Living more sustainably has been an ongoing goal of mine for a long time, and while I’ve been making improvements in my sustainable treatment of physical resources, I definitely still struggle in sustainable use of my own time and energy. Spending the summer apprenticing on the farm in Kentucky has added further challenge to this, presenting many 12- to 16-hour workdays and six-day work weeks. I’m not complaining–I love it–yet my farming scheduled coupled with my freelance writing schedule has not left a lot of room to sustain a schedule for play.
This past weekend, I had the chance to combine work and play in Lincoln, Neb. I was invited by Lincoln Electric System to be a speaker at the public utility’s Sustainable Living Festival. It’s been a few years since I had done public speaking but have, in the past, delivered a decent presentation or two (also one truly horrific presentation, if any of you remember my talk about wild horses as a teenager in my 4-H days). Earlier in my freelancing career, I mostly spoke about marketing, media relations and image building for nonprofit and small-business groups. These are topics that interest me greatly and were part of my regular working life then, but the talks I delivered at LES’s Sustainable Living Festival are much more near and dear to me now: community-supported agriculture and simple ways to live greener.
Over the course of the day-long Sustainable Living Festival, hundreds of guests learned from the vendors and exhibits, got a free bicycle-helmet fitting by a local bike shop and collected stamps that entered them into prize drawings. Among the exhibitors there were community-gardening organization Community CROPS, building-material reseller/recycler EcoStore Nebraska, City of Lincoln Recycling and Solid Waste, sustainable-community nonprofit Lincoln Green by Design, and Rick’s Home Energy Audits. Perhaps the biggest draw (besides my presentations, of course) were the two electric Tesla cars on display, owned by a local engineer and university professor.
My favorite part of the day was connecting with people interested in sustainable living. I answered some great questions and learned about initiatives the people of Lincoln were involved in.
Many kids (and adults, too) were entertained by the variety of locally grown vegetables I had on display—especially the Green Zebra tomatoes, the white eggplant; the purple string beans; and the red, yellow and blue potatoes. A lot of people who stopped by couldn’t identify okra, a vegetable found commonly in the South but apparently not commonly in Nebraska.
The kid-friendly vegetable recipes that I developed for my talks were a hit, too. LES provided recipe cards with my recipes for Hidden-Zucchini Pasta Sauce, Under-Cover-Cauliflower Eggs and Roasted Root Vegetables. Just as I suspected, more than one veggie-averse adult also admitted to needing more vegetable recipes that they could enjoy. Developing those recipes for this event was fun—I’m a big fan of experimenting with food! And the Under-Cover-Cauliflower Eggs recipe is great for me, too–not because I need a recipe to hide cauliflower but because I need one to hide scrambled eggs. This recipe did both!
While I did put a lot of effort into preparing for and delivering my Sustainable Living Festival talks, my Lincoln trip wasn’t all work. I was able to spend some treasured time with two close friends who I only get to see once or twice per year. We made bread, sampled local beers, ate at my favorite Lincoln restaurant (and another Lincoln restaurant that’s now on my favorites list), and spent a good deal of time just enjoying each other’s company while sitting on the patio.
Sustainable living is about connecting with other people, I said during my living-greener presentation. And that’s just what I got to do during this amazing weekend of part-work and part-play. Now … it’s back to work.