For the past year, a group of Vermillion residents has taken it upon themselves to promote sustainable practices within the community.
“Greening Vermillion” is a nonprofit environmental organization whose goal is to become a resource for all “green” events, news and activism in the city.
“When anybody wants to look up something about Vermillion that might be environmentally friendly, we want to have that (information) available for them,” Executive Director Susan Port said. “We want to create sustainable practices in Vermillion, and really educate people about what that means.”
Port said the group’s mission is “to make Vermillion the greenest little city in South Dakota.”
A few events planned for Earth Day 2014 that quickly turned into a week’s worth of local activities are what led to the start of the organization.
The group became an official nonprofit in September 2014.
The board of directors is composed of seven members: USD sustainability professor Meghann Jarchow, USD student Morgan Appley, and community Maggie Pettersen, Jim Heisinger, Alice Alexandrescu, Matt Lavin and Rich Braunstein.
“I have a very supportive board who is helping me build the organization,” Port said. “They’re very involved.”
Among the more notable projects Greening Vermillion has undertaken are the “Bring Your Bag” campaign and the “Visioning Project.”
Port said Bring Your Bag encourages local consumers to use reusable shopping bags instead of disposable ones in an effort to reduce plastic and paper waste.
“We’re trying to work with the business community so that we’re all trying to reduce (disposable) bag usage together,” board member Morgan Appley said.
Bring Your Bag is one of the group’s largest efforts, and Port said that anyone interested in volunteering in the campaign is welcome.
The group is hoping to do public outreach and education events about reducing disposable bag waste in the future.
The Visioning Project, which is still in the planning stages, will collect input from Vermillion locals to help guide a larger scale environmental project.
“We’re doing a quite a few events and we’re saying, ‘If you could dream as big as you could dream, what would you envision Vermillion to look like?’” Port said.
No specific events have been planned for the project yet.
“It’s really just to get a feel for where we need to go as an organization, and whatever comes out of Visioning will steer part of the direction of our organization,” Appley said.
The group has already secured a grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation and has teamed up with United Way to help further the Visioning Project.
Sustainability on campus
USD’s Sustainability Club is another organization that promotes “green” activism and education.
The club meets every other Thursday at 5 p.m. on the second floor of the Muenster University Center, club president Emily Hattouni said.
“This year we hope to include many more volunteer opportunities for students to get involved with, along with regular meetings to discuss issues of sustainability,” Hattouni said.
The club will also be tabling in the MUC weekly to try to get 1,000 student signatures in support of “Coyotes for a Comprehensive Recycling Program”– an initiative for a campus-wide recycling policy.
The group is also planning to have guest speakers deliver talks on topics such as composting and papermaking, and is planning a trip to Spirit Mound on Sunday.
The club’s next meeting is set for Sept. 17.