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.

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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!

Andrew Van Gorp 15 July, 2017.

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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!





Andrew Van Gorp 29 November, 2016.


Nicole is an amazing person. Interviewing her was such a treat, and Sustain DuPage is actively following the progress of this story.



We set out to improve DuPage County’s Agricultural and Nutritional Literacy, and we did just that. In our 200 sq. ft. garden, we made some really special memories. 

We’ve been given the go-ahead to expand the garden next year, and we are ECSTATIC. We have so many ideas planned. Make sure you sign up for our main E-Newsletter to receive updates about Victory Garden events!

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



By: Andrew Van Gorp 25 September, 2016. [Updated 14 May, 2017]


UPDATE: Sustain DuPage volunteers just learned that someone recorded the live reading of this poem on 11/22/16!  For your viewing pleasure:

Ode To Pumpkin: A Love Poem

Dear Pumpkin:

When was the last time I told you that I loved you?

Seeing you, I think: Wow. You are some *food* *security,* right. where. you. sit.

Like, DAMN.

Could the Creator really have allowed our ancestors to learn a skill like saving seed for the best qualities until we literally created foods like YOU, Pumpkin – who can last for more than two years without molding – never needing refrigeration – could you really, be more than a dream?

How great of a discovery – to save the seeds we love – each seed a silent nod that human hands around the world selected a fruit, vegetable, plant-body-part that held the secret for future harvest feasts – YES.

Pumpkin – you delight me with your bright colors, and your little sisters Squash and Gourd are just as pretty and unique.

You Pumpkin – are like we, Humans, because you – are an inventor of possibilities. 

You leave behind your body and create luffa sponges, and bird houses, and change bowls for our dressers.

You feed our bodies with good medicine.

But, these days, the sight of you makes me feel saudade

To see You, the Big Orange Beauty – Triumph of Generations – your generations – our generations – food to feed an entire Human family through the winter – the very sight of you, sitting on the doorsteps of all my neighbors – breaks my very heart.

The sight of you breaks my very heart because I think of the 16.4% of children in DuPage County  who don’t know if they’ll have dinner tonight. 

I know. I KNOW!

“Jack-O-Lanterns are for fun, for beauty!”

But I think, beauty belongs in a world where I can rest knowing my neighbors have dinner.

On an ethical level – I think that beauty for the sake of beauty at the cost of a rumbling stomach really sounds more like ugliness to me.

How could I in good conscience walk home from the train passing by turkey legs and cucumber salads left on doorsteps?

How could I ignore the pounds of food we leave on the eave of our threshold as if to say,

It’s Autumn!

Pumpkins are growing so we can cut faces into them.

Pumpkins are growing so we can have a decoration that proves that agriculture does still happen – somewhere – out there beyond my door – carried on by someone else – someone out there – I guess… out there… somewhere our suburban sprawl and overpopulation hasn’t taken away and covered the last of the soil for itself,


Pumpkins are growing so we can spray them with hairspray to keep away Squirrels living in nests among the boughs of our Neighbor-Trees. Squirrels who see the food we leave, and think – ‘Wow. Pumpkin! Survival through winter.”

How can we rationalize the wanton waste of our fleeting joy?

Dear Pumpkin: are you sad that we have forgotten that you taste delicious in soup with our good companions Rosemary and Cayenne? 

Do you still have lessons to teach us – the children of your Former Farmers? 

Perhaps, Pumpkin, somehow – you can teach us how to slow down? Please?

Can you remind us that we too were once rooted to the Earth as we grew slowly into form?

Can you remind us that like you – our stem ended at our belly and we were vine-fed nutrients originating in the soil,

and the rain,

and the sun?

Pumpkin- as we get your inner flesh on our forearm – as we pull your seeds free by the fistfull – can we learn again to laugh at our own wetness?

And Pumpkin, can you slow us down to a crawl so that we can escape the screens that call us to: * SAVE TIME! * SAVE EFFORT! * MAKE SURE IT LOOKS EERILY PERFECT! * BUY THE FACTORY-MADE PIE! *

Can you save us from the annual re-piphany that when we buy the pie instead of make the pie – we find our purchase has a compact and weirdly-even-thickness that sticks to the roof of our mouth, like food that was printed?

Can you save us from this plastic-contained, waif of your true excellence?

Pumpkin – can you reteach us the practice of marking the rhythm of the slow seasons by committing ourselves to prioritize spending lots of time, minutes upon minutes of glorious time, cooking with You?

Pumpkin – do you miss the damp smell of a root cellar or basement – nestled amongst your brethren – waiting for that door to open – so that the Human Family who keeps you going year after year can survive off of your sweet and giving walls?

Pumpkin- do you too miss our ancient relationship?

Do you miss how we used to spend time growing together in the field?

Do you miss hearing us mutter about our silly human worries as we weeded below your fanned leaves until the open air and beating sun carried away our stress and left us instead with the sound of your Bees on your blossoms and the Wind floating past both of our heads?

Do you miss watching our tension melt into a contemplative peace as we joined you in the fields?

I cannot speak for all of us Humans, Pumpkin, but I can say that I, indeed, miss you. 

How can I get others to love you again, like I love you now? 

I draw hope that we Humans, like you Pumpkins, rattle with seeds of memory. 

I laugh when Humans tell me they come from a long line of Farmers.

It’s like if you, Pumpkin, said,  “I come from a long line of Pumpkins.”

I Dream that one day, you will grow again near our homes, and you will plant your roots at our feet and in our hearts.

May your seeds never run out before we can remember how much we really need you.

Pumpkin –

May we never forget the gifts we can give each other if only we take the time to intertwine our vines. 

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