Subscribe Anywhere

The Sustainability Champions, from left, are Reilly Dixon, Alexandra Klug, Florentina Rodriguez, Zach Bollheimer and Nancy Lineburgh. Not pictured is Vickie Hennessy. Climate Action and Sustainability Plan Coordinator Piper Fernwey is in front. (Photo by Jessica Thomas)

Down to Earth — Meet the Sustainability Champions

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Piper Fernwey

When I was chosen as the Climate Action and Sustainability Plan, or CASP, coordinator to facilitate a community-based plan for the Village of Yellow Springs, I knew I wanted to encourage, empower and support the myriad residents already working on improving sustainability within the community. To meet this goal, I created the Sustainability Champions program to encourage and support community members, providing them with guidance via connections with community leaders, local stakeholders and area experts.

I’m excited to introduce six Sustainability Champion projects, chosen by the Environmental Commission.

Get your News at home,  subscribe to the Yellow Springs News today

Alexandra Klug
Sponsoring Elise Bongorno and Violet Matteson,
composting at YSSD

As fourth graders, Yellow Springs school district students Elise Bongorno and Violet Matteson — now in sixth grade — spearheaded an initiative to compost food scraps from their classroom at Mills Lawn Elementary School. Partnering with Agraria, these students recovered many pounds of food scraps, turning them into nutrient dense composting material. These two passionate students will work with Alexandra Klug, the land manager at Agraria, to restart the previous composting program and expand it in order to teach more students the importance and process of composting. The goal is to recover and compost all food waste from the school district, process it at the Agraria campus and redistribute it to local gardens.

Florentina Rodriguez
Community seed library

Florentina is about to start an Ed.D. program in environmental and sustainability education at Antioch University with a dissertation project centered around developing a seed library. She is passionate about regenerative agriculture — especially seed sovereignty — as a way to preserve Indigenous knowledge, build community resilience and strengthen regional food systems. As Florentina wrote in her application: “Seed libraries empower communities to protect and grow food supplies, exchange knowledge, preserve culture, improve health and build resilience.” Florentina will be working to start a community seed library. This project will be supported by Beth Bridgeman from Antioch College and Dana Knot, head librarian at Antioch University.

Nancy Lineburgh
Local food planning

Nancy is an active YS community member who serves on the Environmental Commission. As a Sustainability Champion, she’ll be surveying businesses and residents to understand what percentage of food consumed in the village is locally grown, the capacity of local farms and gardens to feed our population, and strategies to increase capacity to grow local food to meet projected needs. As Nancy wrote in her application: “It is important for YS to minimize or eliminate reliance on outside sources for food,” as building our local food economy is one of the most important ways we can improve our community’s resilience in preparation for changing weather patterns and resultant food shortages predicted as a result of global climate change.

Reilly Dixon
Chimney swift towers

Reilly works for the Yellow Springs News and is a member of the Environmental Commission. He will be working on researching best practices to provide alternative habitat for displaced chimney swifts. Unfortunately, their village habitats are slated for removal as part of demolition and renovation projects. The hope is to involve a variety of local stakeholders — including ornithologists, local business owners, conservation organizations, local artists and the Yellow Springs schools — to make plans and secure funding to erect chimney swift towers in time for their return in the summer of 2022. These little cigar-shaped birds are a symbol of resilience, adapting to nest in chimneys when their original nesting locations — hollow trees in old-growth forests — became scarce due to human development. Humans are also going to have to adapt to changing conditions as a result of global climate change.

Vickie Hennessy
Waste reduction

Vickie is a longtime villager and champion of sustainability, having served as president of the Green Environmental Coalition. Vickie’s Sustainability Champion project will be a continuation of the work she started with the Zero Waste Committee of the Yellow Springs Resiliency Network in 2015. She will be working with local business owners to research to-go ware usage in the village. The goal is to gain an understanding of what single-use products are being used, how many and by whom, so policy can be crafted to reduce these waste streams based on a thorough understanding of the current usage.

Zach Bollheimer
On behalf of the Habitat Team, rain gardens

Zach is new to the community, joining Yellow Springs as the land manager for the Glen Helen Association in May of 2021. He has served as a conservation specialist for multiple organizations working on wetland delineations, floristic surveys, adult and youth environmental education, storm water permitting and water quality monitoring. Zach will work as a Sustainability Champion on behalf of the habitat team to bring together stakeholders to develop plans for creating rain gardens as a strategy for stormwater mitigation, erosion control and to increase wildlife and pollinator habitat in the village.

The hope is that these Sustainability Champions projects are just the start, and that this pilot program can be expanded in 2022 if the CASP is funded beyond its current pilot, which ends in December 2021. To learn more about the Sustainability Champions, get updates on their work, get involved in a CASP subcommittee or help with these projects and more, please go to or contact Piper at

Topics: ,

No comments yet for this article.

The Yellow Springs News encourages respectful discussion of this article.
You must to post a comment.

Don't have a login? Register for a free account.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By :