Here at Team Green, we love working with local non-profits and other community partners to create high-quality, engaging events, ranging from free workshops to volunteer opportunities. This week, we sat down with Jennifer Westerholm, the Executive Director of Urban Green Lab, who we partner with on our monthly Engage Green sustainability workshop series. Check out what she had to say about Nashville’s growth, being green, and reaching the next generation of sustainability leaders:
“’Sustainability’ is a term used by many different people and organizations in many different ways. The truth is, it’s a huge and dynamic concept, and it’s easy to get lost in all the hype around it. At Urban Green Lab, we define sustainability by sticking to the triple bottom line of ‘people, profit, planet’.” The organization’s website gives a solid overview of their strictures of sustainability, and to expand upon those principles, Executive Director Jennifer Westerholm sat down with us to talk a bit more about the mission of Nashville’s Urban Green Lab.
“The goal is to improve all around health and well-being through sustainable living,” said Westerholm. “We teach classes and workshops in schools and in the community about how we can make a healthier planet by implementing practical and green practices in our houses and businesses.”
According to “Nesting In Nashville”, approximately 85 people move into the city of Nashville every day. In an ever-growing small town gone rogue, expansion and sustainability are two concepts that tangibly collide every day, with this tension most common in trendier areas of town such as Hillsboro Village and 12 South.
“For us, it’s the perfect time to be in this line of work because it’s so needed. As Nashville expands, the need for sustainable development is higher now than ever before,” said Westerholm. “Our goal is to make this the culture of Nashville as it becomes a bigger city; inspiring the next generation of sustainability leaders.”
Since December of 2013 Urban Green Lab has been an official partner of Lightning 100’s Team Green, and together the Engage Green sustainability workshop series was re-born. These monthly workshops take place around Nashville, teaching skills such as making homes more energy-efficient, the environmental benefits of home brewing, small scale gardening techniques, and everything in between. While the non-profit does the majority of its work with classes of adults after work, they also reach out into Nashville’s community of middle and high schoolers in an attempt to enrich science curricula and teach towards real-world applications.
“We did a six week engagement series at Bailey Middle School last fall, and for the last couple of weeks the kids created these poster boards with drawings and collages and things that they presented at a community expo type thing,” said Westerholm. “It was very exciting for me to see 5th and 6th graders get excited about sustainable living and be like ‘Yeah, saving the planet! This is cool!’ It really gives you hope for the future.”
Starting this July 21st, Urban Green Lab will be kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds needed to run their up-and-coming Mobile Lab. The Mobile Lab will showcase five areas of improvement through sustainability: water, energy, food/agriculture, transportation, and green-building.
“It’s kind of a mobile interactive museum of sorts with activities to do, and it’s all hands on, for both children and adults. We’re building it now and will be launching it towards the end of this year,” said Westerholm.
The hope for the Mobile Lab is to not only reach a larger audience in Nashville with the benefits of mobility, but also to advertise the non-profit and its mission of improving the health and well-being of our city on a personal level.
“I invite people to get involved in our work in whatever way they feel excited about!” laughed Westerholm. “We have a lot of volunteer opportunities, so it’s great if folks have a special use or talent we could use, or help us grow by connecting us with a company, or something like that, that would be interested in our work.”
Urban Green Lab can be found on Facebook and on their website, which has information on booking the Mobile Lab as well as a calendar of upcoming events. The next Engage Green event will take place on Wednesday, August 5th at Little Harpeth Brewing from 6-7pm. Like all Engage Green events, this workshop on Sustainable Brewing will be free of charge. Spots can be reserved on the Team Green Adventures website.
“Most everything we do is free or really cheap and open to everybody, so come out to see us at Engage Green!”
– Aziza Cunningham (Lightning 100 Summer Intern)