and drive, and drive…why do these streets not look right? You pull into the parking lot, and there’s no one there. Great. Just your luck! Of course you’re in the wrong parking lot. Oh well. You pull out and type in the name of the preserve. “Churchill Woods.” Only four minutes away….that’s not bad.

As you pull in, you can see a line of people behind a car, signing waivers. Wow, there’s actually quite a few people here. That’s great news, because it means you’ll get a lot of work done, but you don’t know ANY of them, because you’re new. It’s also not the greatest thing for you personally, because you’re a bit of an introvert. Oh well, the social atmosphere is really only a plus. You’re here to make a difference.

You fill out a waiver and follow the group, grabbing a pair of loppers. Andrew is explaining to the group how to identify buckthorn, an awful invasive species that grows like a weed, which crowds out light from the roots of the native oak trees. It’s also pointy on the ends, meaning it stabs your clothes. You’re not really dressed properly either, and it’s way colder than you thought it would be. You’ll be cutting away buckthorn and hauling it into piles so that the native oaks and other native species can thrive.

It’s quiet here. It’s quiet, and sunny, and peaceful, despite the group of 20-40 people hacking away at buckthorn. A few conversations pop up, but most people are minding themselves or their nearest neighbor, hard at work in comfortable silence.

The sun streams through the trees, and the peaceful pace of the work is meditative. You would never know that just over the ridge is a busy street. You’re immersed in the peace of the forest preserve. You’re home.

This is Churchill Woods, and you’re here with Sustain DuPage, a local nonprofit that is dedicated to creating a greener, healthier, and more sustainable DuPage County. Churchill Woods Protectors is one of their five mission projects. These five mission projects are designed to touch upon the three pillars of sustainability- people, the environment, and the economy. How does Churchill Woods do this? From a societal perspective, you are empowered with new knowledge about how to care for the environment. You are also surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals and you build a common bond through your hard work. From an environmental perspective, you begin to heal some of the man-made destruction that has been brought onto the natural woodlands here. According to Sustain DuPage’s website, these disturbances include, but aren’t limited to habitat fragmentation, fire suppression, salt pollution, soil erosion, flooding, petroleum pollution…and the list goes on. You may not have contributed directly to these damages, but it feels good to be helping restore the natural habitat by giving native species a chance. Finally, forest preserves actually help boost our economy. The more natural areas we have near our homes and in our communities, the higher our property values.

Churchill Woods is a popular fishing, picnicking, and hiking spot. It is beautiful. As you hack away at buckthorn, your fingers begin to numb, but you don’t really care. Your phone alarm goes off, and unfortunately, you have to go. You scan the woods for your fearless leader, Andrew, who seems to be oblivious to anything except the buckthorn he’s herbiciding so that pesky stuff doesn’t come back. You wave at him and he waves back with a jaunty, perky smile, with a signature bit of sass. You walk with him to the parking lot and talk about how Churchill Woods needs more accessibility for pedestrians  and individuals with physical disabilities. A project for a later date.

He gives you a hug as you tell him you have to go. You feel a bond with the people that you work towards a common cause with. Your fingers are numb, but your heart is warm. For one day, you’ve made a bit of a difference among the sunny oaks of Churchill Woods. The work is far from done, but seeing the glade of buckthorn you’ve cleared is immensely gratifying- at least until next time.

Later that day, you get a text from Andrew- 

Yes, yes, I did. The woods are their own beautiful reward.

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

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By: Ryan Bourgart  11 July, 2016.

A sense of community, of belonging, is an essential component of being human and being happy. It seems that, in our modern and technological way of living, despite being in constant contact with each other, we seem to be more distant. A community garden may help close the growing gap of isolation, increasing our sense of community. Research has shown that community gardens may help improve physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, and the environment.

Community gardeners are more likely to be healthier. A study in Michigan found that “adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day” than people who don’t participate in community garden activities. Common barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables include cost, availability, and acceptance. A community garden lowers the cost of produce, is closer and therefore more available, which may, in the long run increase acceptance.

Gardening activities are also tested ways to overcome stress. Thirty gardeners performed a stressful task and then were randomly assigned to either outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Both tasks led to a positive mood change, but it deteriorated while reading. A full restored change was reported for those who gardened.

Garden programs also improve interpersonal relationships and community developmentAnother study suggests that garden programs provided opportunities for constructive activities, contributions to the community, and relationship and interpersonal skill development. Community gardens seem to be especially beneficial in impoverished neighborhoods. Community gardens also benefit the environment. They transform urban open space, changing vacant lots overridden with weeds, to a life-enhancing garden. They also help reduce the heat-island effect in cities, increase biodiversity, reduce rain runoff, recycle local organic materials and reduce fossil fuel use from food transport.

We are starting a community garden at the Theosophical Society in Wheaton. We are very grateful to the organization for letting us humble volunteers develop a 20×30 sq. ft. of land. We encourage anyone interested to join us for gardening, potluck, and educational days. Come help us form a great community! You will find out the benefits described above are real from your own experience.

Looking forward to seeing you out there!

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