Saturday, April 16, 2011

Farewell For Now

Well, this has been a long time coming.

After much consideration I have decided to formally end this chapter of Sustainable Sakonnet and stop publishing at this blog.

The reality is: It's kind of been ended for a while now. Since launching The New Pursuit about a year ago, my writing focus has been there as I've been exploring bigger and broader things related to this interesting mix of Life, Nature and Being. Couple that with my not-so-new-anymore bi-weekly column called "Simple Green Living" in the East Bay Life section of the Sakonnet Times (and all the other community papers under the mantle of East Bay Newspapers), and I no longer have the bandwidth to write here.

Beyond that, I continue to look for ways to simplify my life -- both online and off. Even though I wasn't publishing here all that often, having this sense of formal closure will help me peel it away for good.

Who knows? At some point, it might make sense to bring Sustainable Sakonnet back. But for now, it's farewell.

And with that I'd like to thank the countless people who have taken time to stop by, read and comment; those whom have given me well-wishes around town for the effort here the last four-or-so years; those who work so tirelessly in their own ways to make Sakonnet more sustainable for generations to come.

Until next time, thanks and be well. Feel free to stop by The New Pursuit at any time and say hello.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

15 Simple Ways to Go Green and Save Green


[Editor's Note: This is a companion piece to this week's
Simple Green Living column in East Bay Life. Simple Green Living is my new bi-weekly column dedicated to sharing all things related to simple and sustainable living.]

What’s better than embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle to ensure our planet’s resources are around for countless generations to come? Keeping a few more of our hard-earned dollars in our pocket in the process.

That’s the beauty of simple, green living. It’s a win-win for all: Ourselves, our communities and the planet we all call Home. And if you’re like our family, finding ways to sock away a few more dollars each month opens up all kinds of opportunities – from paying off debt to supporting to a local charity to saving for that not-so-far-off college tuition bill.

Sure, whether because of simple supply and demand or (unfortunately) the result of over-zealous and misleading marketing, going with the green option can be more expensive in some cases. But many times, you have to separate need from want, fact from fiction and look at the practical long-term return on your ‘investment’.

What follows are fifteen simple ways you can go green and save money.

Getting an energy audit for your home is one of the best ways to identify opportunities for savings. If National Grid is your energy provider you can get a free home energy audit through RISE Engineering.

While you’re waiting for that, here are a few more practical steps you can take:
  • Replace as many traditional incandescent light bulbs as you can with compact fluorescent (CFL) ones. They use about a quarter of the energy and last around six times as long. Just remember: CFLs contain small amounts of mercury so you have to dispose of them correctly. Rhode Island residents can drop off used CFLs at any Eco-Depot event. Massachusetts residents can search here for drop off locations near them.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead to conserve water and the energy to heat and pump it. Don't forget: Taking shorter showers helps too!
  • Wash your clothes in cold water for all cycles
  • Why pay to keep your water super hot all day long? Turn down the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees.
  • Did you know that clothes dryers account for about six percent of your home’s energy usage? Put up a clothesline and line-dry your clothes instead. For more green laundry tips, check out Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of greener laundry practices all around. 
  • Install a programmable thermostat to better control fluctuations in temperature and avoid over-heating (or cooling) when you’re asleep or not home.
  • What’s your favorite vegetable? Try growing your own this summer. For less than $2.00 you can get enough seeds to grow more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at.
  • Simplify your arsenal of cleaners and eliminate lots of toxic chemicals in the process. With simple, natural ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar you can clean almost anything. Find recipes here. 
  • Replace old, inefficient appliances with new, EnergyStar-rated versions. You may even be able to take advantage of a tax credit too. Learn more at the EnergyStar website.
  • Do we all need a shed full of yard tools? Save on big ticket items by setting up a tool share or swap program with your family or neighbors. You might be able to throw in a bit of bartering for good measure too.
  • Everything from appliances to DVD players to cell phone chargers use small amounts of energy even when not in use. Avoid these ‘phantom energy’ situations by unplugging them when they are not being used.
  • Try your hand at making your own laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent
With gas prices on the rise again, there is no better time to green your transportation.
  • Keeping your car in shape can help it run more efficiently and save on gas. Simple steps like keeping your tires properly inflated and your air filter clean can help. For more tips check out this wikiHow article.
  • If your commute is on the longer side, find someone to carpool with. Switch off cars and driving every other week and you’ve instantly cut your monthly gas consumption in half – and kept a bunch of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere too. Live or work in RI? Check out this RIPTA program for carpooling opportunities. Live or work in MA? Check out massRIDES.
  • Avoid lots of little trips by batching your errands by general location
  • Take public transportation if and when you can

