Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Have I Been Up To?

I have been busy lately! Other than the "normal" business of my life that includes playdates, kids' checkups, museums, libraries, etc., I have been spending the past 5 Saturdays doing something new...being trained to be a Leader for the Chicago Conservation Corps (C3)! Luckily I have a wonderful husband who was willing to stay home with our kids for each of my class days, for which I was gone from 9 - 2ish. And this last training day was for some special field trips and a pot luck, so I was gone even longer - from 8:30 - 4! Because he knows this is so important to me, and because he believes in what I will be doing to make our lives better/healthier (and to save the planet!), he not only steps it up as the Daddy on Duty, but he encourages me in these endeavors. (Thanks, A!)

C3 is a division of Chicago's Department of Environment (DOE), and is a volunteer based group of community leaders doing projects to build awareness and make changes in their communities which positively effect the environment. These projects can be large or small, and take place all over the city. The training courses run twice a year, in the Spring and the Fall, and my class had over 30 leaders-in-training. Check out our picture that was taken on our last day of trainign as we visited the North Park Village Nature Center. (I'm near the top right wearing a hat and a was freezing outside!!) It was so cool to meet these other like-minded individuals and to hear what they plan to do for their first project. Since we are all volunteers, we fit into a certain type of personality profile of people that want to help, want to give of themselves, and believe in working for changes and for the "greater good" rather than just for financial compensation.

Since I've started the C3 courses, several of my friends have asked me, "Why do you want another thing to do? Especially if you're not getting paid?" This is a valid question I suppose, and if there were pay offered, I'd certainly take it! But for me, I see it as a grand opportunity. The projects that I am going to propose as a C3 Leader are things that I have wanted to accomplish for a long time now. But instead of trying to tackle them all alone, I now have this great support system to help guide me, keep me on track, provide a budget, and I've been taught how to involve others to work alongside me. That's what I've needed all along, so for me, I feel like I have been paid! Before C3, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and disappointed that I would not be able to accomplish my "green" goals by myself...but now I am so energized and excited to get started, and really feel like I can and will accomplish my project goals, and in the process build a team of others who feel just like me! How cool is that?

My meduim range goal is to make eco-friendly changes throughout my condo building from educating and informing the residents all the way to someday installing a green roof and solar panels. C3 has taught me to start small but think big, so my first C3 project will be to hold an informative "Green Cleaning Party" for my neighbors to teach them how to make their own non-toxic cleaning solutions and increase the air quality of their homes and our building at large. I will also hold a weatherization workshop, and hopefully by the end of the year, or January at the latest, I will host a Vermiculture workshop featuring the Urban Worm Girls where we will even give away the readied worm bin to a luck homeowner!

My other future projects for the building include recycling improvements and information, changing out our light bulbs to CFL's (those that aren't already switched), getting our building engineer to switch to the eco-friendly cleaners, etc., and eventually making the big changes and investments on the roof. These changes will not only make our building more earth friendly, but they will save us $ by being more energy efficient, improve our quality of life, conserve resources, and hopefully infect others with the "green bug" so that they might spread some of these changes to their workplace or their friends and families. But my long range goal is to "work myself into a job" that maybe when my little ones are both going to school I can get a job doing this type of thing for other buildings, or maybe even training others how to do it on behalf of the DOE!

If you live in Chicago and this article is inspiring to you, check out the C3 website to see how you can take action. If you don't live in this lovely city, check to see if there are any ways you can help your own city or town make changes toward sustainability. Chances are there are others like you that might be willing to join forces to make a big impact!

One speaker shared this quote with us during class, and it really made an impact on me, because this is just how I feel:

"Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.

On some positions, Cowardice asks the question 'Is it safe?'

Expediency asks the question 'Is it politic?'

and Vanity comes along and asks the question 'Is it popular?'

But then Conscience asks the question, 'Is it RIGHT?'

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is RIGHT."

-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.