All Solutionary Systems Go!

Summer is back already!..wait, it’s not? Well, with sixty degree weather in November and December it sure feels like it. The physical season of summer may not be here but the problem-solving and action-oriented spirit of summer which earns us the name “solutionary” is most certainly in full swing.

Iowa City solutionaries hard at work at Wildwoods Farm in Solon, Iowa.

Iowa City solutionaries hard at work at Wildwoods Farm in Solon, Iowa.

Since a group of us Iowa Citians got back from the 2012 Grand Aspirations August Gathering, we have been quite a busy bunch. For starters, we have applied for two grants for our energy efficiency campaign Our Power. The funding organizations were the United States Climate Action Network (USCAN) and RE-AMP, a network of Midwest nonprofits and foundations working to reduce global warming pollution. We successfully secured the RE-AMP grant. In fact we were awarded $5,000 over our expected amount, allocated for the purpose of hiring consultant to help us identify viable ways of engaging landlords in our campaign for city-wide energy efficiency. We could not have achieved this without the hard work and dedication of our program leaders Nick Gerken and Zach Gruenhagen. Most exciting, and frightening, of all, was that in the message accompanying our RE-AMP grant, we were referred to by the grant selection committee as the only youth doing solutionary work in the state of Iowa. Needless to say we’re determined to live up to our status.

Eli, Kwame, Zach, and friends at the Dream Big pitch event. (C) 2012 Joe Pyle Photography

Eli, Kwame, Zach, and friends at the Dream Big Grow Here live pitch night. Photograph copyright 2012 by Joe Pyle Photography.

While we were busy with grants, Our Power program leader Eli Shepherd participated in the Dream Big Grow Here business idea competition for Iowa’s “Creative Corridor,” as the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids region has been so aptly dubbed. Eli’s idea was to start a cooperative called Foliage Skateboards to produce environmentally friendly skateboard products and apparel while promoting environmental sustainability, and local businesses, groups, and organizations. Garnering the online support of Grand Aspirations and personal networks, Eli placed in the top five voted for entries and got the opportunity to pitch his business idea to a live panel of judges in mid November. Though Eli did not win the grand prize of $5,000, several judges received his idea so well they took to their pocketbooks and wrote a combined total of $300 in personal checks to help fund the production of a skateboard press out of recycled materials.

A few short weeks later, another Our Power program leader, Kwame Owusu-Daaku, was named a 2013 Obermann Graduate Fellow. The University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies organizes a week-long institute each Spring for selected graduate students to explore ways to effectively engage the community. Kwame will be spending a week in January with 17 other graduate students working on a variety of projects. He will spend some of the time brainstorming ways of increasing landlord participation in energy efficiency in Iowa City.With any luck, his time in the Obermann Institute will produce some useful ideas for the 2013 Our Power Campaign. Also in January, program leaders Nick, Eli, and Kate Anstreicher will be heading up to Chicago for the January Gathering.

For Summer 2013, we will be continuing with our the Our Power, Iowa City Roots and Sustainable Art projects we began last year. We also hope to introduce Foliage Skateboards CooperSkate – a project incorporating Eli’s solutionary skateboarding cooperative into our work. According to program-leader-for-two-and-a-half-years, Zach G, we are way ahead of schedule compared to last year and hope to solidify our 2013 plans at the January Gathering.

2012 ICSOS program leader Katherine Valde explains the Sustainable Art Initiative at the Time for Sustainability art show in Iowa City.

2012 ICSOS program leader Katherine Valde explains the Sustainable Art Initiative at the Time for Sustainability art show in Iowa City.

Things are really looking up for the summer and it’s not even winter yet! We intend to sustain the momentum we have gathered so far to snowball (all pun intended) into the summer of 2013, though it hasn’t started snowing yet. The increasingly unseasonal weather just makes climate change more pressing, creating an increased sense of urgency and necessity for the work we all love so much. Above all, we aim to have a meaningful impact on our community and our world. This summer it’s all solutionary systems go!

Written collaboratively by Kwame Owusu-Daaku and Eli Shepherd, two 2013 Iowa City Summer of Solutions program leaders. Photos by Eli Shepherd unless otherwise noted.

2 thoughts on “All Solutionary Systems Go!

  1. That is an excellent idea! I will see if we can collect “lifestyle sustainability” data from area residents and compare it to those who worked in some capacity with Our Power. That could be both great promotion for our work, as well as a great way to focus our future efforts in promoting sustainability in the community. Thanks for sharing Todd! I’ll run this by our 2013 program leaders at our next meeting.

  2. Have you explored reporting on case studies of citizens of Iowa City incorporating sustainability in their homes/lifestyles.

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