Archive for March, 2011

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.


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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.  From their web site, it looks like the program was discontinued in 2004.  I wonder how many of these gardens are still going strong?

Chicago neighbors named this the Greenhouse Garden.

With all of the berries growing in this garden, 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?!  Another thing I loved about this community garden was the adult and child sized picnic tables.  And 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.  I loved 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, chopping 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, hands-on knowledge about the environment growing…all benefits of community gardening!

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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

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Design Aspiration

Design Aspiration

Steven has a new blog over at

It’s been an inspiration to me to get blogging again after being down with a cold for three weeks.  Spring has been flirting with us here in Iowa, I’ve been making some new decorations for my bedroom and trying to do some more painting, anything to get a break from thesis writing!  Writing a thesis can be a creative process, but it also has aspects of feeling like you are in jail, at least for me.  Thinking about design feels like a rest for my brain.  I am not sure I can actually say I design things.  I decorate, I create fabric art… that probably qualifies as design, but I like Steven’s idea that as users of products we can also participate in the design process, and really, we should.  The world would be a better place for it.  So, until I get my camera fired up for some spring blog posts here at Passion for Green, slip over to Design Aspiration and enjoy some thought provoking reading and imagine yourself as a designer for a while!

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The beauty of repetition

My best friend and partner in this adventure of life has started a new blog about design aspiration.  He’s really gotten me thinking about design in a new way and it has given me new eyes on some of my old thoughts and photos.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted so I went for a random photo post today and found this in my files of botanic center pics.  Succulents, hens and chickens and such have never been my favorite plants, but aren’t these beautiful?  And while browsing around, I found this site.  I might have to do some shopping!

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