Guest blogger Eleanor Marshall with Iowa City Summer of Solutions:
It doesn’t really seem like ten students working in rented office space in the University of Iowa’s Seamans Center can stand up to the world’s problems: mountain top removal, deforestation, pollution on a global and potentially irreversible scale, to name a few.
Probably because we can’t.
But we, the aforementioned college and high school students, no longer think it’s productive to bemoan the fate of the planet – instead we’re working to engage the Iowa City community in locally based and straightforward solutions for a sustainable future here and now.
This is the Iowa City branch’s second summer working with the national Summer of Solutions program. Starting in the Twin Cities in 2008, the grassroots organization has expanded to sixteen programs, each built of youth leaders and their local partnerships working towards a more sustainable and socially just community. The programs take on pragmatic and self-sustaining projects during the summers that work towards lasting environmental sustainability one step at a time.
Iowa City’s tight knit and forward thinking community offers us a unique wealth of aware and concerned citizens and socially conscious organizations that are open to our ideas and supportive in our partnerships. And since many of us are Iowa City natives, our community has been vital in fostering a passion for environmental justice in us that drives the work we are doing. Last year, we came away understanding that we could play a major role in finding solutions that would overcome two of our city’s major barriers to sustainability: a lack of collaboration among like-minded people and organizations, and a lack of environmental education in K-12 and beyond.
Which leads us to this summer. Our projects this year focus on establishing that missing collaboration. Our green education and solar schools programs are working with the city of Iowa City, the school board, educators and supportive citizens to facilitate the implementation of concrete and meaningful sustainability and renewable energy education at all levels of the Iowa City Community School District public education system. Our 20/20 Project aims to make citizens and local business more sustainable and environmentally aware with a combination of short-term and long-term goals to be met by the year 2020. The project not only facilitates collaboration among the organizations and citizens who come together to give input and share expertise in the development of our primers, we also seek to create a support system through which the entire community can collaborate around implementing the final product. Finally, Iowa City Summer of Solutions will help to solidify a coalition of groups representing students, faculty and management from campuses across Iowa who are committed to engaging students in sustainability and seek to lessen the impact of their campus on the environment as well as become role models for other communities. From eco-housing and dining services to organic gardens and campus windmills, students and faculty are creating innovative ways to lessen the environmental impact in private, public, small and large schools across Iowa. Taking form in the shape of a website, we are currently creating a space where these various groups can easily communicate, share ideas and formulate solutions. Pooling the ideas and resources each campus provides, the site would bring the numerous student organizations, departments and managements together in one space providing resources to foster ideas and help make the most effective decisions regarding planning and development, purchasing, energy, materials in building and dining services, transportation, water and landscaping, curriculum, student practices and events, and outreach. For a more complete description of our summer 2011 projects, check out our website at http://www.iowacitysos.org/.
Beyond our main projects, we are making it a priority to be an engaged and supportive presence in the community that has done the same for us. We volunteer weekly with local organizations, breaking out of the office and getting our hands dirty. If you are interested in volunteering with us or would like our organization to volunteer for yours, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep an eye out for a Summer of Solutions booth at the farmers’ market, Summer of the Arts events and other local events.
Thank you to Eleanor Marshall and Iowa City Summer of Solutions! Be sure to check out their website and stay informed on their progress this summer! And don’t miss them around town (I sometimes see a group of them at the IC Farmers Market!).