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New blog, events aim to make Bemidji a greener place

Simone Senogles wants her 11-year-old son to enjoy the same Bemidji she has grown to love.

In a changing world, though, preserving the area's natural resources and outdoors beauty is not a given.

So Senogles and other like-minded citizens are starting a grassroots group to spread the message of green living through Sustainability Tuesdays, or Ganawendakamigaa endaso-niizho-giizhigak, a program featuring a series of weekly events. Each month will have a different theme.

This Tuesday evening, the group invites the public to its official program launch, where organizers will introduce the program, establish goals and feature a local panel of speakers to discuss diverse perspectives about sustainability. Audience participation is encouraged.

"It's a good time to become more self-sufficient and make better choices about our natural resources," said Senogles, who has lived in the area since 1990. "I want us to be able to preserve this beautiful place we live in."

She said it's important to draw on a worldview about our environment and bring the strengths of everyone in the community, regardless of race or age, to find creative solutions for a sustainable future.

"It takes a community to build sustainability," said Senogles, adding Bemidji is at a crossroads since its both rural and seeing growth in many ways. Through collective wisdom, talents and an inclusive mindset, she believes citizens can come together to "make a better community for all of us."

Brett Cease, a Living Green Corps member, said it's important for Bemidji area citizens to take a larger perspective to protect the culture and unique qualities of the community.

"There's been a lot of interest to have this type of dialogue in the community for quite a while," Cease said. "It truly is amazing to witness how much the community has latched onto this idea. To have local professionals from across the board - business, academia, farming, city officials and indigenous rights - come together and give of their time to talk with attendees about what sustainability means to them and Bemidji is pretty special."

This month's theme focuses on waste issues, with discussion on defining waste, where it goes and how to reduce it. Cease said future themes will feature topics such as energy, water, local foods and gardening, and the area's lifestyle and culture.

"We picked waste as the first month's focus because it literally surrounds our lives," Cease said. We generate it every day, we deal with its effects on many levels and oftentimes we don't know much about it.

"Hopefully ... audience members will be more informed about waste in general and empowered to take steps to reduce what they generate as households."

The program is a partnership of Minnesota GreenCorps, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Rail River Folk School and Bemidji State University's Sustainability Office.

Events this month also include a movie night, which will feature the documentary "Garbage," a café night and an expert panel to talk and answer questions about what happens to trash in Bemidji and Beltrami County once it's discarded.

The events are free and open to the public. The Rail River Folk School, 303 Railroad St. SW, will host the weekly programs from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

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Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

(701) 780-1104