After returning from New Zealand this summer, Richmond Appleton ’09 was so enthusiastic that he wrote a letter to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Appleton spent five weeks in New Zealand studying ecology, biodiversity, and climate change with a group of Augsburg students led by biology professor Brian Corner and political science professor Joe Underhill. Their group explored the unique flora and fauna of the island as well as the distinctive political culture that has made it a leader in environmental policy.
“I was completely amazed by everything I saw in New Zealand,” Appleton said. “Everyone is aware of the environment, of sustainability, of food production and energy use. From the north island to the south island, everything is consistent.”
Appleton, an environmental studies major who will complete his Augsburg classes this fall semester, wanted to take ideas from New Zealand back to Augsburg and to Minneapolis. He wrote to Mayor Rybak, who has been a strong supporter of Augsburg and values the College’s commitments to service and the city.
The mayor was reportedly excited about the letter—enough to have his assistant contact Appleton to schedule a meeting to discuss the young man’s ideas for making Minneapolis a more sustainable and livable city.
Kjerstin Hagen ’10, an American Indian studies major who traveled last summer to Portland, Ore. and Vancouver studying urban sustainability, joined Appleton on his visit to the mayor’s office. Hagen was one of the students involved in implementing Augsburg’s composting effort and is currently on the planning team for the College’s first Sustainability Awareness Month.
The students shared their travel experiences with Rybak and told him about ongoing sustainability efforts at Augsburg, many of which were initiated by students. “Augsburg is doing exactly what I believe in,” Rybak said.
Appleton and Hagen suggested a sister city relationship with Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. They also discussed Homegrown Minneapolis, an initiative to develop recommendations for the City of Minneapolis to improve sales, distribution and consumption of fresh, locally grown foods.
The three agreed that informing and educating the community is an important factor in promoting urban sustainability. “New Zealand empowers the community to get involved,” Appleton said, “and gives people the resources to do what needs to be done.” Rybak encouraged Appleton and Hagen to sign up for one of the city’s committees so that they could continue their work outside of Augsburg.
After telling Rybak about the Sustainability Awareness Month activities scheduled for September, including a lecture presented by author and activist, Bill McKibben, the mayor promised that he or his wife, who has been actively involved with Minneapolis Homegrown, will be in attendance at one of the events to talk about the city’s sustainability measures and projects.