Some women have it all, leaving us wondering, “How DOES she do it?” Melissa Miles is no exception and Schools for Sustainability (S4S) would like to celebrate her commitment to our team! Melissa is an Environmental Biologist with an Associate Degree in Animal Science, a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Biology from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture, and a Masters of Science in Green Building/Ecological Design from the San Francisco Institute of Architecture (SFIA). Her love for learning does not end there — she is presently working towards a Ph.D. in Ecovillage Design through SFIA. Beyond this impressive list, Melissa continues to be a kind and humble person, adding to our family like structure and company culture. Most importantly, Melissa is a wonderful mother and a spirited advocate for mother earth.
Miles wears many hats. She is the founder of Permanent Future Institute, a teacher, Volunteer Organizer of the Eastern Permaculture Guild, an Urban Farmer, Certified Master Composter, wild food forager and a phenomenal Mom.
Melissa’s passion for the environment was evident as she struggled to work at her first out of college job, where she served as an environmental engineer at an oil refinery. After work, she spent hours freeing geese stuck in oil pits that were not supposed to be left open and driving them to a bird rescue in Delaware.
For awhile after that job people would shy away from me at cocktail parties, worrying and saying ‘watch out, she’s the one who’ll talk to you about beached whales and pollution… If you’re normal in a messed up culture, then you’re the one with the problem. The benefits of teaching transcend principles of land design and restoration, is seeing the changes people make in their lives, upon learning about permaculture. I could have continued working in the oil industry and making a lot of money, but ethically I couldn’t go back. The work I do is worth it when I get emails from people who are changing their lives. I love to see that I’m helping people to make a difference.
Activism comes naturally for Melissa, therefore it was no coincidence that she chose to volunteer her talents with S4S. We are honored to welcome Melissa Miles into our family, because as a Philly native, Melissa Miles is the premiere expert in permaculture in the greater Philadelphia region. When asked “Why are you utilizing your valuable time to this project?” Melissa Miles’ reponse was:
The team’s vision and passion are contagious because these schools are just what we need today: to empower a new generation of land stewards with practical skills, so they and the planet can thrive! And, selfishly, this will help me fulfill my goal of becoming a good ancestor.
During Adrienne Redd’s and my visit to the Dominican Republic, we collected soil samples, which Miles eagerly tested. Thanks to Melissa, we now know that our land is fertile!
S4S obtains advice, expertise, and literature to read about permaculture from Melissa, who also tapped into her large networks for SfS and promoted the Philly doGooder video. Thanks to her efforts, we WON a marketing package worth $30,000.
A current staple in our curriculum design meetings, Melissa keeps education and mentoring close to heart. It hurts her to know that our education system is failing, but Schools for Sustainability represents a paradigm shift. It will be an institution that teaches students skills they need in order to better the world and themselves.
Our current goal is to fundraise enough money in order to send Melissa Miles to the Dominican Republic, so she can evaluate the site. She would be able to determine the best location for the school buildings, farm, solar panels, anaerobic digester, aquaponic system, and more. We are extremely grateful to have such an extraordinary, experienced, and knowledgeable person on our team.
Miles turned her father’s engineering consulting company, which had been focused on the petrochemical industry, into the permaculture design and consulting firm, known as the Permanent Future Institute. As the Director of the Permanent Future Institute, she designs plans for her client’s properties and teaches.
She teaches classes at Longwood Gardens, and other institutions in the region, while facilitating a permaculture design certificate course at the Kimberton Waldorf School campus. Additionally, she serves as a Permaculture Mentor for the International Diploma in Permaculture Design program at Gaia University International, which is a non-traditional higher education institution.
As an expert in volunteer management she organizes the Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild, since 2008, which has grown to include over 1,250 members. She teaches classes like “Eat Your Lawn,” “Make Room for Mushrooms,” “Backyard Chicken Keeping,” and “The Dirty Secrets of Compost,” while helping others get certified in Permaculture.
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