Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Green Beginning: Cambridge, Harvard and MIT

By Kaya
Kaya and Eliza
On Monday, May 6th, Eliza and I attended an early morning signing ceremony for the Cambridge Community Compact for a Sustainable Future. This joint effort is dedicated to creating a more sustainable future for the City of Cambridge.

Mayor Henrietta Davis with our quilt

Mayor Henrietta Davis had sent us an invitation to attend, which we accepted with excitement. The quilt we made and had donated to the City of Cambridge —  “Imagine a Sustainable Life” — had been hung in Mayor Davis’ reception room during March. Perhaps this was her way of saying “thank you” by including us. She knows we care about these issues, so we were happy to be there!

Representatives of the City of Cambridge, along with the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) signed the document that expresses their commitment to work together on climate change and energy sustainability. 
The four signatories were City Manager Robert Healy, Mayor Henrietta Davis, Harvard President Drew Faust, and MIT President Rafael Reif.  The city and these educational institutions had worked on drafting this resolution for more than a year.
Left to right: Harvard President Drew Faust, MIT President Rafael Reif, Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis and Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy

The signing ceremony — with remarks from each of those who signed it — lasted less than an hour. In her remarks, Mayor Davis emphasized the main points of the Cambridge Community Compact for a Sustainable Future, which holds each party accountable for making progress toward achieving certain goals. Broadly, those goals are:
·      Building energy efficiency
·      Climate change mitigation and preparedness planning
·      Renewable energy systems
·      Sustainable technology
·      Waste management
·      Water management
·      Urban natural resources
·      Public information and education
·      Green tech incubation and promotion
By signing the Compact, MIT and Harvard, as well as the city of Cambridge, are pledging their contribution towards creating an environmentally sustainable city. This is a big step for Cambridge, and it shows just how serious Cambridge is about increasing its sustainability by addressing the challenges of climate change. 
The Sprouts of Hope with the signatories and other invited guests.
 The Sprouts of Hope are glad to have witnessed such a remarkable event and can’t wait to see how the contract comes into play! Great job, Cambridge!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Donating Our Quilt to the City of Cambridge

Risa with her likeness
By Risa

Finally, the day we'd been pointing toward since we'd begun making our quilt last spring had arrived. At a City Council meeting in Cambridge's City Hall that night, we would donate our quilt — the one we'd name "Imagine a Sustainable Life" — as a lending gift to our hometown, the city of Cambridge. On many Sunday afternoons last spring, we'd worked at the studio of quilt maker Clara Wainwright as she guided us in creating what we'd only imagined. 

Before we went before the City Council, Mayor Henrietta Davis invited us, our family and friends, and City Council members to attend a reception in her large conference room. This room is the first stop for our quilt.  And it's a terrific first stop for the quilt as it begins its journey to schools and businesses, parks and nonprofit organizations.  Its next stop will be on the library wall at the school all of us attend, Cambridge Rindge & Latin School.

Our quilt hanging in the office of Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis

If you’d like to hang the quilt in the place where you work or hold meetings, please come to the page on our website where you can sign up to borrow the quilt for the dates that work for you.

The Mayor asked us to talk about our quilt.
Mayor Davis stood next to our quilt and listened as each of us to told her something about how we made it and why we included what we did in its design. The why part was easy: we believe art can motivate action, so we hope our quilt will generate community discussion and provoke action so that together we can make our city the most sustainable place to live in the entire world.

On the interior border of our quilt we wrote these words:  “A City Thrives When Its People Replenish What They Use.” On our quilt we have examples of what those words mean: in one corner there is a pile of compost and on rooftops are wind turbines; food grows on rooftops, too, and plants climb up the sides of those same buildings. Like in our main public library, we show how windows can be build to conserve energy. Then there are bike paths weaving everywhere. 

A Peace Dove in honor of Roots & Shoots
A Chimp — in honor of Dr. Goodall
We also pay homage to Dr. Jane Goodall, the founder of Roots & Shoots, by including a chimp that swings in the sky and a white dove of peace that flies through our city. 

Along the bottom of our quilt, we honor three activists whose dedication to making our world a better place inspires us: Wangari Maathai, Dr. Goodall and Bill McKibben. Earlier this year, soon after we’d finished making our quilt, we had the opportunity to surprise Bill McKibben when we showed it to him during a live taping of Boston’s public radio show “On Point.”