This Week’s Micro-Action: Take one tip from the above list and do it. From there, commit to adding one more per week. If you like the results, share them with a few of your friends.

What are some of the things you’re doing to go green and save money in the process? Feel free to leave a comment below and share.

Be well,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Suburban Living a Matter of Trade-offs?


A few weeks back, my friend Nate gave me the heads up on a story from USA Today about a study that concluded that walkable communities have happier people.

It seemed logical enough so I went off to calculate Tiverton's own Walk Score. Guess what? My fears were realized when our score came back: Zero. Zilch. Nadda. Our community is not walkable according to this tool.

It makes sense. Aside from areas like North Tiverton, Main Road and the Commons in Little Compton, there is little in the way of sidewalks and other alternative transportation infrastructure to get your human-powered transportation on. Sure, you don't need nice neat sidewalks to head out for a walk, but between the craziness of back-road drivers and the lack of destinations, there is little incentive to leave the car at home.

When talking it over with my wife, we launched into a broader discussion about the trade-offs of suburban living in the Sakonnet area:
My Wife: "The suburbs are all about trade-offs."
Me: "Yes, but..."
My Wife: "You don't have sidewalks, but you do have a big yard to garden."
Me: "I know. I do like that."

My Wife: "And we have good schools. And the ocean. And..."

Me: "Agreed. But we should be able to have it all..."

And so it went. If life is about navigating the give and take of everyday living then shacking up in the burbs certainly presents you with some challenging terrain.

Here are a few more supposed trade-offs that come to mind:
  • More open space versus having all your shopping needs fulfilled in town
  • Yards for kids to play in versus having to head to the community playground or park
  • Having the ocean at your back door versus being landlocked on an urban island
  • Farms and farmers bolstering our local food infrastructure versus shipping all our food in from miles away
I'm sure you could think of many more. But does it have to be that way?

Could suburban living ever be transformed to one of true sustainability -- both at the individual household level and the collective community level? What if very real and tangible scenarios -- like steep rises in the cost of gasoline -- forced us to redesign how we went about our day-to-day? Should we be proactively planning for these things through something like a Transition Initiative or wait and cross that bridge when (note: not 'if') we get there?

What do you think? Were there conscious trade-offs in your decision to live in the burbs? Do you wish anything could be different? Is the Best of Both Worlds a pipe dream?

Be well,

P.S.: If everything sticks to schedule, my new bi-weekly column, Simple Green Living will debut in next week's East Bay Life section of the Sakonnet Times. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks!

[image: andygeek]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2011

Well it's been a while, hasn't it?

I admit, it hasn't been on purpose; life just has a way of finding other things for you to do sometimes. Back in April, I launched a new endeavor -- The New Pursuit -- and it just took off. My voice felt a bit freer there. But the Call of Community has never been far away. Of late, it's been scratching at the door again.

The more I look around, the more the signs are clear: The return to the power and solace of community is a necessary step for reclaiming our collective sense of self; for rediscovering that our similarities far outweigh our differences; for achieving that critical balance between our existence and the long-term prosperity of this little planet we call Home.

It is through that Unity of Experience we can transform ourselves, our communities and in no short order, our world.

I continue to believe that here in our neck of the woods, we are poised to blaze a trail in this direction. As I drive around and look at things, as I talk to folks, it is clear that people want a return to simpler things; to things that are deeply rooted in the people and places that are familiar.

That familiarity is the base from which our community can grow and prosper -- socially, economically and ecologically.

Socially speaking, 2010 saw a boon in events that brought us together. From farmers markets to cow flops to fund raising concerts; from theater performances to art exhibits to youth sports; from garden tours to open houses to cultural bazaars. The energy and vibe that such gatherings creates is undeniable. We're creating ways to escape the four walls of our homes and interact; to meet and exchange with neighbors and friends. This is way better than any TV show or movie.

