ISU Students Working Towards a Sustainable Future

This last February, Iowa State University had it’s third annual symposium on sustainability. I attended the student brainstorming session and got to see former ISU GSB vice president Chandra Peterson in action.  Her energy and enthusiasm give me hope for the future!  A wonderfully diverse group of students came up with ideas for improving energy usage on campus, educating students and promoting sustainable student lifestyles, reuse of design materials by students, and continuing and improving our food system initiatives of large scale composting and use of locally grown foods.

Chandra Peterson in the middle, leading the student sustainability brainstorming session
ISU students planning a skit to illustrate sustainable practices
Over 60 students attended the sustainability brainstorming session

I never cease to be amazed by the rich diversity found at this university in the middle of the American corn belt.  We have a large population of students from China, India, Pakistan and Latin America.  How do they wind up in Iowa, a state many US east-coasters can’t even accurately locate?! When I asked an administrator about this once, he replied that word of mouth gets many students here.  We have a good university and Ames is a nice sized city of around 50,000.  For ISU, these students will bring many of the ideas and world views that we need to create a sustainable future. It is also impressive that our African-American population seems to be growing at ISU.   One book I am reading now speaks of the overdeveloped countries, like the U.S.  Is it possible to go from overdeveloped, excessive energy use, over-consumption, new technology at any cost, and massive amounts of waste to something more sustainable?  It will be to our advantage to have a diverse group of brainstormers in the conversation.

Greenhouse Garden Community Garden in Chicago

Here is another community garden I visited with the American Public Garden Association a few years back.  All of these neighborhood community gardens were being supported by the Chicago Botanic Center at the time.    I wonder how many of these gardens are still going strong?

Chicago neighbors named this the Greenhouse Garden

I love picturing a family in the garden after a long hot Chicago day, perhaps after  fighting traffic and the general stress of life, working in the garden, working out their stress and bringing home some tasty produce from the land.  Neighbors talk to each other about the garden, about their day, and children explore broccoli and bugs while engaging in some creative make believe.  Stress relieved, social ties strengthened, growing hands-on knowledge about the environment …all benefits of community gardening!




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Another thing I loved about this community garden was the adult and child sized picnic tables.  Behind the picnic tables we learned that they had a “chopping table”.  All of the waste from the garden, inedible leaves, stems, etc….got chopped up and put in the compost bin.

There were a lot of  berries growing in this garden and  it made me think a lot about edible landscapes.   Here is one summary of the idea behind this movement.   Personally, I think a lot of the stock landscaping plants used by developers are boring, boring, boring.  I am sure there could be some problems if our towns, cities and suburbs were covered with berries, fruit trees and vegetables, but I’d kind of like to have to deal with that, wouldn’t you?!


Bernard Place Block Club community garden

A few years ago I got to tour some community gardens around Chicago as part of the AABGA conference (now known as the American Public Gardens Association).  I think this garden tucked away beside an alley was my favorite.  I wish I remembered more of the stories behind this garden, but mostly I remember the flowers, and how kind and proud  the gardeners were who showed us around.  I didn’t get names and I didn’t ask permission to post these photos, but I would be delighted if some day, some of the Bernard Place Block Club community gardeners would run into my blog and let me thank them for the beauty they added to the world!

Bernard Place Block Club Community Garden
Dramatic and fragrant masses of dill

I was so taken with the beautiful structure of these masses of dill.

Hard working but happy gardeners
The loveliest community gardener
Russion Sage

These gardeners also made dramatic use of Russian Sage.  Did I already use the word “dramatic”?  Well, the whole garden was just dramatic!  Thank you again Bernard Place Community Block Club.  I hope your community garden is still going strong!

A lovely combination