HOPE 4 GREEN DETROIT 7 mile Community Clean-up


By: Dorthea Thomas

Location: Detroit, MI20130820-044329.jpg

After gaining support from various local businesses in Northeast Detroit to provide trash pick-up, our team organized another community clean-up event on E. 7 mile. After 4 hours of hard labor, our team filled up about 30 biodegradable plastic bags of wood, paper, and other trash in the community. Continue reading

Sustainable Art at Summer’s End

By Kate Johnson of the Iowa City, Iowa program.
This summer must have big plans for something fun in the fall, because it sure is in a hurry to get there! It has been a whirlwind of a few months here at Summer of Solutions in Iowa City, and we’ve been making the most of it in the ‘Sustainable Art’ group under the direction of Nick Gerken.  Though we have been sparsely populated, we’ve had some great assistance from our friends in ‘Our Power’ and ‘Iowa City Roots’.  With whoever we could grab, we have traveled to camps all summer, working on crafts with kids and talking to them about the environment.
These camps include Taproot, Pheasant Ridge, and two Wildlife camps (Hawk and Fox).  At Pheasant Ridge, we had the same group of kids that all live in the same neighborhood every Wednesday.  We did many projects with them and got to spend a lot of time with them.  Some of our crafts included weaving mats, pinwheels, and birdhouses.  We really enjoyed our time there, which we wrapped up July 31 by going to a nearby park after making parachute toys with plastic bags.  It brings a smile to my face when I think of some of the things our Pheasant Ridge kids talked to us about, even though we sometimes struggled to keep them on task. Continue reading

Gaining momentum through community engagement


LR Summer of Solutions hosted a booth on 12th Street to sign up residents for free home energy assessments.

By: Kara King
Location: Little Rock

The Little Rock Summer of Solutions team is officially half way through our 8 week program and our projects are really beginning to take off! We began the week by tending to the 12th and Oak garden. When I stepped into the garden this week after being away for over a week, I was blown away by the appearance of our garden! Despite some failed attempts in some of our beds and having to uproot some of the seasonal plants, the rest of the garden is flourishing. Our sunflowers are the height of most average adults and our tomatoes are constantly producing fruit! We continue to expand our garden by clearing new beds and planting new seeds. Continue reading

Diversity: why is it important to me?

By: Josephine Chu
Location: Washington, D.C.

This blog post is the first in a series about what diversity means to me.

Back in May, I had the awesome opportunity to participate in the Byron Fellowship. a week-long course in leadership and sustainable community development with a focus on place-based learning. When I initially found out about the fellowship in March, I was finishing my last semester for my MA in Global Environmental Politics at American University and was very excited by the prospect of being able to meet and connect with people from across the country and world working on sustainability issues from a variety of perspectives and fields. I was particularly intrigued by its focus on place-based learning as the DC program is working to create an intergenerational food justice curriculum, of which place-based learning is a key component.  I had heard and read a bit about place-based learning, but was not sure what it looked like in practice so was very curious to participate in a program that explicitly emphasized it. My understanding of place-based learning was learning that emphasized discovering the place and history of a community so that students can have a better understanding of their role in shaping it. One project that the DC program plans to do this summer is an oral history project to interview a host of people who have been deeply involved with growing food in DC to showcase their stories. (For those interested in learning more about about the many community gardens and gardeners in DC, the documentary A Community of Gardeners is a good film to check out.)

Byron workshop Continue reading

Middleton Embraces Local Food and Sustainability

By: Morgan Ripp
Location: Middleton, WI

Tis’ the season, the growing season that is! It has finally arrived after a long hard winter and for gardeners the growing season beats Christmas by a land-slide. This is Morgan here and I have been part of the Growing Food and Sustainability team since the beginning in 2012. I’ve spent my time this past year volunteering with the Hinahara sisters and working with children at the youth garden. Even though my time spent will be limited this summer with GFS I am continuing to take part in gardening with local community members and will be a face around the town.

I’ve got to say that it has been a splendid summer thus far with plenty of rain and sunshine and I hope we are as lucky in the following months to produce a bountiful crop yield. This past week I have picked more strawberries than I could have ever imagined. Being a new gardener as I have been this past year, I have had an eye opener with how much food one can grow within the own boundaries of their yard. I’m telling you, if anyone would wants to cut down on their grocery bill, all they have to do is plant a small garden in their backyard. 1 Continue reading

Hope4Green uniting to help restore northeast Detroit

Northeast Detroit is an area stricken with environmental degradation, illegal dumping, and an unreliable trash management system. Because of this, months of trash and debri starts to pile up in our communities leaving the health and safety of our residents at risk.


