• Native Plant Seeds Project 

In 2010, I also led the native plant seeds project as a successful sustainability outreach and fundraising initiative which was awarded a UM-D Sustainable Seeds micro-loan grant which we quickly recouped (within 5 months)!  I designed the packaging and included educational inserts as a way for us to explain how sustainability encompasses the act of planting native plant seeds.  In essence, the sale/donation of our packets fostered habitat creation, encouraged people to share packets with their neighbors to create more vibrant communities via native plants, and demonstrated economic sustainability by explaining the nature of the “revolving fund” that the micro-loan used to start this project came from.

The project and I were mentioned by the Chancellor in Legacy Magazine and in one of its stories.  The project wouldn’t have happened without the outstanding efforts and initiative of Robert Schubert and Dana Wloch, to both I am very grateful.  We were reached by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which planned to use our native Michigan wildflower seedlings for an activity that engaged youth to create “seed bombs” to beautify and enrich habitat in Detroit vacant spaces.  Unfortunately, buses and educational budgets for the city’s schools fell out and couldn’t bring the students to MOCAD for the planned activity.  It’s an unfortunate lost opportunity for the youth and was a disappointment for Robert and I.  We came to realize the broader systemic problems with place-centric institutions (like museums and universities), failing infrastructure and programs for transit among less privileged people like inner city youth.

The Bioswale Project
How can you save money, create a habitat with native plants, create a job, and educate the public about how it’s done?  This project was one answer to that question of sustainability.  Bioswales are rain gardens that contour around streams and other bodies of water.  I got approval from the University to proceed with creating one as an on-campus landscape architecture initiative of our design in partnership with the Friends of the Rouge.  The initial project description:
Landscaping with Native Plants on Campus for Education and Financial Savings

Native plants do amazing things, they’re also amazing in themselves. We seek to create an educational garden space for anyone who ventures into the heart of our main campus with the social, economic, and ecosystemic benefits of native landscaping. For those who wondered what and how native landscaping can be done at home in an aesthetically pleasing manner, or those who want to manage invasive non-native plants, this is for them to explore too. This project reduces grounds keeping expenditures by reducing areas for mowing, using plants that don’t need fertilizers, watering, and pesticides. The money saved from this goes into maintenance and educational outreach at the University for sustainability, environmental and infrastructure literacy, and native landscaping!

Unfortunately, all of the project members in the Student Environmental Association had challenges with family, employment, or graduation that ultimately resulted in incomplete follow-through.  Though it was never implemented, it’s still dear to my heart as I believe it’s one of the best sustainability outreach initiatives I’ve designed yet:

For other projects via the Student Environmental Association at the University of Michigan-Dearborn: http://sustainableum-d.blogspot.com/p/projects.html

Campus Sustainability Festival 20092010, 2011
In 2009 through 2011 I led planning and coordinating for programs, student and community organizations that highlighted principles of social, economic, and environmental sustainability for an annual festival that was free, open to the public, and implemented under constraints of no or close to zero budget.

The number one intent?  Illustrate and help attendees discover how sustainability coherently interconnects people and the economy with the environment in the individual events, and the overarching festival as a whole.

In 2009, I spearheaded organizing the festival with the EverGreen Team.  I worked with the Art History Association and Lyceum to illustrate inclusiveness and showcase creativity to exemplify the participatory nature of social sustainability.  I collaborated with the career services office to host the “Sustainable Connections” panel discussion and expo about sustainability across government, non-profits, local businesses, and global industries like Ford motor company.  The Student Environmental Association (SEA) created a scavenger hunt to make sustainability and festival engagement fun, and a thought provoking talk on sustainable food systems.  SEA also helped promote and coordinate a tour of the recently LEED certified IHM Monroe motherhouse–an exemplar in community resilience and social sustainability when it comes to their planning process and commitment to improving the environmental impact of their house and grounds, while demonstrating the financial/conservation strategies employed to make the $56 million dollar project happen.

I later learned from panelists of Career Expo that the USGBC Detroit Regional Chapter wound up partnering with the city of Dearborn on a grant as a result of meeting at the the Sustainable Connections event!  We garnered a fair amount of local news coverage in the campus and city news papers too, though the campus paper since lost its archived online articles.

Science and Conservation Cafes
Science cafes feature a scientist who can share their current/long-standing work with the public, and have an informal talk with the public over coffee or other beverages.  In a down-to-earth manner, they can introduce people to the principles that scientists rely on, as well as the latest research or challenges in the field.  Since so many classmates were doing amazing projects and research themselves too, we looked to pairing them with long-time science professionals, or featuring their work on their own.

While it might not quite qualify for what I’d consider comprehensive sustainability, it’s close and vital enough to engaging the public and maintaining the credibility of scientists/academics that I believe it should be considered here.  Any idea or initiative requires trust and education before people can take action in the world with ethical conviction.  Public outreach through non-advocacy oriented science cafes can do that.

During these events, we often featured environmentally and socially responsible coffee vendors such as Birds & Beans coffee, and other fair trade or Triple Crown Certified coffees as listed by the Smithsonian’s list.

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