Bill McKibben sees our quilt — with his image on it, lower left.

So on Monday, February 25, we presented our quilt to the City of Cambridge.  Each of us spoke for two minutes, and in that time we conveyed our hope of by giving “sustainability” visual representation we can inspire people to embrace sustainable practices in their lives and support sustainable policies in our city’s life. Here’s what each of us talked about:

Lilly and Maya are the first to speak to the City Council about our quilt.

Lilly went first, so she introduced us at The Sprouts of Hope, thanked the City Council for doing what they have done to promote sustainability, and told the members that we’d made our quilt as our way of helping in this important cause.

Maya was next, and she focused on steps the City Council has taken with sustainability, talked about ways that kids in Cambridge can be partners in these efforts, and reminded them of the sustainability pledge that Kristen Von Hoffmann created for students but how everyone should use it.

Then Risa offered some suggestions of how sustainability can become a top priority for the city. She proposed that one City Council meeting each year be devoted solely to the topic of sustainability, as people in the community bring their ideas and experiences to the City Council. She also urged the city to sponsor a contest for people of all ages to create sustainability logos that could be put on t-shirts.

Kaya then spoke about why it’s so important for sustainability to be taught in the schools — and starting with kids when they are very, very young.  She pointed out that because her K-8 school King Open was the first one to do composting in their cafeteria, they learned when they were younger — and now they do it easily, whereas some kids who are at the high school who didn’t learn how to compost have a harder time.

The last one of us to speak was Eliza who emphasized our greater goal for the quilt. She talked about how much we hope that people who see our quilt will be inspired to think more about sustainability in their lives and then act in ways that conserve energy, replenish what we use, and make our city “green.”

This is not the first time The Sprouts of Hope have spoken about environmental issues at a city meeting. Six years ago we went to the Cambridge School Committee and the changes we asked to have happen then have turned into the district-wide composting program now being used by six of the city’s schools. Composting in our schools has transformed tons of food waste into soil. So it felt good to be giving back to the community with our gift of this quilt. It’s our way of encouraging positive change.

The Sprouts of Hope address the School Committee in 2008.
 We hope that our quilt inspires large and small changes within the city of Cambridge, and pushes all of us forward on the replenishing path of sustainability. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Sprouts of Hope's Quilt and Bill McKibben

Unveiling Our Quilt on WBUR's show "On Point"

By Maya

On the evening of June 14 the Sprouts of Hope had a remarkable experience. We were asked to join WBUR’s On Point radio host Tom Ashbrook and climate change activist Bill McKibben at a live show they were doing at the Paramount Center in Boston. First Tom and Bill did their hour-long interview for On Point for broadcast the next morning. 

Tom Ashbrook interviews Bill McKibben on WBUR's  "On Point"

As soon as they finished, and in front of the audience of several hundred people who had donated to WBUR to attend this live show, the Sprouts of Hope were invited to come out on stage so that we could present our sustainability quilt to Bill McKibben. He is one of three people who have inspired us because of their environmental work and whose portraits we feature on our quilt.

To the sounds of loud music with African drums, we came on stage carrying our unopened quilt. After Tom introduced us, I said a few words about our quilt project and then we opened it so that Bill — and the audience —could see it. As we did, the audience applauded loudly. I pointed to the bottom of the quilt so Bill could see his portrait; it appears under the words “We are the Sprouts of Hope. These are our inspirations.” His portrait is next to Jane Goodall, known for her groundbreaking study of chimpanzees (and to us as the founder of Roots & Shoots), who is next to Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who won the award for the Green Belt Movement she founded in Africa.

This is when we could tell Bill McKibben liked our quilt.

Our Kids For Stopping Global Warming, April 14, 2007
Tom asked us questions about why we made the quilt and our goals for how it will be used. He wanted to know why we decided to put Bill our quilt? We first came to know about Bill’s efforts to engage people in doing something to halt global warming when we were in elementary school and he did his Step It Up campaign on April 14, 2007. The Sprouts organized a kids’ march to fight global warming on this National Day of Climate Action. A lot of kids and families joined us to march from MIT to the Boston Common rally where we heard speakers and we were interviewed about our march. 

