The one that almost got away….
As a recent graduate of the Institute of Sustainable Practice, the realization that my education in environmental sustainability has only begun hit me at several points during the program. There's so much to learn - and things are constantly changing and evolving. I'm excited to keeping learning - and doing!
I almost let one learning opportunity slip away and I'm so glad I didn't. I wasn't going to participate in the New England/Vermont Advanced Practices travel course. It wasn't offered the last summer of my studies and just figured it wasn't meant to be. But, upon graduating this past May, I was reminded of the course again and inquired about availability to audit. To my surprise, there was still open slots! So, after some juggling of work and kids, I was able to sign up to participate. My wife decided to come along too!
I'm so glad I didn't let this opportunity pass! It would have been a shame to leave my studies at Lipscomb and not have cemented my learning with this trip. We learned so much in our classes, group projects and Capstone, but perhaps what was lacking for me was seeing these learnings in practice. Were people really doing these things in the real world? Could organizations actually put some of these things into action? Was it hard? I can now say with a resounding yes, that it's more than possible to carry out all the knowledge and ideas we've acquired as part of the program.
Why New England? There is a perception that New England and the surrounding areas of Vermont and New Hampshire are in many ways far ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to the practices of sustainability - certainly compared to the South where most of us live and work today. This perception is a reality. There's so much that has happened and continues to happen with sustainability in this part of the country. From renewable energy to sustainable farming and development and everything in between, there's a lot we can learn and apply from this area's leadership.
The trip began with some great seafood in Boston Saturday evening at the Yankee Lobster. We were joined by a couple of graduates from the program who now live in Boston - Dan and Angela Kakabeeke. It was great to see both having a positive impact on sustainability - each in their own way. One managing a hotel property that's adopting many sustainable practices and the other writing educational children's books with a sustainability theme.
Our first full day, began with a very inspiring visit to Walden Pond. A place still haunted by Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was a profound realization for me that the birth of sustainability really took place with the birth of our country. The seeds of conservation, preservation and sustainability were planted right along with the seeds of freedom and liberty. A local historian met with us in the character of Henry Thoreau. It was fascinating to gain insights into a man who came to understand the value of nature and how to best live in harmony with it.
The trip continued with a visit to Woodstock, VT where we toured the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Park. National Parks play such a key role in conservation for our country and continue to inspire an appreciation for our precious natural resources. We finished the day by visiting with some local residents who have built a beautiful net zero home in the area.
We visited Cobb Hill which is a sustainable community working and living out sustainable practices daily. They welcomed us with open arms and pulled the covers back on every detail of how they developed the ideas for their community and continue to evolve and execute those ideals today. They put us to work too - storing firewood, working in the gardens and removing some evasive plant species. To top it off, we had two wonderful meals with ingredients right off the farm.
I won't go on to describe the details of everyday. But, trust me it was jammed packed - renewable power plants, leading edge composting, more sustainable farming and lots of conversations with bright, inspiring leaders in many fields across sustainability. We not only saw sustainability being lived and executed successfully - but equally important we were able to talk to the people actually doing it. They answered our questions without hesitation and with transparency. Things aren't always perfect and easy, but achieving different levels of sustainability is more than possible. This trip also provided some great examples of the kinds of job opportunities available in our field.
We ended our trip back in Boston. We toured the LEED Platinum Prudential Tower - a newly renovated, state-of-the-art building. From solar arrays to wind turbines this building was impressive. The views weren't bad either!
I'm so glad I had the privilege to take this trip and participate in this class. I would encourage all current, future and past students to consider strongly not cutting your education short by not taking this course. It's an inspiring journey into the past, present and future of environmental sustainability!
Oh. And, it's a lot of fun too - with lots of laughs, great food and conversation!