A note from your Upper Midwest o2 Global Network Liaison, Wendy Jedlicka
Our Place in History. . .
The tallest of the great pyramids in Egypt is 451 feet high. Today the Fresh Kills Landfill here in the US is over 500 feet tall.
What we're dealing with today. . .
Apart from the millions of tons of waste we add to each day (because even though we're a "throw-away society" there IS no such place as "away"), we're using up resources at a rate faster than at any point in history. With North America alone consuming nearly one quarter of the world's resources. But only accounting for a little over 5% of total global population.
As developing countries across the planet grow and begin to prosper, countries that account for more than 80% of the world's people, what can we expect to happen next?
It is the unique position of the designer, in rich and developing countries alike, to see beyond the quick buck and look for long term solutions. Solutions that offer more than the opportunity to do "less bad" but actually play a part in creating a restorative economic system -- allowing for a sustainable and equitable life.
For us here in the Upper Midwest, the concept of leaving the campsite BETTER than when we found it, is part of our regional fiber. Why then not apply this to our professional -- and urban -- lives?
When asked the question "Why bother" -- the obvious reply becomes simply "Because it makes good SENSE!"
Around the World with o2:
Profile: o2-USA/Upper Midwest
C O U N T R Y
USA - Upper Midwest / 5 State Region. Serving the eco-design communities of: Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
This region occupies about 10% of the continental US land area, with North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin sharing their Northern Borders with Canada along the 49th parallel.
The o2-UMW office sits 1/2 city block off of the 45th Parallel at 45.000.003
> in case you wanted to stop by.
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE MAIN ECO-RELATED ISSUES THAT ARE ON THE AGENDA IN YOUR COUNTRY.
WHERE does one START?
America is a tiny fraction of global population but the single largest economy. We also use about a quarter of the world's resources (along with Canada) to drive that success.
ANYTHING we do to reduce our consumption or increase our efficiency will have a HUGE global affect.
Here in America's Upper Midwest region, we take green very seriously. Though not as aggressive in some sectors as densely populated California, the Upper Midwest is both a top global agricultural producer as well as home to some of the last wild areas left in America (Boundary Waters Canoe Area http://www.bwcaw.org).
Minnesota in particular (the largest, most Northern, and central of the 5 Sates) takes environmental issues very seriously -- headwaters of the Mississippi River, with 12,034 total lakes, 5 million residents and almost a million registered boats, Minnesota ranks number one in the US for per capita boat ownership (mostly canoes and small fishing boats).
Wisconsin (on Minnesota's Eastern border defined by the St. Croix River) also takes pride in its water access, large areas of unspoiled nature and agricultural prowess. With Iowa (to the South of Minnesota) and the Dakotas (to the West of Minnesota) driving their economies primarily with agriculture.
Needless to say, water/land health and a connection to the land are not just part of an outdoor mindset, but part of the region's economic foundation as well.
As an example of this connection: water health was one of the driving factors in pushing the move to begin decommissioning coal burning power plants that foul the water with mercury, in favor of Wind Power, putting Minnesota in the top ten for US wind generation.
The Upper Midwest is home to many green leaning corporate giants such as 3M, General Mills, Cargill, and Target. And is the birthplace (and production home of) eco-pioneers like Aveda and Natureworks. With millions of products either grown or manufactured here, the Upper Midwest is one of the US's top domestic and for-export producing regions.
The Upper Midwest was also the kick-off point for the national, grass-roots demonstrations that led to the forming of the EPA, and the passing of the Clean Air Act spearheaded by then Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson.
Our task here at o2-UMW is to help designers make the connection between their design choices, and the impact they make. Not just on some distant land, but in the lake they'll be paddling on (and fishing from) this weekend.
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE STORY BEHIND THE LIAISON/GROUP, WHEN, WHY AND BY WHOM IT CAME INTO LIFE?
Starting in 1999, the design business in the Upper Midwest (and eventually the rest of the US) was struggling with the beginnings of a significant downturn, with many long running firms eventually closing their doors for good.
With winter approaching and no new business insight, Wendy Jedlicka, owner of a small packaging design consultancy already working in eco-design, decided to take the opportunity of this quiet time, and turn it into a force for positive change. Knowing her colleagues had nothing new going on either, she simply started a mailing list and informed her designer/artist/marketing friends and vendors they were now o2-USA/Upper Midwest members.
Since this rather matter of fact beginning, o2-UMW has initiated several programs that took the same no-nonsense approach: like the Non-Profit/Designer connector, the Lecturer Pool, and Green Group support.
Our basic philosophy was to get designers (with at that time a BUNCH of free time on their hands) out into the community and empower them as agents of positive change, and to provide other groups advocating change a ready pool of experienced professionals willing to help them realize their goals.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN AIMS, OBJECTIVES AND VISIONS OF YOUR LIAISON/GROUP? IN WHAT WAY ARE THESE RELATED TO THE UNIQUE/LOCAL SITUATION IN YOUR AREA?
In the East-to-West thinking of the US, the Upper Midwest is the last outpost of design and production before California. Because Chicago (the 3rd largest US city, and part of the Central Midwest), gets most of the design attention for the region, it tends to leave designers in our area feeling under-served and powerless. Yet the Upper Midwest is one of the largest producing areas in the country.
It is the goal of o2-UMW to help our designers realign their thinking, to realize the power they possess, and use it for the common good.
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE MAIN ACTIVITIES THAT HAVE BEEN INITIATED BY YOUR LIAISON/GROUP.
http://www.o2umw.org Click > Action
Higher Education Campaign: Eco-responsibility in the Classroom
Letter to the Editor / A Green Publishing Campaign, Subscribers SPEAK!
Recommended Reading / Knowledge is power
Twin Cities Green Drinks (Formed in partnership with Aveda employees)
Volunteer Network / The heart of o2-UMW
+ Designer/Non-profit Connector
+ Mentor Program
+ Green Group Support
+ Lecturer Pool
PLEASE POINT OUT KEY DIFFICULTIES AND OBSTACLES YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED THROUGH YOUR WORK AS AN O2 LIAISON/GROUP.
Until we hosted the IDSA/EPA Design:Green workshop in Spring 2004, we had NO bank account. Our philosophy being -- actions spoke louder than dollars. Given the option to volunteer or pay dues, all new members have chosen to volunteer.
Though we don't recommend it for everyone, we really haven't felt hampered by the lack of steady funding. It has, in fact, been a great example to hold up of people who WANT to do something simply going out and DOING it. Their only investment: time and the creative power to make it count.
V I S I O N
YOUR THOUGHTS/ IDEAS/ VISIONS CONCERNING THE GLOBAL ACTIVITIES OF O2.
To keep doing exactly what it's doing. To let designers who care enough to lift their heads up and look around know, that they are not alone, and that their numbers are growing. And too, to give designers the power/confidence to change industry from within -- rather than piously sitting around hoping for change to descend from above.