Connecting People to the Planet with Sustainable Solutions

“Connectivity” could be Jimmy Dorrell’s middle name. He’s living a life that exemplifies this concept while teaching future generations that caring for our planet is essential to preserving our natural resources.

“I have seen the downside of abuse of Earth’s resources because we’re missing the connection to responsible living,” Dorrell said. “If we don’t start making the change, then who will?”

Urban REAP is Dorrell’s latest sustainability project that’s helping to bring a holistic mindset to how we eat and grow food, while engaging and empowering the people it serves. It’s helping to connect the dots of caring for this world with responsible lifestyles.

Urban REAP will feature a greenhouse, an aquaponics system, raised growbeds, commercial composting, a rainwater catchment and purification system, recycling/re-use projects and solar panels.

The project aims to educate the community about environmental conservation practices and to create opportunities for economic sustainability. Community members have access to on-the-job training in the urban garden and at the Jubilee Food Market, with the added benefit of exploring careers in multiple fields—like environmental sciences, the food industry, business and customer service.

Green Mountain Energy Sun Club volunteers helping build a retaining wall at Urban REAP.

“People facing problems need to be part of the solution,” said Dorrell. “Our community is learning to grow food that helps take care of their bodies. And our kids are learning about composting, solar power and catching rainwater, so they can see firsthand how they are connected to the planet.”

Urban REAP was a natural progression after Dorrell’s organization, Mission Waco, opened Jubilee Food Market to combat the food desert in their community.

“I saw my neighbors walking 2.2 miles to purchase food from the nearestgrocery store. And if they chose not to walk that distance and purchase from the convenience store, then they would pay more than double for a loaf of bread,” said Dorrell.

Once Jubilee Food Market was up and running, Dorrell thought Urban REAP was just a dream.

“When we finished the grocery store, I thought it would take a while to find funding for sustainable solutions in this community,” Dorrell said. “When we received the initial solar power support from Sun Club, I couldn’t believe they asked us to show them what more we could do if there was additional funding. This was pretty substantial—Sun Club was going to allow us to do even more for this community!”

Since training and education are large components of the project, funding for dedicated teaching materials and for construction of a training center/classroom will also be provided. In total, the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club is donating $234,000 to Mission Waco World Inc. to support the sustainability efforts of Urban REAP.

“People are excited,” Dorrell said. “They may not understand what sustainability is, but they know we are helping them. And education is a big part of what we do. We will have kids coming on regular field trips to learn about better eating, better choices and to learn to embrace nature’s resources and use them sustainably.”

Students from Baylor University are also connected to the project. Senior engineering design students have been major contributors and have been able to learn something new and then put it into practical use.

“We have two teams working on solar and rainwater catchment,” Dorrell said. “The solar team has analyzed the site for solar panel installation, developed designs and will be back out to help with installation, once we are in that phase of the project.”

Dorrell believes that helping people understand connectivity and sustainability will allow populations all over the world to be better stewards of Earth. “It’s a macro issue with local implications,” Dorrell said. “I want to educate as many as I can for the sake of our grandchildren.”

Pairing up with Sun Club was a natural fit for Mission Waco because of its commitment to deliver sustainable solutions that focus on people and the planet. “We celebrate like-minded organizations like the Sun Club because they are responsible, proactive, and they push for sustainability. They know that green is right, and they are helping to promote it,” Dorrell said.

To learn more about Mission Waco and Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, read our press release, and for more information about what sustainability means to Mission Waco, check out our sustainable story featuring the organization.