The Step It Up campaign truly got us into the mindset that kids do make a difference when they get involved in these issues.

During the On Point interview that night we learned about McKibben’s on-going work with his organization He chose that number because 350 parts per million is the level of CO2 in the atmosphere that we have to get down to in order to preserve the planet. However, there are currently about 392 parts per million of CO2. Tom also talked with him about efforts to stop the Keystone pipeline. 

The Sprouts of Hope's Business Card
The audience seemed to love our quilt —judging by the loud sustained applause they gave us when we opened it to show Bill. He also seemed quite pleased with it and liked having his portrait on it.  Backstage, we with him talked and gave him a Sprouts of Hope card so we can stay in contact. We’d like to work with him on his campaign.

My mom sent him photographs of our time together, and here is what he wrote back:

These are so lovely. Would you please tell the girls that I saw Jane G. in Istanbul on Tuesday and told her all about our evening, and she sent her love. (She even let me give my talk there with her stuffed monkey on the podium!)

p.s. Just tweeted out a link to the Sprouts’ blog —people deserve to know about the great work you are doing.

The whole experience was exceedingly fun. Hopefully this quilt will serve as a vision of what sustainability looks like in a city like Cambridge, and encourage kids and adults to act in ways that make our hometown — and other communities — more sustainable places to live. 

Tom Ashbrook (left), The Sprouts of Hope and our quilt and Bill McKibben at the live WBUR "On Point" event on June 14, 2012.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Learning From Gloria Steinem's Experiences

Tea with Gloria Steinem

On Friday afternoon, April 20th, The Sprouts of Hope, had tea with Gloria Steinem at the New York City apartment where we were staying. This gathering happened because Jane O'Reilly, a longtime friend of Gloria's from their days working together as journalists on Ms. Magazine, wrote to her friend and asked her. Gloria said "Yes." Jane asked her because it had become apparent that the Sprouts had not learned about America's second wave of feminism, despite having been taught in middle school about the women who led the first wave of feminism during the suffrage movement. Yet, it is because of the efforts of Gloria and her feminist colleagues that girls growing up now experience an equality of opportunity that was unimaginable to her generation when they were this age in the 1950s.

By Maya

Having the opportunity to meet Gloria Steinem and Jane O’Reilly was truly a wonderful experience.

Longtime friends: Gloria Steinem (left) and Jane O'Reilly

Listening to them made me realize how far women have come in the last half century and how far there is still to go. I was inspired by their writings and their life journeys, and by their ability to maintain humble and humorous personalities. Gloria told us a story about helping women who'd been forced into sex trafficking by building an electric fence, and that story taught me a lot about why listening is the essential first step in helping anybody. I never would have thought keeping elephants out of maize fields could be a solution to the sex trafficking of women.

In listening to these two women tell us about their lives, I learned much about how to be a leader and work toward making effective change. Jane’s cover story on the first issue of Ms. Magazine — about the housewife's predetermined role in society — intrigued me. I read her article, "
The Housewife's Moment of Truth," before I met her. 
Jane O'Reilly's Ms. Magazine article about housewives. It was this new magazine's first cover story when it was published in December 1971.

Jane wrote about how little things that used to happen to housewives every day were one day transformed into moments when the women experienced a “click” that made them realize that their lives as women didn’t need to be the way they were.

Gloria suggested we read one of her essays, "If Men Could Menstruate," before we met her, and I was glad she did. It is not something I would have found on my own, and yet I enjoyed the perspective that her words gave us.

It has taken me some time for my brain to “click” and realize that just a few weeks ago I sat in a four-story walk-up in New York City eating crackers and Italian pastries with these two remarkable women.

By Lilly

Meeting with Ms. Steinem completely changed how I thought of women’s rights today. I had previously assumed that we were past all the big leaps that had to be taken. All around me, I see women in successful and powerful positions in society with rights completely equal to those of men. However, she made me see that we still have a ways to go. In other countries and even our own, sex trafficking is a huge problem.  And women who work in all kinds of jobs still get paid lower wages than men. And even in our own community, it can be harder for girls just to participate in sports. 

