BROOKINGS – A Wild Guide for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” who has ties to South Dakota State University is bringing lessons on conservation and sustainability to Brookings this weekend.
SDSU graduate Stephanie Arne and her partner Tim Davison will showcase their Creative Animal Foundation Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday outside the Children’s Museum of South Dakota.
It’s free and open to the public, and they’re bringing along the 200-square-foot house on wheels they’ve been living in while touring the country.
The nationwide tour began to take shape in summer 2015, when Arne and four other people wanted to help others connect the dots between how they can help wildlife and where they live. Creative Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization all about conservation and sustainable living.
“Trying to help people. What can we do to snap people back into it to remember that they are a part of nature and to feel a little bit more responsible, to be a good steward that helps our planet?” Arne said.
In 2013, Arne was named the new host, aka “Wild Guide,” for the webisode show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” out of 200 candidates. The film crew has traveled to many locations, shooting film of various animals and environments. Arne says that while they are on the current tour, she will continue to shoot the webisodes.
Early in her 20s and into her career, Arne noticed something that needed to change. While cleaning up oil spills and plastic around the rain forest and beach or watching trees being cut down for livestock and plantations, Arne and Davison had an idea.
“What can we do to really help people understand that if they love animals, wildlife and nature, then we really need to understand that they’re an animal and were part of the food web?” Arne said. “And that our actions are really impacting the wildlife and our lives as well.”
Starting in 2017 and continuing through 2018, the pair will stop at 50 cities and give presentations all over the country. Arne and Davison are talking about changing the way people live to protect the earth.
One way to demonstrate conservation and sustainability is by traveling with a tiny house that Arne and Davison live in while completing the tour. The eco-friendly tiny home is about 200 square feet and weighs 12,250 pounds. Arne said that adjusting to the new lifestyle was difficult.
“It took awhile to figure out where everything was,” Arne said. “Once we got rid of more stuff, made and built things, that created a place for everything. It took a huge weight off of our shoulders.”
Instead of a practical tour bus, Arne wanted something different and unique. She originally got the idea from watching the TV show “Tiny House, Big Living” on HGTV and said she had to have one.
The tiny home provides one of the most sustainable living experiences possible, with features ranging from reclaimed wood for siding and counter tops to composting toilets and LED lights.
Arne said that most of their belongings were donated or sold. The little that was left was organized and stored.
After 10 months in the tiny home, Arne said the experience has been awesome. The goal is to continue traveling with it through 2018 while creating video journals of wildlife and the people they have met who are using their creativity making the earth a better place.
While doing the presentations, the two realized that showing people the inside of the house was the most impactful. Allowing people to look inside their tiny home shows exactly what sustainable living is.
“At first it was just speaking, but then we realized that it was really impactful for people to actually walk in the tiny house and see minimalist living,” Arne said.
One challenge Arne noted was getting accustomed to pulling a tiny home on a trailer with a truck. The first month that they had the home, while trying to turn around, they pulled in to a church parking lot that was under construction. About a fourth of the way through the parking lot, they realized that it was sand. Arne and Davison were stuck in a small town in North Carolina. Thankfully a guy with a larger truck and pulling straps came by and helped them get back on the road.
“That was a huge wake-up call right away that life is no longer super easy and convenient,” Arne said.
Time to recharge
The Pierre native will take some time off soon, going home for a week before flying to Mexico to shoot a webisode with alligators. After that, Arne will fly to meet Davison with the tiny home in another city to continue the tour. Originally the tour was only supposed to be 18 months long, but after hearing great reviews, the tour just might continue.
“We have applied for more grants; we’re looking for more sponsorships and donors because we are now addicted,” Arne said. “We want to do this for a couple more years.”
Arne said coming home will only motivate and recharge. Allowing up to 15,000 strangers into her new home can be breathtaking and demanding, but Arne knows exactly what she needs to continue.
“It’s challenging in every way, shape and form,” she said. “To come home is going to fuel me again … to get their support and encouragement by saying, ‘I know this is a crazy journey, but we believe in you and this does matter.’ It’s fuel and what keeps me going.”
For more information on the tour, visit www.creativeanimal.org.