Communicating "green" one rain garden at a time

By Hillary Kline
When it rains, it pours. And for associate professor Mark Pedelty, rain is necessary for a project he's been working on. As an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, Pedelty developed an environmental communication campaign geared towards improving Twin Cities' water quality.

By Hillary Kline
When it rains, it pours. And for associate professor Mark Pedelty, rain is necessary for a project he's been working on. As an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, Pedelty developed an environmental communication campaign geared towards improving Twin Cities' water quality.

Excerpt from "Neighborhood Gardens"

small rain garden.jpg

As an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, Pedelty developed an environmental communication campaign geared towards improving Twin Cities' water quality. Pedelty combined his teaching and research in this participatory action research project.

Pedelty recently finished part one of a three-part documentary called "Neighborhood Gardens." Part one of the documentary reveals how a local nonprofit, Metro Blooms, is working with residents to install 150 rain gardens in Minneapolis' Powderhorn Park neighborhood.

Metro Blooms, along with the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Parks, and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, have been studying the impact of rain gardens on water quality in Powderhorn Lake. The goal is to clean up the lake, a body of water on the Minneapolis Pollution Control Agency's list of impaired lakes.

"Neighborhood Gardens" is Pedelty's first documentary, which he has been working on for almost a year. Making the film has been a learning process, and says that if he had to learn every part of every process involved that "it would take ten years to make this film." Even though part one is complete, Pedelty says he is always thinking about ways to improve it.

On Wednesday, March 24, the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment will hold a film screening of Neighborhood Gardens

The screening is free and open to the public.

Neighborhood Gardens will also air on Twin Cities Public Television around Earth Day, April 22.

Pedelty says he has learned basic video techniques such as white balance, the use of negative space, and how to log-and-capture. However, one of the most important things he learned by making "Neighborhood Gardens," was that film necessitates intense collaboration.

"I've been lucky to have some incredible professionals and students to work with, which makes the director/producer's job a pleasure," he says.

Pedelty says if this project works in the middle of a relatively densely populated neighborhood, that other organizations will likely follow Metro Blooms' and the Powderhorn residents' example.

"The rain gardens will not only clean up Powderhorn Lake and the surrounding watershed, but also might motivate people to think about other things they can do to help make their neighborhood more sustainable," Pedelty says.

Executive Director of Metro Blooms, Becky Rice says the documentary highlights storm water as the number one source of pollution and its affect on the water bodies we care about. She says the documentary focuses on how one community is making small changes in their landscaping, demonstrating a citizen based approach to clean up their local water body.

"When we are in our yard gardening, we meet our neighbors," Rice says. "Publicly visible gardens beautify our cities and show care and a sense of pride in place. A rain garden is a very special kind of garden that shows that we care about beauty and our yard, as well as our local water body and the planet."

Senior Arianna Winkle has worked with Pedelty since the beginning planning stages as the videographer/editor. She spent the summer as his undergraduate research assistant, assisting with the initial filming and interviews of Metro Blooms board members for the film. After a brief stint studying abroad in Australia, she returned and continued to work on the project.

"This documentary is more than just an educational piece about the environment, rain gardens and being green," Winkle says. "It is about community."
After receiving an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program research grant, Winkle will spend the semester working with videographers from Atomic K Studios, a studio based in Minneapolis who is editing the film.

She believes the documentary relays the incredible power of human connection and shows the amazing things we can accomplish on a united front, even with something as seemingly insignificant as gardening.

"It is an inspiring piece of work that, in my opinion, has the potential to empower viewers to make small changes in their lives that can have a profound impact on a larger scale," Winkle says. "And what better way to be inspired than from our very own, local Minneapolis nonprofit organization?"

Photo credit: Becky Rice

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This page contains a single entry by sjmcblog published on March 4, 2010 11:20 AM.

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