In terms of economy, there's not much to say here as few have escaped the shadow of the ongoing 'Great Recession'. Many of our neighbors have seen better times. Local businesses -- that backbone of our local and regional economies -- have also had to bear their part of the struggle. Our support of these businesses is more critical than ever.

Looking at our local environment and ecological resiliency, we continue to be at a critical juncture. The often-opposing pressures of development, investment and conservation are at an all-time high. There have been successes though: The preservation of Ferolbink Farms and the advancement of the East Bay Energy Consortium hit the highlight reel for sure. But we need more as the challenges will only be getting stronger: Redesigning local transportation in the face of rising fuel prices; continued investment in our local food and economic infrastructure; community and school education... This list is long. But not impossible to achieve with the proper investment of time, willpower and resources.


Alas, it will be only through the coming together of all of us -- hanging our labels, ideologies and agendas at the door -- that we will be able to take up these challenges and work together for the betterment of all. This is OUR community and OUR earth; OUR lives and OUR future.

With that, I want to leave you with a few resources that I have found absolutely amazing over the past few months. All bring together a fantastic intersection of community, environment and renewed resourcefulness.
As always, any thoughts, ideas or comments about how we continue to make the Sakonnet Community more sustainable and resilient are welcome! What would you like to see worked on in 2011?

Be well,

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June Soundbites


Hi, everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here at Sustainable Sakonnet. Things have been busy as the summer shifts into gear. While work in the gardens is complete (for the moment) and the Little League season winds down, I have been focused on my new blog, The New Pursuit, some public speaking, and writing for (more on that below).

With that, I think I am going to move to a monthly post here at Sustainable Sakonnet. There are so many great things happening in the area that to leave Sustainable Sakonnet by the wayside completely doesn’t feel right. I hope you agree.


Our very own Sakonnet Growers Market kicks the Summer 2010 season off on Saturday morning, June 19, at Pardon Gray Preserve (Main Road). Be sure to stop by, get some amazing local fare and support our local farmers and producers in the process. For a complete listing of farmers markets around the Sakonnet area, check out this list from Farm Fresh Rhode Island.


While most of the town was in the throes (folly?) of the Financial Town Meeting(s) last month, an amazing event took place at Tiverton High School.

Spearheaded by Social Studies Department Chair, Eric Marx, and the THS Green Team, the entire school—from faculty to students to support staff—participated in the first ever ‘Environment Day’.

The goal was to find creative ways of getting the students to think about aspects of the environment as it relates to their everyday lives. How do we view/interact with the environment from a math perspective? From a science perspective? From a literature perspective?

Each student began the day base-lining their own environmental impact by calculating their carbon footprint. Have you ever done this? It’s a great exercise. A number of tools can help you try it for yourself.

The highlight of the event—for me anyway—was the Speakers Forum. Five speakers, four of them THS alumni (including myself), who are involved in some way in the green arena gave presentations on the topic of their choice. It was amazing (and inspiring) see how many local people are involved in making the world a better place – each in their own unique way. Here’s the run down:
  • Sarah Forrest // A 2001 grad and engineer at Vanderweil Engineers, Sarah gave an overview of how buildings play an important role in using resources wisely. She showcased her work on the LEED-certified Newton North (MA) High School.
  • Caitlin Luderer // Talked about her work developing and promoting the field of sustainable tourism. She currently volunteers with the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. Caitlin is a 2000 grad.
  • Nicole Lebreux // A 2001 grad and owner of Fidget Finds, Nichole gave the students an understanding of the impact that the mainstream clothing industry has on the environment and human rights while promoting the eco-friendly benefits of buying vintage threads.
  • Joe McLaughlin // The only non-THS grad, Joe is Director of Properties at the Norman Bird Sanctuary. He gave a great overview of the history and mission of the Sanctuary while sharing his own journey of finding his life’s passion.
  • And finally, there was me // I gave a presentation entitled “Being (Is) the Solution”, based largely on my writing at The New Pursuit. The message was simple and straightforward: While doing all sorts of things to limit your impact on the environment is important, it’s really only a band-aid. Rather, a deeper, longer-lasting impact can be realized by changing our perspective—our state of being—on how we fit in with the natural world around us and challenging what it means to be a consumer. The response was fantastic – and quite humbling. I used the presentation as the basis for my last opinion piece at
All in all, the entire day was deemed a success. Engaging the next generation in finding creative solutions to our problems is like sowing a proverbial seed in a garden. If we can nurture these young minds from their earliest beginnings we can hopefully set ourselves up for a more prosperous future.


