For the past four months, eight TAF Academy students have been participating in the International Living Future Institute (IFLI) Youth Leadership Program (YLP) which focuses on bringing regenerative design education and leadership to youth. Students delved deep into real world challenges like water contamination, water depletion, fossil fuel alternatives, sustainable systems for agriculture, and more.
Learning in Northwest’s mecca for sustainable design
The Bullitt Center, the country’s Northwest center and model for urban sustainability, served as the meeting base for the program. The building, a part of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Ecodistrict, meets the Living Building standards. A Living Building is described as a structure “required to produce as much energy as it uses in a year, and capture and treat rainwater for all its needs for at least 12 consecutive months and to meet rigorous standards for “Red List” compliant materials and for the quality of its indoor environment.” To meet these standards, the building focuses on “20 imperatives within seven performance areas”.
Through a series of presentations by local sustainability influencers, students learned how to better address serious problems within the community around eco-responsibility as well as finding environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solutions for a better and healthier world. They also were responsible for facilitating meetings and taking presentation notes.
Designing for the community
Meeting within the Bullitt Center gave students an opportunity to fully understand what they were learning. For instance, the top floor of the building doesn’t have light fixtures, but instead, large windows and skylights to take advantage of the daylight. The bi-monthly sessions allowed students to work with designated mentors and thinking about how they would approach the final Design Challenge. Students collectively selected the Danny Woo Community Garden in Seattle’s International District to be the focus of their Design Challenge in January and sought to provide design solutions according to the seven performance areas (or “Petals”) of the Living Building Challenge.
The Danny Woo Garden if nearly one and a half acres is situated near I-5, and has been a hidden treasure to the people that frequent the area. Tended to by elderly and primarily Asian immigrants, garden plots provide a way for the community to grow healthy food and give residents purpose after retirement and while unemployed. The students worked in teams to research the garden’s most pressing challenges and find reasonable solutions to address them. Final presentation happened last night.
TAF Academy students Tolu, Devin, and Aditi represented their respective groups. Tolu and Devin’s plans for the Danny Woo Community Garden focused on creating a drain pipe and adding small wind turbines to the area to create power. Aditi focused on beautification which included repurposing existing broken cement vases into trash cans, adding bioluminescent paint to the walkway for light and creating a community mural. The challenge presentations ended with a tour of the Bullitt Center to show event attendees how sustainable solutions were implemented in the space.
In the following weeks, participating students of the program will come together one last time in an evening of reflection. So far, they’ve been featured in an article by Trim Tab where each Youth Leadership Council member shared a little about their interests and future aspirations. This past month, the students also attended the LivingFuture unConference 2017 where they met with CNN’s Van Jones following the conference’s opening address. There’s no telling what’s next for our students, but we do know that their futures are bright. With programs like the Youth Leadership Program that allows students to learn more about the world around them and ways to influence positive change, we’re sure they’ll soon figure out how to make an impact in their community and beyond.
Here’s a few highlights from yesterday’s Design Challenge: