2.5 Weeks + 1000 Miles + 4 States + Countless Encounters.
There is something about this time of year: back-to-school season. Ever since I was a child, this season has brought on a flood of mixed emotions in me. It's a refreshing and exciting time of change with the onset of new courses, new teachers, new challenges and new shoes. But it is also a time for saying goodbyes, to summer and summer-time friends and activities.
This year I am especially keen for the back-to-school season to start as I am taking on a new and grand challenge that will impact not only myself, but also many future sustainable designers and, down the road, I predict it will impact the health and well-being of the people and the places of this planet.
Consider it decided. I'm committed. The ball's rolling.
Beginning today I will begin biking 1000+ miles from Montana to Minnesota (through Wyoming and South Dakota) as an effort to raise need-based scholarship money for the fully online Sustainable Design program that I direct at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) as well as to raise awareness about sustainability challenges and opportunities that we face today. Along the way, I will be exploring the region's sustainable design challenges and solutions as met by the people, places, products, and services that I encounter: from water scarcity to living in the food desert. I'll also be profiling innovative products that were donated by sustainability-savvy outdoor companies to support my adventure.
I'll be taking my old-school, circa 1982, silver-blue 310 Miyata—who I affectionately call "Sky"—on the journey with me. (Well, actually, it will be taking me.) I think it's always been ready; me, not so much. So, why Montana to Minnesota? Because the program I direct (and teach within) is 100% online, I have the luxury of living and telecommuting from wherever I want (thanks to my incredibly supportive bosses!). I make my home and strive to live a sustainable life in Missoula, Montana. I grow and preserve most of my own food, am an all-season bicyclist and am able to connect with nature on a daily basis.
Every semester I travel to Minneapolis for in-person meetings at MCAD and each time I make the journey I am disheartened by the ecological impact this trip makes. Then it dawned on me...I could really "walk the talk" or, in this case, ride the talk by getting on my bicycle and pedaling my way to work this fall semester. The "commute" would be a very long one but I am confident I can make the fully self-contained and unsupported journey, I just needed to take the leap.
The Secret to Sustainability
No one can create fully sustainable products, services or systems single handedly. It simply isn't possible to create socially-just, environmentally-responsible, and economically-sound work without the help of others—be they experts in another discipline, end-users, or other stakeholders in the process. We need each others help, expertise, feedback and ideas to go that much further to that sweet spot where "good design" becomes "sustainable design." Despite the fact that I struggle to ask friends, family, colleagues for help, I have come to learn that only through effective collaborations will I be working on something really worthy of investing in—whether it be the design of a course, a program or a product.
I see this journey as a stellar opportunity to raise awareness about current issues in sustainability, to create a platform to discuss the power of making personal commitments that lead to a sustainable life, and to do something to help to raise money for need-based scholarships for students that are devoted to creating innovative product and service designs that focus on solving sustainability challenges that face humanity today.
Take a chance. Get out of that comfort zone. "Leap, and the net will appear." (Thank you, John Burroughs.)
So, I'm taking a leap and I'm conquering my fears. Follow along over the next few weeks as I make my journey across 4 states and help me to help one (or many!) student(s) become truly sustainable designers by supporting my fundraising campaign. I am trusting that the net will appear.
About Cindy Gilbert
Cindy Gilbert is faculty, student advisor, and directs MCAD's fully online Sustainable Design program which currently offers an 18-credit Professional Certificate in Sustainable Design and a 30-credit Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Sustainable Design. The program emphasizes small classes (capped at 18 students) at the graduate-level that foster interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaborations, global innovation, and creative leadership—all taught by a diverse faculty of practicing professionals. In this role, Cindy fosters a culture of awareness and creativity through the evolution of this fully-online, ground-breaking design program that brings together sustainable innovation and collaborative problem-solving; her ultimate goal is to create an ecosystem of change agents committed to environmentally-responsible and socially-just design.
Cindy most recently served 3.5 years as the founding director of university education at The Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs including the Biomimicry Professional Certification Program, the annual Biomimicry Education Summits and the Biomimicry Affiliate and Fellows Programs.