Alas, I have been quite humbled by the response to my new blog, The New Pursuit. Even after just two months, it’s been amazing connecting with so many new people and sharing insights, ideas and stories on what it means to live deeply each day through the reconnection with life, nature and being. As content is being shared through features on other blogs and use of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, more and more people are subscribing each day to receive free updates.

If you haven’t visited yet, I hope you would take a moment to swing through. You may want to start with some of the posts proving most popular with readers:
The most gratifying thing for me personally is that I’m taking small and tangible steps towards realizing my goal of becoming a full-time writer and speaker. It's challenging me to write the best content of my life. And it’s starting to pay off. It’s more of a journey than an overnight wonder pill, but I hope others can take away the fact that pursuing what you really believe in doesn’t have to be just a New Years Resolution.

With that, I am actively pursuing new opportunities to write and speak on the topic of reconnecting with life, nature and being (what I like to call ‘eco-being’). If you are looking for a speaker for an upcoming event and think this message might resonate with your audience, please email me (at gerlachbill-at-yahoo-dot-com) to explore it further. I am happy to tailor content to create the best fit.

Until next month, be well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Event Notice: Be Green Kids Consignment Sale

Passing along some info I received on this event. Be well.

Be Green Kids Consignments is pleased to announce that their first ever seasonal kids consignment sale will be held this week/end in Middletown, RI. 

A seasonal consignment sale is a place where families can purchase brand-name new and gently-used children items for 50-90% off retail prices.  Items include spring/summer clothes (infant to pre-teen), shoes, toys, books, dvds, baby equipment & gear (strollers, high chairs, exersaucers, activity mats, etc), furniture (cribs, pack-n-plays, changing tables), bedding, bikes/trikes and much, much more.

There are 80 consignors registered to sell their items, and over 6,000 items in the inventory system!  At the conclusion of the event all unsold items will be donated to Child & Family Services of Newport County (at consignor discretion).

WHAT:    Be Green Kids Consignment Sale
WHERE:  Fraternal Order of Police Hall, 464 Mitchells Ln, Middletown, RI (off East Main Road- next to Newport National Golf Club)
WHEN:  Saturday, May 15th  9:00am-6:00pm and Sunday, May 16th 10:00am-1:00pm (*Discount day.  Most items marked 50% off)


Saturday, May 1, 2010

My New Blog Has Launched!

By Bill Gerlach | Follow me on Twitter

It's been a long time coming, but it's finally here. I'm pleased to introduce my new blog: THE NEW PURSUIT.

So what is The New Pursuit you ask?

For me, the title has multiple meanings. Personally, it's a new online journey that I'm taking, looking to connect with a wider range of ideas, people and perspectives. This new blog will allow me a new platform to pursue my dream of becoming a professional writer and speaker.

At its heart though, The New Pursuit speaks to a broader more deeper journey. The popularity of the green movement has or is close to reaching its zenith. This is good as it has opened the door and allowed many people to take their first steps towards stepping lightly. This process must continue.

But for many -- myself included -- who have been diligently doing all those sustainable things for so long I believe there is a yearning for something more. Something that goes beyond just DOING green things. Something that encompasses other elements of living in this world and ties it all together. We must shift from doing to being using Nature as a catalyst and a point of reconnection. 

Writing Sustainable Sakonnet over the past three years has allowed me to explore and share so many things with all of you. I am grateful for all the comments and well wishes you have sent my way. At this point, I'm not sure what will happen with S.S. Perhaps you have a thought about this?

With that, I invite you to check out The New Pursuit. If you like what you read, please consider signing up to receive free updates via RSS or Email. You may even consider sharing it with some friends.

Thank you and be well,