All of this is not to say that Ms. Steinem was in any way discouraging. She did raise my awareness about new issues, but not without providing ideas and solutions. She was incredibly warm and easy to hold a conversation with, not at all intimidating or superior. It was really a wonderful and valuable experience to have as a girl in this time.

From left to right, Lilly, Gloria, Kaya, Risa, Maya

By Risa

When Ms. Steinem stepped out of the taxi, I was surprised by her youthfulness, and by how relaxed and collected she seemed. I feel very honored that she took the time to sit and talk with us, especially because she had just come back from a trip overseas. I was inspired by how she approaches situations — with a clear and open mind. She is a strong and opinionated woman; I am sure that when she sets her mind to doing something, she does not stop until it’s been achieved. 

Yet, the message that will stay with me forever that took away from our conversation is the importance of listening, especially to people who you think might want your help. She is a great storyteller. In response to a question that Jane O'Reilly's granddaughter Elena asked her — about how Westerners often seem to arrive in foreign countries with an idea already in their heads of how they are going to help people they've never met — Gloria told us a great story about how the complex problem of women being trafficked for sex had been solved by something as simple as a fence. It wasn't a solution anyone would have thought of unless they talked and listened carefully about the situation that women in this village were experiencing. Turns out that the women couldn't plant and harvest their maize crop — and with it feed their families — unless they find a way to stop elephants from coming into their fields.

An electric fence is able to prevent elephants from going into areas where they will damage crops.

The lesson I took away from this story is that only by listening to and talking with someone and taking  time to understand a situation completely is it possible to know how to help in ways that will be effective.

By Kaya

Gloria Steinem told us about some of the ways she is working to stop the trafficking of women and girls for sex. She described a trip to India she had just returned from when she talked with trafficked women

Ruchira Gupta is president of Apen Aap and devotes her energies to ending the trafficking of women in India.

Gloria explained to us that Americans do not realize how women are forced into selling their bodies for sex; the women are not doing this out of their own free will. Today millions of humans throughout the world are being trafficked, including in the United States. Gloria let us know the astonishing fact that the average age at which children are first trafficked in the United States is 12 to 13, and they are eve younger when it happens to them in India.

We sipped tea and munching on cheese & crackers and pastries we'd chosen at Ferrara's in Little Italy when we went there on Thursday night.

The pastries we had to choose from at Ferrara's in New York City's Little Italy.

And we discussed with Gloria and her friend Jane O’Reilly our thoughts about feminism and the lives of girls and women today. It was an inspirational to spend this time with Gloria Steinem whose life is such a terrific example for us to emulate. Not only was Gloria full of stories and fascinating information, but she is also delightfully funny—scattering jokes and good humor throughout our conversation! 

I enjoyed every second we spent with her, and I learned a lot about feminism in the past and today. All of what we talked about made me think about how I interact with sexism I see happening in my life and feminism in our society.

Unfortunately, teenagers and children growing up now do not know much about Gloria Steinem, and this is a shame. Everyone should know about her so they can be inspired by how she has spent her lifetime dedicated to securing equal rights for women; what she did many years ago is why I and so many other girls have the opportunities we do today. She devoted her life to being an advocate for change, and she has succeeded in many magnificent ways. I am so grateful I had this amazing opportunity to spend time talking with this inspirational woman. Thank you, Gloria!

From left to right, Elena, Melissa, Lilly, Gloria, Kaya, Risa and Maya.


Sprouts of Hope:Sustainability Quilt Project

Our Quilt Is Finished

By Kaya

After Maya carefully fit and wrote the letters of our sustainability message around the border of our quilt — A City Thrives When Its People Replenish What They Use — and Risa put glasses on Bill McKibben,  our sustainability quilt was finished.

After many Sunday afternoons spent quilting with Clara Wainwright, by the end of this day we could stand back and look at what we'd created — a quilt decorated with ‘green’ buildings, bike paths, rooftop gardens, a peace dove, a chimpanzee, and a compost dump.  On its big border we have portraits of us and three people whose life work inspires us — Jane Goodall, Bill McKibben, and Wangari Maathai.

Our quilt embodies our vision of what a more sustainable way of living might look like — in Cambridge, and other places — one day soon. At the top is the title we gave our quilt: “Imagine a Sustainable Life.” 

