Design by Nature

I just got back from an inspiring weekend at the Omega Institute's Design by Nature conference. As someone who goes to lots of conferences every year, this one was a breath of fresh air. More inspirational than technical, the focus of the weekend was about how we can connect with, and learn from, the environment around us. 

The gathering brought together some of the major thinkers in the field of whole systems thinking Janine Benyus, Van Jones, Jeremy Rifkin, Bob Berkebile, Dickson Despommier, and Natalie Jeremijenko. It was exciting to think about how our work at Yestermorrow connects with these broader themes of designing with nature, biomimicry, living buildings, creating a new green economy, new ways to produce food in cities, green job training, community-based design, and social activism through art.

I attended with Jeff Schoellkopf, one of our longtime faculty and board members, and his son (and YM alum) Carson Schoellkopf, who recently graduated from college. It was great seeing so many college age students in the audience at Omega being excited about these topics. We ended up talking a lot about inter-generational dialogue and how a movement for change needs to come from all different sectors of society.

Constructed wetlands in front of the OCSL

We also had the opportunity to tour the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) which was one of the first buildings to meet the Living Building Challenge. The building treats all of the waste water from the Omega campus through a series of constructed wetlands and an Eco Machine. The building produces all its own energy, recycles all its own water (and more!), and is built with reclaimed and nontoxic materials.

It was interesting to think about how Omega's experience working with campus wastewater might influence our master planning for the Yestermorrow campus. We're hoping to be able to demonstrate some of the same cutting-edge alternative water treatment systems, although on a smaller and more residential scale that can be phased as we build out the campus.

Many thanks to Omega for inviting a group of Yestermorrow folks to attend and we look forward to more connections in the future.