However the team of HOPE4GREEN Detroit is pushing to restore Northeast Detroit with community clean-ups, urban gardening, and boarding up abandoned homes that are open and dangerous.

Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: Nathaniel Cook

Hello! My name is Nathaniel Cook, and I participated in Summer of Solutions in 2009.  I became involved in SoS after having a discussion with Summer of Solutions leaders at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at St. Olaf College.  I left the conversation thinking that SoS would be an informative experience that would allow me to grow as a young, student leader while making real, substantive change in how we, as a society, approach environmental sustainability. The experience proved to exceed all of my expectations.

Through SoS, I developed the skills necessary to talk about sustainability-related issues with people from all walks of life, and gained the knowledge and confidence necessary to do so. Summer of Solutions also gave me a new, better-informed perspective on environmental and social issues that helped formulate my values. My favorite memory is working alongside students who exemplified what it meant to be well informed, proactive, and inspiring young leaders.  Their mentorship empowered me to meet with community leaders and develop plans for collaboration.  I was so inspired by my experience that when I returned to my college campus as a sophomore in the fall, I helped lead an environmental movement that changed the campus’ ethos and physical operations. By engaging our peers, we helped start the campus’ first student-led organic garden, an “eco-house” for student living, improved campus operations, and made sustainability one of the core focuses of the college and its curriculum. Continue reading

Old Friends and New Connections

This week at Growing Food and Sustainability was a blast!

The week started out with an enjoyable Downtown Middleton Farmers’ Market. There were more people than the previous week, due to the more moderate and pleasant weather. This was great because our stand had many new children and families stopping by to participate in our kids’ activity. This week the topic was waste disposal. They had to match up different types of household waste, like plastic baggies or apple cores, with composting, recycling, garbage, or hazardous waste. The kids really enjoyed it, and some of the parents learned something new too!

Farmers’ Market Kids’ Activity Table

The Farmers’ Market was also especially fun this week because there was a new produce stand! This new stand, called “The First Acre”, is run by a couple mutual friends of Growing Food and Sustainability, who are fresh out of college. It was great to see old friends at the market, as well as to see some fresh and young faces. Overall, it was my favorite Farmers’ Market of the year! Now our mission is to make more consumers aware of the market to help support these hard-working farmers.

The First Acre Farm Stand

The other part of the week that really stood out to me was an activity that we did with our middle and high school aged participants on Wednesday. We used chalk to trace out the energy system, starting with the sun. It was especially illustrative because the youth participants could literally see the closed loops with systems like composting, and the literal dead ends with the fossil fuel system. The discussion surrounding this activity was quite deep, though a bit heavy, and it seemed as though all the participants were engaged and learned something.

Energy mapping with chalk

This activity had an unexpected result for me. I really enjoy making flow diagrams like this (which I knew already), but I learned that they are an extremely good way to convey information to others, and they’re great discussion starters. I also learned that I enjoy teaching about systems very much. These are both things that I think I will find useful in my future, since I plan to become a high school teacher.

Overall this week was excellent, and I look forward to the upcoming weeks of Farmers’ Markets and lessons. I also enjoyed the unexpected benefit of learning something new about myself from the activity!


Middleton’s Community Greenhouse and Video Debut

Start your seeds in the MHS greenhouse this spring!

This spring, Growing Food and Sustainability (SoS Middleton) has programmed and cleaned-out the greenhouse at the high school so that after years of disuse, it is now up and running and growing beautiful seedlings!  Our program only needs to use a fraction of the greenhouse space, so we would like to invite all community members to start garden seeds in the greenhouse this spring!

Every weekend this spring we will host weekly Community Greenhouse Hours when the greenhouse will be open and a Program Leader will be present.  This is time when anyone using the greenhouse can check on their plants, plant more seedlings, remove their seedlings, etc.  Community Greenhouse Hours will be posted on our website homepage.  For guidelines and more details, please click here.  We look forward to seeing the greenhouse teeming with life and activity!

Watch Growing Food and Sustainability’s Video Debut!

Join these lovely ladies and the rest of the Middleton team for an incredible summer!  We still have openings for full-time participant positions and stipends available (allocated based on financial need).  To apply, please click here.  Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until May 15th.  We hope you’ll join us!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at: GrowingFoodandSustainability@gmail.com

Gabrielle and Natalie Hinahara
Founders, Program Leaders