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MICHIGAN CITY — A passion to heal the environment while connecting with others is what drives Kathy Sipple.

Describing herself as an “Earth advocate, visionary and guide for positive change,” the Valparaiso resident shared ideas, inspiration and tools for environmental action with a group gathered for Northwest Indiana Green Drinks at Shoreline Brewery on Thursday evening.

“I’m kind of obsessed with the environment,” Sipple said. “I am a tree-hugger. I’ve been a tree-hugger for many years.”

In honor of World Creativity and Innovation Week, Sipple encouraged individuals to tackle local solutions to environmental problems in her presentation, "Your Creativity is Needed to Save the World."

“What can you do personally?” Sipple asked. “You don’t have to do every single thing.”

Sipple explained that an expanded idea of permaculture — the practice of developing sustainable agriculture ecosystems — is needed to implement solutions to environmental problems.

Using an example of how corn, beans and squash grow well together, as each brings benefits to the equation the others cannot, Sipple advocated “social permaculture” — people bringing their specific talents together to care for themselves, their friends and family and the Earth.

“How can we be like corn, beans and squash and work together in a sustainable way?” Sipple asked.

To discover ideas for improving the environment, Sipple encouraged the group to peruse Summary of Solutions from www.drawdown.org, which includes ideas like eating plant-rich diets, educating girls, family planning and reducing food waste.

To reduce food waste, people can compost, grow their own plants for food or participate in the Northwest Indiana Food Swap, a group she leads that meets monthly to swap home-grown and homemade food and recipes.

“Some solutions can actually leave you with more money in your pocket so you can support more local and organic,” Sipple said.

Sipple said she recently discovered the Indiana Hope Center in Grovertown, Indiana, a food ministry and community-assistance program that operates a “grocery salvage” store.

Sipple displayed samples of yogurt and pea milk she picked up at the center, which collects food about to expire and from other sources.

“Things are free or for pennies on the dollar,” Sipple said. “This keeps wasted food out of landfills.”

She recently made a trip to Bailey’s in North Judson after seeing large composting boxes on sale there, and she purchased three for herself and for friends.

Using her own example, Sipple encouraged the group to always think of including others in their actions.

“When I go there, I don’t go there just for me,” Sipple said. “We need to do more good for more people.”

Sipple cited inspiration from the book, "People and Permaculture," by Looby Macnamara, and the Pachamama Alliance, of San Francisco, at www.pachamama.org, where people can “plug into” others from around world who are working on environmental solutions.

“Let’s get out of our silos and speak a universal language of cooperation,” Sipple said. “If we want to restore Eden in our time, it’s going to take some thinking outside the box.”

Northwest Indiana Green Drinks, a local chapter of an international movement, meets monthly at Shoreline Brewery to explore “green topics” with speakers from academia, government, business and nonprofits. 

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