Daphne Dixon has come to know Seven Generations Ahead well over the last nine years.

Daphne DixonIt was in 2007 that the Connecticut resident, after completing a master gardener’s program, started thinking about starting an organization that would “educate people about what they can do around sustainability,” she says.

Dixon began with Google, looking—virtually—“around the country for examples of organizations that seemed to be working.” She found lots of sites around sustainability topics but most seemed pretty shallow, she recalls. Until she found SGA.

“When I found SGA, I was impressed with the depth of programming, not just a lot of greenwashing, trying to get web traffic to sell ads,” she says. “I could tell there was lot of integrity to the work that was being done. There was a long vision.”

She signed up to receive SGA’s newsletter and over the years would visit the website from time to time, seeing notices about PlanItGreen and Green Town forums. “Gosh, one day I’d like to be in a context that I could come” to a forum, she would say to herself.

In the meantime, she became more immersed in green and sustainability issues in southern Connecticut. She started Conscious Decisions, an organization to educate the public on sustainable and eco-friendly living practices. She founded the annual Fairfield County Green Faire, the Fairfield County Green Coast Awards, and co-founded the Green Market Exposition.

Six years ago, the energy commission in the town of Wilton, Conn., wanted to put on a festival called Wilton Go Green. One of the women involved sought guidance from Dixon, who by this time had done hundreds of events.

As the Wilton festivals went on, its leaders’ vision grew, Dixon says. In addition to the festivals, they wanted “to do deeper work in the community. We wanted to be a catalyst.”

Even with everything she was doing, Dixon was still keeping up with SGA’s work, hoping one day to get out to Oak Park, to meet executive director Gary Cuneen and the staff. And attend one of those forums.

After Dixon became executive director of Wilton Go Green earlier this year, her first task was to put together a symposium. Tina Duncan, a Wilton resident and symposium chairperson, suggested Dixon contact SGA, not knowing how much Dixon already had been following the organization.

Duncan herself knew of SGA from her role as president of the Lumpkin Family Foundation, which had been one of SGA’s first funders.

When Wilton Go Green was looking for a keynote speaker for its inaugural symposium, the leaders thought of Cuneen. He accepted their invitation and spoke Nov. 29 symposium, which took place at the Wilton Library.

“It was a dream come true to have Gary come out,” Dixon said. “He was such an inspiration to all of us, just his insights, experience and perspective. It was amazing to have him there.”

Then another amazing thing happened. Dixon got her wish. In early December, after quickly booking a plane ticket at the Wilton Go Green board’s suggestion, she flew to Chicago and got to visit the SGA office—and attend those forums she’d spent the last nine years reading about.

In the span of two days, Dixon attended the Fox Valley Sustainability Network’s transportation forum in Elgin, then the next day the PlanItGreen Institutional Leaders Forum in Oak Park. 

She says she will return to Connecticut with “a big notebook” filled with ideas and inspirations from her visit. “It’s been a dream come true to come and be with you,” she says.

—Cassandra West