We set out to make this quilt with the hope that its visual message will inspire others to imagine what our world could be like if we thought and acted in ways that are more environmentally friendly.

Parts of our quilt hold special meaning for us: the chimpanzee swinging from the tree speaks to our five years of involvement (as the Sprouts of Hope) with Roots and Shoots, an organization founded by Dr. Jane Goodall; the greenhouses on buildings'  rooftops give us hope that one day organic gardens, watered by rainwater, will give us more access to locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Our plan is to lend our quilt to different organizations and projects related to sustainability issues. (We are going to create a website so people who want to borrow it can make such a request.) We want our quilt to inspire others and teach others of what it means to be green — and do so in an urban environment.

We hope when people look at the quilt, they will see what we hope to see in the future—a sustainable city.

Our beautiful quilt would never have been created without the amazing Clara Wainwright. Thank you Clara, for everything you’ve done for us!

Building Our Quilt's Border

By Risa

When we started working on our quilt again, the center of it and the portraits were almost finished, so we spent the time focusing on the quilt’s bigger border. We decided to have a fairly simple design, which incorporates the ideas of the quilt.

 Edible plants embody our idea of a sustainable world because plants are good for the environment and they help feed people in healthy ways. So tomato and sunflower plants now surround our sustainable city. 

Portraits we'd made of Dr. Jane Goodall, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and environmental activist Bill McKibben appear across the bottom border of our quilt. They can be identified by their faces, we hope, but if not, then by their names that we will put under them. We still need to put glasses on Bill McKibben.

We want our quilt to get people thinking, but not because they are trying to figure out who is on it! What we hope they will think about is about what it means to imagine a sustainable life.

Maya made an adorable chimpanzee who swings from a tree in the center of the quilt.

The chimpanzee is a symbol of Roots & Shoots because of the devotion that its founder, Dr. Jane Goodall, has to helping chimpanzees with whom she studied and lived for so many years. The chimpanzee is on Roots & Shoots emblem. We also want to make the city an animal friendly place. 


The quilt’s title—Imagining a Sustainable Life — is written across the top of our quilt. Its letters are cut out of a cool, red flowery fabric. The title grabs the eye's attention, but doesn't distract from other intricacies of the quilt. This time we added a few small details, such as clothes hanging on the clothesline, so most of the time we were either cutting fabric or gluing what we'd cut to the quilt. 

In what seems like a very short time, we’ve created this quilt — with the step-by-step gentle guidance of Clara Wainwright. A few weeks ago we were playing with the fabric, trying to come up with a vision for the quilt. Now we’ve added a border to our central design on the quilt and that is giving it new dimensions we had not even imagined a few weeks ago.

Next time we go to Clara’s studio, we will put the finishing touches on our quilt. Then we need to figure out how to share it with people in Cambridge, which was our goal from the start.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sprouts of Hope: Sustainability Quilt Project

Adding Detail to Our Quilt

By Maya

At our 6th quilt meeting with Clara, we began to add detail to the city. Windows, clotheslines, gardens, and wind turbines went up on the rooftops. Kaya created a peace dove representing the many peace dove parades we have been a part of through Roots and Shoots. The dove flies with a banner behind her with the words of our Sprouts of Hope motto written on it,

“Have a dream. Make a difference.”

Risa created a bike path that zigs and zags through the air — a way for us to make visual our hope that people will figure out all sorts of new ways to move around the city.

I designed a compost heap full of worms and decomposing food. The mound symbolizes our efforts to get composting into the Cambridge public school cafeterias, so that they can be sustainable in disposing of the tons of food waste. And we put solar blinds on a few of the buildings to show how glad we are that our new public library in Cambridge was built in ways that are so energy efficient.

Clara assembled the portraits we had made and showed up how they will look along the rim of the quilt. She added a thin blue boarder where we are planning to write some form of a story. We made portraits of inspiring environmentalists. Risa did one of Bill McKibben, Clara did one of Wangari Maathai, and I did one of Jane Goodall. All the portraits came out great, and will hopefully be easily recognizable.

Our next step is coming up with a title — possibly in the form of a question — that embodies the message of the quilt. The quilt is coming along nicely, but there is still a lot of work to do to develop our futuristic sustainable city.