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.