A more Sustainable Wesleyan…

A more Sustainable Wesleyan…

This past December, I was invited to participate in a Sustainable Design Charrette at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. The event was organized by a group of students calling themselves WILDWES (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design – Wesleyan). This is very exciting stuff, especially when you consider that Wesleyan does not have majors centered on any of the design disciplines or even a plant and soil science department. A passion for their campus is what inspires this group of students. They are lead by Miles Bukiet and Sam Silver, both of whom will be graduating this spring, but have laid a foundation for the future of WILDWES.

Sam Silver (L) and Miles Bukiet (R)

Across the nation, young minds are being nurtured and stimulated at colleges and universities, with some hearing a call to action. During the sixties and seventies, the call was a new awareness of the planet and environment, and a revolution had begun. The careless use of chemicals came under attack and whole new generation was reintroduced to a safer and healthier way of life. This movement slowed during the eighties and nineties as we became a nation focused on personal wealth. But now, as Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a changing!” We are in the midst of a great revival centered once again on health of the planet and stewardship of the environment. Organic products are growing in popularity, discussions of native plants more common, and minimizing one’s carbon footprint has become a priority. The green industry is coming of age living up to its name.

The goal of the daylong charrette, was to bring together green industry professionals, community members, professors, administrators, and students, to discuss the university grounds and consider ways to make Wesleyan a more sustainable campus. The day began with presentations on sustainable practices by three green industry professionals and co-moderators for the day, myself, Jono Neiger (Regenerative Design Group) and Ethan Roland (Appleseed Permaculture). Following our presentations, the attendees were split into three groups, with each group given a location on campus to analyze, map, and make suggestions for improvement.

Ethan Roland presenting on the state of the planet
Me presenting on Rains Gardens
Jono Neiger presenting on permaculture design
Lunch was provided by the students
An impromptu Jazz trio for lunch. They were great!

What followed was truly an invigorating experience. The group, most of which new to this process, eagerly jumped into the process and after spending a frigid 45 minutes onsite, retreated back to our meeting place to flesh ideas and propose solutions. It’s an amazing thing to watch young minds come together with those more experienced and work as one toward a common good. And come together they did. Putting pencil to paper, and considering suggestions and guidance from the moderators, each group came forward with very creative concepts. It was a very constructive and fulfilling day.

Group with Ethan Roland
My Group
Group with Jono Neiger
Presenting concepts to the group
Presenting concepts to the group
Presenting concepts to the group
Presenting concepts to the group

Not wanting to slow the movement, Miles and Sam have taken their idea one step further by applying for funding from the university, securing a faculty advisor, and organizing a for-credit course for the 2011 spring semester. The class, a landscape design forum, now has 15 students signed enrolled and another several auditing. And that leads to the next part of the story for me; Tomorrow night will mark the first of four classes I will be attending to help these students develop formal plans for several areas of the campus. Other professionals are being scheduled to lecture during the semester, on a variety of topics intended to provide the students with a broad range of information. Their goal is to actually implement one of the plans they conceive before semester’s end, with secured funding, donations and the administration’s blessing.

These are exciting times for these the students. They are carrying a torch that has smoldered for some time, but been has re-ignited in the sustainable passion of a few who have decided that the future is worth the effort. It’s an exciting time for me too!

Stay tuned for updates, I’ll be blogging throughout the process.

Until next time, I hope you find the spark to re-ignite your passions on this Valentine’s Day, be they green or other!

9 thoughts on “A more Sustainable Wesleyan…

  1. Enjoyed reading this post, Scott. NWF has a Campus Ecology program that supports the efforts of schools (students, staff, etc.) to reduce their environmental impact. I never tire of reading the stories about the varied ways communities are making a difference. Inspiring. Savor your role in the Wesleyan process.

  2. Scott, How exciting to see what can happen when a group of passionate people come together. I’m looking forward to hearing how the class/project progress.

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