We Won! Akron brings home two awards at the North American Biodiversity Summit

by Emily Anderson

Disclaimer: The following is a work of realistic fiction for our special 2050 issue, published in June 2021. These stories are meant to spark imagination, not forecast the future of Akron. 

Last month, Frankie Page was invited for the fourth time to attend the North American Biodiversity Summit (NABS) in Chicago. She attends every year as a representative of Akron, networking on behalf of us all with environmental advocates and engineers from around the world. The last three times she went, Akron was invited as a participating city but not nominated for any awards. This year was different. Frankie came home bearing two prestigious awards – Most Improved Neighborhood Biodiversity (West Hill) and Best New Pollination Program (Merriman Valley). 

Frankie Page is the founder of Bright Green, an organization that has been spearheading green initiatives in Northeast Ohio since 2034. Bright Green, in collaboration with the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank and the local government, has made Akron a midwestern leader in lawn conversion and biodiversity protection. Allowing native plants to thrive where tidy grass once lived helps clean carbon dioxide from the air, supports a stable food chain in our ecosystem and protects the natural reproduction cycle of local plant and insect species. 

Bright Green has been focusing on improving the biodiversity in West Hill specifically for the last five years, which is one reason why Frankie was so proud to accept the Most Improved Neighborhood Biodiversity award for this area. 

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The residents of West Hill work together to maintain a large community garden full of native edible plants and frequent educational workshops on how to sustainably collect and use food from them. Volunteers use donated space for keeping bees and community composting, and the use of toxic chemicals has been nearly eradicated.   

According to Frankie, “West Hill has been on the cutting edge of community cooperation and sustainable living for the last 30 years. The hard work, unity and thoughtfulness displayed by the neighbors in this area should be an inspiration to everyone. This award is for them – they earned it!” 

Merriman Valley’s award was no small feat, either. “The Valley already has so much protected green space that we wanted to focus on another aspect of biodiversity in this neighborhood,” Frankie explains. “With enormous participation from the residents and local businesses, we increased the pollinator population by 30%!”

Pollinating insects, like bees and butterflies, feed off the pollen of flowers. Many native plants produce flowers, they’re just oftentimes kept cut short and never get the chance. By allowing plants to grow and produce flowers, we provide insects with more food. This strengthens the food chain and the entire ecosystem. 

In the Valley, Frankie and her team got local businesses to integrate pollinator-attracting plants into their landscaping, residential yards were allowed to grow wild around the edges, and five businesses started rooftop gardens. 

While Bright Green has made great accomplishments this year, they’re eager to get back to work come spring. What do they have planned next? They’re turning their attention towards the Downtown area, which is cleaner than ever and ready to be utilized. “The lack of gas-powered vehicles on the streets these days has opened up so much more available space for growing,” says Frankie, who dreams of one day hosting the NABS in Akron. 

If you’re not already involved with the Bright Green movement here in Akron, you should be! Whether you have a small window box or acres of field to work with, there are ways you can participate. Start by building a compost system in your yard, volunteering with a nearby community garden or simply choosing not to use toxic chemicals on your property. To learn more about our native plants here in Akron, visit the West Hill Local Garden or check out the Bright Green website.

Emily Anderson’s favorite native species is Sambucus canadensis, also known as elderberry.

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