The first in a column series entitled:
Assorted stories and thoughts from the ongoing pursuit of a greener environment
as pursued by your locally grown Little Hawk, Eli Shepherd.
With the start of school came many things. The first and foremost, of course, being the end of any hopes for a solid sleep schedule. A close second, however, proved to be the questioning of my school free activities.
“How was your summer?,” any number of my friends directed the inquiry my way. The question that reached my brain proved to be more along the lines of “Summarize three months in three seconds. Such a jumbled array of ideas and general amazingness were conjured into my mind that my response’s content typically lay far from the actualities of my recent past.
“Oh, I worked a bunch,” I finally surrendered to my mental fluster. Sure, what I said was true but, just as with the cliche “news” technique of using out of context quotes, failed to address the entirety of the story. So, for everyone who has already asked, as well as those who have yet to or never will, here’s the whole truth:
Towards the end of May my mind had long since strayed from the schoolyard and was searching with an unfelt urgency for a solution to my summer. Not to say that I had any discrepancies with an empty summer, I just knew I had to find some way of earning $2,000 (My 60% end of the agreement with my parents) for the Spain trip in the spring of 2013. Other than that my mind was, as I’m finding it usually is, in a jumble. After school that day I engaged in yet another cliche (I do it quite often) and perused Facebook. I had a couple of notifications that I glanced at and one that I clicked on. The private group page for Envirocity, the sort-of club for environmentally focused young people at City High School, opened in my browser. The update had been for a post by Zach Something or Other Starting With a G.
“This summer, become part of something solutionary!” the image beckoned me. Curiosity piqued, I proceeded to investigate. GrandAspirations.org materialized before me, followed by the Summer of Solutions tab, and then, the Iowa City Summer of Solutions page. Images of twenty-somethings smiling in vegetable gardens and on bicycles reflected in my eyes as I took in the websites. I stumbled across a video under the ‘Blog’ tab. There was Zach G. sitting in a folding chair speaking with the person behind the camera and the other participant next to him. Zach Wahls, the caption read. I had a moment of disbelief, only knowing the name from the news. It made sense, though. I was definitely intrigued. Summer of Solutions, huh!
A week or two passed, the last day of school and summer approached. I had applied for jobs at Bluebird Diner and the Co-op but had heard nothing from either of them. Another day and another notification took me back to the Envirocity page. The application deadline was very soon. I had talked with my dad and he was fine with it; his only concerns were that I wouldn’t be able to handle the time commitment and needed to make money more than I needed to volunteer. I deconstructed his arguments and filled out an online application. The submit button received a very satisfying click.
Three months later, I am a changed person. This summer I worked with Iowa City Summer of Solutions, a local environmental non-profit. I got to work with approximately 25 youth, from age 16 to 26, engaging the community around sustainability, gardening and eating amazingly delicious food, creating art projects out of repurposed materials acquired via dumpster diving, teaching preschool to elementary school age kids how to make “sustainable scarecrows” for their garden, meeting local business owners and leaders, going door to door promoting energy efficiency in local businesses and homes, and weatherizing people’s houses to save them money and energy. I got to work side by side with the people who grew my food at farms in Iowa City and Solon. I was given free fresh bread, tomatoes, ears of corn, strawberries, mint leaf, parsley, and even albino cucumber. I got to meet with Superintendent Steve Murley, the Iowa City Landfill’s Recycling Coordinator Jen Jordan, and other local officials about implementing an ICCSD district wide recycling program. I got offered numerous paid positions throughout the year and for next summer, and I got to revamp my business, Foliage Skateboards. All of this I got to do. A lot can come from doing the right thing, especially when it comes to the environment.