Vermont Farm

Karen McKenny, RN, is a nurse educator at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Karen McKenny, RN, is a nurse educator at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

When I think about building healthy communities, it is more than just individuals eating well, exercising, and health care – it is also about our whole community.

Our towns, our state, our planet…building sustainable behaviors into our daily lives for these communities as well. the University of Vermont Medical Center is committed to this vision with its programs for energy conservation, sustainable food, and award-winning green practices. We understand the link between environmental health and human health.

But, what can we do? We can play – stay with me on this one.
Right now, I am participating in a creative, fun, easy online community sustainability game called Vermontivate. It’s is a statewide competition that asks players (playing on behalf of schools or towns) to complete challenges related to energy, food sustainability, and transportation. The challenges are fun, easy, educational, creative, and stimulate thought. They don’t tell you what to do, but rather offer ideas, resources, and rewards. Players earn points for their town or school when they complete a challenge. At the end of six weeks, the winning town will win the grand prize of a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream party for the entire town! There are more than 28 towns participating with participants ranging in age from 5 to 75 years old. You can join and play with your town or any town you like. (Vermontivate started May 13 and runs through June 21. It’s not too late to sign up and play).

My kids and I are playing, and we are learning more than I can tell you, especially for me, a “green” newbie. We are learning about locavores, home energy conservation practices, creating artwork that inspires us, and remembering to ride our bikes more and use local transportation, too.

Here is just a taste of some of the challenges:

  • Take an energy quiz to see how much you know;
  • Watch a fun video on how to use less paper towels
  • Change a light bulb, investigate what your town energy committee is up to, or write an energy haiku.
  • Learn about composting, share your gardening success stories, watch a video on guerilla gardening, or learn where food comes from in this day and age.
  • Give a shout of support to your local transportation service, bike or carpool to work for a week, tell us your epic car trip or favorite car story as we think about driving less.

One of the most enjoyable outcomes of playing this game is the community building that goes on. I have met people from across the state. This is the place for novices looking to learn and experts looking to share.

Building healthy communities so that we have clean air, safe drinking water, and sufficient sustainable food sources impacts the health of people all over the world.

Let’s work together to make our communities healthier and more sustainable! It can all start with a fun game.

To learn more, visit

Karen McKenny, RN, is a nurse educator at the University of Vermont Medical Center. To learn more about the UVM Medical Center’s “green” initiatives, please read “Our Environmental Commitment.”

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