Two kickoff gatherings for the new Green Guides network each drew more than 25 people, filling an Oak Park Library meeting room on a Thursday morning and a Tuesday evening.

Jen Nelson, zero waste program manager for SGA who is helping coordinate the network, encouraged people to continue to spread the word and talk to others who may be thinking about getting involved. Green guides, she said, don’t need to be experts, but they do “need to be willing to talk” to their neighbors. “You can start talking to your neighbors this afternoon,” she urged the morning group.20160128 104714

At each session, everyone had a chance to share the “sustainable passion” that spurred them to sign up to become a Green Guide, or to just come out and find out more about the network.

Melanie from Oak Park, who’s an ardent recycler, said, “I’m always giving the evil eye to the person who takes too many napkins.” Another Oak Parker named Stephanie said her passions are “my children, our children and the other animals that live on the Earth.” Cleo of Oak Park said she has become the “guilt person” at her church, always reminding her fellow parishioners about recycling and waste.

Sprinkled among the room of mostly Oak Park residents were Annamaria, an edible landscaper from Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, and Jane, a geologist in the environmental field from Geneva. Annamaria’s sustainable passion is the children in her community. Jane said that as her practice moved increasingly toward sustainability, she was looking for ways to bring the things she’s passionate about to her work and her community.

Attendees also took part in brainstorming conversations in which they shared ideas for ways to develop the network and overcome possible obstacles. Some ideas that surfaced were:
• Establish public legitimacy for Green Guide role (calling cards, news article, Green Guide buttons)
• Promote / introduce Green Guides to the community at farmers markets, Earth Fest, Day in Our Village
• Recruit kids and teens to help
• Create a checklist for Green Guides
• Gather for quarterly get-togethers to share stories & info on the upcoming seasonal focus

To keep Green Guides “engaged in conversation,” Jen announced the launch of Seasonal Conversation Starters—topics that guides can promote with their neighbors four times a year. The spring Conversation Starter will debut on March 22 and cover composting and gardening.

As of mid-February 30 people have signed up for the Green Guide network, but more are needed. Sign up here