Virtual Eco Family Conference up for Second Year

AMES, Iowa – Last spring, Iowa families throughout the state gathered together –- virtually –- once a month for the Eco Family Conference from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The program is undergoing slight changes for its second year.

“We were thrilled with participation last year, with 70 percent of participants from urban counties,” said Kristi Cooper, extension family life specialist and conference organizer. “We think people will love the new ‘flipped classroom’ approach we have planned for 2013. In this approach, families are given the information and materials to explore before the conferences start. Once the conferences start, the families can come together to interact and share what they learned from the information they already saw. As a group, the families can think of action plans for themselves, for each other and for their communities.”

On the first Thursday of each month, January through June, a 90-minute webinar will feature a different speaker addressing a different environmental topic. All sessions begin at 6:30 p.m. Dates and topics are:

  • Jan. 3 – Water
  • Feb. 7 – Living Green
  • March 7 – Energy
  • April 4 – Stuff
  • May 2 – Food
  • June 6 - Neighbors

The online conference is part of an initiative from ISU Extension and Outreach to provide Iowans with research-based education so they can make conscious decisions about the environment. The Connecting Families to the Environment initiative helps families make attitude and behavior changes that will ultimately improve the environment and human health.

“This year, the focus of the conference is on our relationship with natural resources, our food and each other,” said Cooper. “One exciting new element of the 2013 Eco Family Virtual Conference is the Family Citizen Science options. Children, teen and adults of all ages can choose activities that align with their family values.”

Twenty-six families from 13 urban and rural counties across Iowa learned about sustainable living in the six online modules of the conference in 2012. As a result, Cooper said, families:

  • increased knowledge of permaculture and ecological footprints
  • reduced household waste (reduced garbage at the curb and increased composting)
  • increased awareness of and interest in watersheds and storm water management practices
  • doubled their consumption of local foods

Families are encouraged to register early before the holidays so they have time to explore and use the conference’s resources before the first online gathering on Jan. 3. The entire series of six online sessions is $70 per family. To register, visit

“We want families to use this conference as an opportunity to spend quality family time together in December,” said Cooper. “We’re hoping this will create a habit that will last into the next year.”