Sustainable Community Day 2017

Yesterday, students and faculty gathered to participate in our first Sustainable Community Day — a day dedicated to sustainable living practice. Science teacher Renee Blacken started the day off with a powerful morning reading, which is included below. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Smug Mug to check out photos from the day.

So often it seems easier not to do something, especially when that something is hard, new, unknown, or demands a great deal of personal or institutional change. When Sustainability Club first talked about having some programming around Earth Day, it was a conversation in abstraction. What if? Could we? We brainstormed ideas, and thought of people who would bring these ideas to fruition. What if we had workshops that focused on building sustainable communities? What if we looked at the ethical and environmental impacts of our consumer choices? Could we create art with recycled materials found on campus? What if we tried to source local food for our meals in New Hampshire in April? Could we devote a day in our already busy schedules to spending time working, building, laughing, learning, singing, storytelling, crafting, cooking and eating together? What if? Could we?

We made the announcement two Fridays ago and I could not sleep that night. I thought of ways I could get out of this, postpone the day, maybe wait until next year. It was too soon, too close, we were all too busy. How was I going to pull it off? And then I started talking to people. Students and faculty alike offered suggestions for workshops with an attitude of enthusiasm and a true interest in sharing their passion for something with the larger community. Tim at Meadowstone Farm offered us hundreds of pounds of free potatoes, and the opportunity to wash them ourselves. I realized that I wasn’t going to pull it off, we were. It was really an amazing feeling to be surrounded by people who were truly supportive of this day, and it made me remember how lucky I am to be in a community that does care so deeply for one another and our place.  

You see, by proposing this Sustainable Community Day, we opened ourselves up to something new, which brought a great deal of vulnerability. And yet, by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we have also opened up ourselves, and our School, to the possibility of being changed by new experiences. I encourage all of you to embrace the opportunity to do something today–to jump into the unknown and to give yourselves to the task at hand to see how you might be changed.  

In a previous iteration of myself I was a fairly dedicated distance runner. I didn’t run fast, but I could run far. I liked terrain that was unpredictable, changeable, uphill, downhill, rocky–terrain that made me think about each step carefully, and made me be fully present in the moment that contained this step. On particularly challenging climbs, or on difficult stretches that seemed to continue on without relief, I created a mantra for myself that went like this: I can do it, I will do it, I am doing it. As simple as these phrases sound, they have come to resound in my life and guide me through difficult and rewarding times–which are often coincident. They have come to guide me in my work in sustainability (which in many ways is not unlike distance running), as I continue to learn how to best live and teach toward a world that is just, equitable, and beautiful. I can do it–the recognition of the possible. I will do it–the expression of right intention, the commitment to action. I am doing it–the follow through, the realization of the possible. Today, whatever you are entering into, I encourage you to approach it with the attitude of I can, I will, and before long, you will realize that you are doing it. Today we take this step toward investing in our community and seeing the possibilities that present themselves when we take the time to learn, work, and create together.

In closing, I want to impress that sustainability is not something that is accomplished. Sustainability is a commitment to continually doing. Sustainability is waking up each morning and asking ourselves how we will have the most positive impact in this world, not simply the least negative. It often seems easier not to do something. But it is so much less rewarding, and we find ourselves very much the same in the end. Together, we open ourselves up to being changed today.  We might just find that we can create a more sustainable community, we might decide that we will, and if we look around, we will realize that we are.

Learn more about our Sustainability Studies program here.

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