Read about Katelynn’s gratitude towards the Women of Red Lodge;
My last two blog posts have largely been about my projects but this time I want to spend some time showing gratitude to the sustainability community within Red Lodge, which happens to be nearly all women.
Last September, I walked into my first High School Green Team meeting to be greeted by 6 high school girls and a female biology teacher as the head. The High School Green Team is leading the way in sustainability initiatives on school campuses in Red Lodge. From engaging the middle school in recycling efforts to installing water bottle filling stations in the high school, this team has engaged systematic change in the school district. To top off this group’s success, they recently received a grant from Northwestern Energy to put solar panels on their roof. We are currently working to fundraise the additional funds by writing grants and holding fundraising events (Obligatory GoFundMe link here). Aside from a few gentlemen who graduated last year, this is a group of young women.
In October, I walked into my first Carbon County Resource Council meeting to an older, wiser group of women. The Carbon County Resource Council is an affiliate organization of the Northern Plaines Resource Council. This organization is a fierce group, who this past year tackled oil and gas regulation with the county planning committee and hosted events that engage the community’s sustainability efforts, including the Sustainability Revolution Tour and their annual meeting on soil health.
Just last week, I attended the Food Partnership Council monthly meeting, who hosts fellow FoodCorps service member, Beth Williams, to discuss Earth Week events. No surprise, the room was filled with smart, incredible women. Handling the local food movement here in town, these lovely ladies work on our community gardens, manage the farmer’s market, and are working to create a local food network across the region.
I really hadn’t pondered the wealth of intelligent and admirable women in my community until this week when the young women of the Green Team presented to the wise women of Carbon County Resource Council to coordinate a fundraising event for the solar panels. Someone made a joke about only women being in the room and it hit me all at once; the realization of who is really leading the sustainability effort in Red Lodge and how lucky I was to have fallen gracefully into this supportive group. It was incredible to sit back and take in the collaboration of 15 women. From 16 to 90 years old, there we were; mobilizing for change and figuring out how to accomplish sustainability education in Red Lodge. I was taken aback with gratitude and love for all of them.
Sustainability covers a wide swath of topics and interests. There are debates on whether or not the “top-down” or “bottom-up” approach is best to achieve world-wide sustainability. Do we need world-wide policy or do small-scale initiatives work best? I have always been a firm believer in bottom-up approaches and Red Lodge is the perfect example. Even as a relatively isolated community, individuals with similar passions are joining together to create change. It’s a lot to juggle and manage but with all of these groups supporting what I am doing at the city level and vice versa, we have created a network that gets things done on all aspects of local sustainability. A smirk of badassery comes across my face when I come back down to Earth and remember we are just a small town of 2,000 people. This makes it all the more marvelous; The Women of Red Lodge.
Katelynn Essig has a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development and Policy from the University of Illinois and she is serving her second AmeriCorps term with NCAT/Energy Corps. Katelynn’s first year was with RARE AmeriCorps in Oregon, serving as the Economic Development Assistant with the City of Oregon City. Her experience with RARE was great and she is thrilled to return to sustainability project work. Katelynn is serving as the Sustainability Educator with the City of Red Lodge, working to retrofit City buildings with renewable energy, increase energy efficiency in city operations, and expand recycling operations throughout the community.