By Michelle McMillan, Junior Dance Major at Idyllwild Arts

I like to think I grew up in a world made of plants. As a child, I spent most of my time up a tree, tunneling through the underbrush, or in the garden.

My mother and father were always outside, working together to make things grow and trying their hardest to get the three of us kids to help them weed, water, or whatever. When I was younger, my job in the garden was to plant the carrots each year. My mother planned it so that they would be ready to harvest around my birthday in August, thus showing me that the greatest gifts one can receive are those from the earth.

The most beautiful times of my life were spent outdoors in greenery and as I grew older I worked hard to do what I could to protect it and the world that it grows in.

Last year, when I came to Idyllwild Arts Academy for my sophomore year, I was perturbed by the massive amounts of paper napkins, the shocking fact that all of our salt and pepper shakers are single use and the small greenhouse in a back corner of campus that was never used.

As a first year student last year I was completely overwhelmed trying to balance my academics, arts and social life. So, though I longed for the opportunity to get on my knees in the garden dirt and plant, weed and water, there was simply no time and the little greenhouse sat still.

In February, a group of four students and one teacher from IAA went to the National Green Schools Conference in Denver, Colo., to learn about ways in which other schools were making a difference and how we could make our school more environmentally friendly. The thought of the greenhouse had never left my mind and so I went to several lectures on gardens, school gardens, composts, and more.

Upon returning to IAA, I got in touch with a few others around campus who were as excited about the garden as I was. Eventually, Martha Ellen Wingfield, her environmental studies class, and the maintenance staff really put the beginnings of our garden together.

The 2011-12 school year has been filled with wonderful and exciting developments in our sustainability program such as this one. This success and enthusiasm will only continue next year. The sustainability group has grown in numbers and so, naturally, we have more ideas than ever.

Now every morning before classes, I go out to the greenhouse and water the seedlings, which I have growing in there, as well as the seedlings of others, delighting in the daily growth. Every morning I am reminded of the progress we are making here, combining the arts and a love of the environment to lessen our footprint and increase the beauty we put into the world.

At the end of each day, I go to close the greenhouse door, or check that someone else has beat me to it. I feel reassured by the reminder of what we are growing here. Not only are there plants in that little greenhouse now, but there is a note of progress had, and progress yet to come.