LGBT runners and avid readers don't find it too difficult to locate groups that pair personal interests with their identities. However, when Gerod Rody was coming out in 2004, he said it was hard for him to find other gay menor any members of the LGBTQ community, for that matterwho shared his common interest in environmental sustainability.
"I was lookingthere's gay running groups, gay newspapers, gay almost everything except for this huge piece of my life, which is sustainability," he said.
So Rody decided to start his own organization, Out 4 Sustainability.
He doesn't beat around the bush, admitting he was also looking for an inroad to find gay men with his shared interest for dating purposes.
"I didn't actually get a date out of it, my cofounder did," he said. "She got a couple dates out of it."
Although Rody didn't get a date through Out 4 Sustainability, his organization thrived and is now in its sixth year, showing no signs of slowing down.
Out 4 Sustainability is an all-volunteer run organization dedicated to mobilizing the LGBTQ community across the country and globe for social and environmental action.
It does this through two main programs, Earth Gay and through hosting educational socials.
Earth Gay is a take off on Earth Day. Out 4 Sustainability helps facilitate service projects in different cities by pairing up LGBTQ volunteers with an environmental organization to complete a project.
"Our role as an organization is to facilitate local action," Rody said.
For instance, this year in Seattle, where Out 4 Sustainability is headquartered, Earth Gay volunteers partnered with Beacon Bike Park to restore urban forest area Cheasty Greenspace in preparation for the implementation of bike trails.
Volunteers removed invasive species including blackberry and English ivy, performed weeding and mulching tasks and planted native species.
"We want it to be a really engaging way to express who you are and be proud of who you are, and what better way to be proud than pull out invasives, plant trees, weed and mulch and do the things that make our community healthier and safer," Rody said.
"We see it as another version of pride, where you get to express your identity in solidarity with other people who are really celebrating what it means to be queer while doing something really tangible for the planet and your local community."
Through its socials, Out 4 Sustainability also works with local groups to facilitate meaningful conversations on topics related to environmental sustainability, which hopefully will lead to action.
"Its people getting together to talk and build community and maybe have that transaction," he said. "We've done that on a variety of topics from the evolution of the gayborhood, to food systems, to sustainable sex toys, all sorts of topics."
So far Chicago has not participated in Earth Gay or hosted any socials, but Rody expects the city would host a very successful event if it did.
"I think there is a lot of potential for a strong queer community in Chicago to meld with a really strong environmental group in Chicago," he said.
He said often Earth Gay events start out small with only a couple dozen participants and grow over time. He pointed to Phoenix, Ariz. as an example.
"Earth Gay in Phoenix last year was I think 20 people and it was a wild success in our opinion," he said. "They did really cool work, built a community that hopefully can build on things forward."
Even as it is working to grow its current programs, Out 4 Sustainability is busy launching new endeavors.
For the first time this year, Out 4 Sustainability introduced a new event, the Fab Planet Summit, which Rody hopes will become an annual event.
The Fab Planet Summit was the first LGBTQ conference focused on the intersection of environment, society and identities. It included panels, workshops and networking with the intention of connecting LGBTQ sustainability leaders throughout the country.
"We are looking at doing that annually around the country and gathering the people doing the work so they can hear from each other, and have that community mobilize into action, we aren't sure what that looks like [yet]," Rody said.
Rody has several other ideas for growing Out 4 Sustainability. He said right now one of his focuses is on figuring out how to get funding for a video series that would feature well-known members of the gay community sharing sustainability tips.
"Imagine the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence teaching you to compost," he said.
Ultimately, Rody said his goal is to create a "fabulous planet."
He said imagine what could be accomplished if the power of the gay community could be focused in the direction of environmental sustainability.
"The LGBTQ community is incredibly diverse," Rody said. "The goal of Out 4 Sustainability is to collectively … build sustainability as a core value for the LGBTQ community globally. That is my big audacious goal: to say we care about health care, sustainability, immigrationall of these things that are really important to the community on a fundamental level.
"If we can really rally as a community around these issues in a really meaningful way, I think the queer community has a capacity to have a bigger impact on society than any other community in the world."