Events, People

Creating a better Detroit, one chicken at a time…

Feed Your Family and Learn Environmental Accountability at Sustainability Fest

If you’re like most families, your house is feeling the post-holiday bloat. (Stale candy canes, anyone?) It’s time for a simplicity intervention.

Take it one step further. Beyond the bursting toy box, we generally have become too reliant on store-bought products. Health takes a backseat to convenience. Comfort has replaced initiative. Think even bigger – Metro Detroit is so dependent on gasoline and the automotive that we’re become a symbol of all that is wrong with fossil fuels.

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Enter the Detroit Waldorf School. On Saturday, Feb. 12, the renowned private school will hold its first Sustainable Living Family Festival. The day-long event at the Detroit school will teach everything from what seems humorous (raising chickens in tiny Indian Village) to the downright necessary (harvesting rainwater, creating compost, community gardening, biking to work, green home building).

The Waldorf event is based loosely on the ReSkilling Festival, a relatively new event for the Rudolf Steiner High School in Ann Arbor. That event takes place one week earlier (Feb. 5) and takes a hard look at how people can reduce or even eliminate their energy needs. This goes beyond turning off the light when you leave the room – this is about creating edible landscapes, community-shared offices, alternative water and wastewater systems. The weak willed need not apply.

The whole concept of both events comes from this uber cool thing called Transition Towns. Long story made terribly short: Some Brits were worried about our reliance on oil. They came up with this idea of creating whole towns whose residents would commit to changing their lifestyles. Ann Arbor is one. So is Ypsilanti and Chelsea. (Attention, Mayor Bing: This would be a smash-up idea for Detroit.)

“We wanted to focus on what expertise we have as a school. What could we do to support our families and the whole community?” said Melanie Reiser, Outreach Director for Detroit Waldorf School.

So Waldorf put out the call to its parents and outside organizations. The school had the resources and the facilities to host, and the staff was interested in connecting more members of the community through the event. The result is 24 utterly fascinating workshops on every aspect of sustainability: internal, external, financial, environmental. Most are aimed at school-age children and older (especially the beekeeping one), but there truly is something for every age within the event, Reiser said.

“There are so many messages out there, especially for young children, that we need a lot of external components in our life in order to be ‘happy.’ Toys are expensive,” Reiser said. “We have workshops on family activities like making playdough, finger paints, woodworking. We talk about taking old scraps and making new things.”

One workshop leader is Kim Hodge, executive director of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks. Time banking is a revolutionary idea – neighbors helping neighbors. Remember when you talked to a neighbor instead of just writing on his or her Facebook wall? Here, people exchange their time helping others with things like housework, a special project or the like for “dollars,” which they can use when they need something done.

“We need to understand that we need each other,” especially in cash- and job-strapped Michigan, Hodge said. “We could use this tool for so many things. It could connect the city to the suburbs. It bridges gaps between colors, classes, communities. … People and businesses would want to come here. Residents would want to stay here. Property values could go up.”

Registration goes through Jan. 31. The cost is $5 for individuals and $10 for families. Some sessions have additional material fees. Reiser said they hope to have between 100 and 180 people in attendance in this first year. Hopefully, the event – and the movement – will grow.

At the very least, come for the soup. Detroit Evolution is dishing up what it calls hearty vegetarian chili, Celebration kale salad and something described as “Brown Rice & Amaranth Crispy Treats sweetened with Brown rice syrup.” Ummmmm…right. My kid won’t be eating that. But we’ll work on it, cause you never know!

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