Interview with Amy Bartucci of Go Green Park Ridge

Amy Bartucci is the founder of Go Green Park Ridge (GGPR), a group dedicated to raising environmental awareness in Park Ridge and inspiring people to take action to make a difference. Amy is making a difference by leading a subcommittee of GGPR tasked with moving the Park District to more sustainable lawn care and landscaping practices like natural lawn care. MPAC along with others has been helping her along the way. We thought we’d have a chat and find out how things are going.  Here are excerpts of that interview:

MPAC: What led you to form GGPR?  Was there one particular issue that you were concerned about or are you just interested in environmental issues in general?

AB: A few years back, I was involved with a very active student green club at my children’s elementary school.  One particular activity we embarked on as a group led us to meetings at City Hall!  After a few months of conversations with the council and no response it was obvious that our town needed more awareness and initiatives that focus on environmental stewardship in general. 

MPAC: There are so many environmental issues to engage on, why did you decide to get involved with the issue of natural lawn care and the Park Ridge Park District?  Was there something you became aware of that the district was doing that sparked your interest?

AB: The majority of our members decided that this was an important topic and we formed a subcommittee to look into it.  We all agreed that taking better care of our green spaces is such a worthwhile community issue because so many residents use the park district fields and lawns. We wanted to make a difference for as many people as possible and this seemed to be the way. 

MPAC: If there is one thing you could change immediately about the way Park Ridge manages its parks, what would it be?

AB: We’d want them to build and manage an entire park from the ground up with reputable sustainable practices.  It would be so awesome to create a crown jewel for our town and show residents how gratifying sustainable land stewardship really is.  We’d want them to post excellent signage around the park explaining the whys and more importantly the hows of sustainable green space management and its positive impact especially during this time when our planet is in such need of repair.

MPAC: How long have you been working on the issue of sustainable lawn care and landscaping?

AB: GGPR has been working on this particular sustainable lawn care issue for a year. 

MPAC: What has been your biggest frustration?

AB: Our biggest frustration has been repeating the same request over and over again.  It has been a struggle to connect the dots between how the park district lawns are currently being managed and using natural lawn care practices.  It’s been hard to communicate that natural/organic lawn care does not mean doing nothing or just replacing one product for another.   We are actually asking them to change policy and practices for managing Park Ridge’s green spaces and this is not a small task.  

MPAC: On the flip side, what about successes? Can you point to any progress you’ve made.  

AB: From my perspective, I am not really certain we’ve made significant progress yet.  However, we are in non-combative, ongoing conversation with Park District personnel which I feel is a success.  We hope to make tangible progress (finally) in 2015 moving the conversations into actions!  

MPAC: What has been the most useful aspect of the help MPAC has provided?

AB: The most useful aspect of the help MPAC has provided is their willingness to provide GGPR generous amounts of their time.  MPAC provided us with great responses to our questions and concerns via emails, phone calls, and attending face to face meetings.   Their continued engagement has given  our group the moral and scientific support we needed to know that what we are asking for is neither impossible nor outlandish.  On the practical side, MPAC helped GGPR design a flyer specifically about our lawn care initiative to distribute to the community which was great.

MPAC: Do you have any advice for others who want to take on similar change in their community?

AB: Yes, don’t expect things to happen overnight!  (We were told this too!)  We would also suggest that a community considering this issue reach out to both the parks and the public schools at the same time.  They often have overlapping concerns.

MPAC: You are an inspiration to those people that feel we all have a responsibility to the environment and want to do something to impact the future.  What do you say to people that are pessimistic about the individual’s ability to affect change?  

AB: I just don’t hear pessimistic people like that in my world!  That kind of negativity brings me down and I can’t afford to lose my groove and balance (I am a Libra!).  I have an old children’s book that I reflect on often, it’s called If Everybody Did, by Joann Stover.  It’s not even an environmentally themed book but it inadvertently gives the reader a strong message: We can’t all keep treating the planet in the ways we have grown accustomed to, we just can’t.  Encouraging others to make small positive changes is what inspires me to keep going.

MPAC: Speaking of books, are you reading any environmentally themed books right now?

AB: I have been reading and reflecting on a very upbeat environmentally themed book called The World We Made, by Jonathin Porritt. It is exceptional because it gives a renewed sense of purpose and hope as a team of confident nations to make a better world for all.  It has great pictures, captions, graphics, and text!

MPAC: Thank you for your time, Amy.  We applaud your efforts and certainly understand the frustration that comes with trying to move an administration to meaningful change. We hope to remain available to help with our time, expertise, and resources with the goal of adding the acreage managed by Park Ridges’ Park District to our 20,000-Acres-to-Celebrate-20-Years campaign.