Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farewell Buzzards Bay Beer

With news that Buzzards Bay Brewing Company was stopping production of its signature brews, I wanted to pass along my thanks for what has been an amazing local product. These beers have graced our refrigerator shelves for a long time (the Black Lager is my favorite!) and it will be sad to see them go.

According to the story, BBB will take on brewing some new labels, both their own and some contracted third-party ones. That said, it's good to see this local business -- one that aims to have a carbon negative footprint -- continue amid challenging times.

Now, I need to get down to Westport and see about picking up a few of those last remaining cases...

Green Baby: Homemade Baby Food

Now that Bodhi has made the move to his first solids, we're taking advantage of all the fresh fruits and veggies growing in and around our garden and the Sakonnet area.

So far, Sara has cooked up peaches, apples, carrots, and squash. This stuff is so good, I'd honestly sneak a few of the containers in my bag for lunch -- but alas, I won't steal from the mouth of this babe.

For us, making our own baby food makes sense on so many fronts:
  • Nutritional -- You make it so you know what's in it. Real simple. And since we're freezing everything in either these cool little Baby Cubes or ice cube trays, there's no need for preservatives.

  • Financial -- Store-bought organic baby food jars are in the $0.60 - $0.70 range according to PeaPod. Since we're getting most of this stuff for free (courtesy of the Gerlach Garden or Sara's mom), our "raw materials" cost is near zero. With Bodhi eating about two container's worth of solids a day, we're saving over a dollar a day. It doesn't sound like much, but add it up by month and you can see the impact.

  • Environmental -- Way fewer food miles traveled here. Less CO2, organic growing, seasonal eating (for now) -- it's a win-win.

  • Developmental -- In terms of developing Bodhi's palette, he's getting real, fresh food. You know THAT difference between fresh and not-so-fresh. He's getting it from the get-go. We think that will give him a step up when it comes to developing good eating habits.
So for now, we're happy with how things are progressing. The challenge will come as summer gives way to fall, and fall to winter. We'll try to freeze as much as we can over the coming weeks to see how long we can keep the fresh, local options going.

Looking ahead to when we can expand his palette beyond just the basics, Sara has taken a few baby food recipe books out of the library to read through. I can't wait to see what she cooks up.

(Photo Credit: Carrot Cube, Sara Gerlach)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Bin, No Barrel; eWaste Festival

I would be remiss if I didn't add two cents to the recent announcement* that Tiverton is taking a more aggressive step to help extend the life of the landfill and boost recycling rates. One word: Finally!

When I was on the town Recycling Committee back in 2004-2005 we discussed this but could not move it forward. If memory serves (and it's foggy), there was always the technical "rule" in place that stipulated that the waste hauler was not to pick up the trash barrel if they saw recyclable materials in it (read: no bins used). But no one could figure out a way to enforce it; nor did officials want to deal with the barrage of citizen complaints that could result by leaving barrels full at the curbside. But now, as the landfill begins to show more signs of brimming, the town is clearly changing their tune.

This is a step in the right direction, but we need two things in order to succeed: education and enforcement.

If the town was on their toes, they would seize this opportunity to partner with Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation on a public education campaign. There are still a lot of people out there who don't use bin; maybe it's ignorance, maybe it's a lack of know-how. Regardless, the time is right for a bit of a refresher course. What goes in the bin, what doesn't; other recycling resources like Eco-Depot for household hazardous waste; etc.

And by all means, the town needs to enforce the rule they are putting in place, no matter how many "complaints" come in. Stick to your guns on this one. Because if this doesn't work, I'm quite sure a Pay As You Throw program is lingering in the wings.

(*I'd link you to the announcement, but I couldn't find anything on the town website to show you. [Why?] And a quick glance at the Sakonnet Times site shows only one letter to the editor. I would have thought there would be more reaction to this. Maybe the times, they are a changing.)

On a related note, I came across this event happening this Saturday in West Warwick. The eWaste Festival aims to be the first of its kind in the country, trying to save the planet from all that electronics waste while having a bit of fun in the process.

Suggestion for 2010 (if it's still around): Multiple locations. I can't image folks from this side of the state are going to venture out to the hinterlands of West Warwick.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Arts: A Unifying Force

A sustainable community is one that goes beyond the bounds of just being sensitive to the environment. Local economic development, a high-yielding agricultural base, strong schools, long-term municipal planning, the list goes on. Throw one more in the mix: a thriving and inclusive arts scene.

This morning, I was interviewed by a consultant working with the Sakonnet Arts Network on the development of their long-term organizational and program strategy. The consultant, Jim, was talking with folks around town to gauge their opinions on the community, their need for and use of local arts programming, and how the Sakonnet Arts Network could be a partner in promoting and solidifying a strong arts “backbone”.

It was a great conversation and I walked away thinking about those elements of the human experience that have the ability to rise above those things that tend to (unfortunately) define us and place us into certain boxes: Status, title, zip code, emblem on your car, etc. The arts – whether they be visual or performing – are one of those elements that brings people together and levels the playing field.

That led me to think about how that ability to rise above shallow definitions is just the thing that a truly sustainable community needs. A vibrant arts program helps bring color, shape, sound, and voice to our neighborhoods, our schools, and various other meeting places around town. It unifies rather than separates; it slows us down just long enough to take in the best in human self-expression and creativity; it gives external form to the formless inner experience.

I hope that those at the Sakonnet Arts Network are able to capitalize on all the input being gathered from around town and realize their goals.

(P.S., Maybe one of our vacant elementary schools could even be transformed into a new home base for them! It would be a shame to lose those buildings and locations to yet another trivial real estate development.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Makes Sense to Me

Yet another reason to love Tom Friedman at the N.Y. Times.

As my friend, Jamie, aptly asks after reading this, "Why doesn't anyone listen to what this guy has to say?"

This, on the heels of the new report from MIT's Sloan School and The Boston Consulting Group making the case (again) that sustainable business practices are a need-to-have not nice-to-have for today's leading companies.

All of it just makes absolute sense to me. What do you think?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hello? Anyone at Freecycle Tiverton/Little Compton?

Over the past few weeks we've been in the mood to clear house. The semi-annual sweep through just about everything that results in a decent amount of give-aways. Even though we are not extravagant when it comes to buying superfluous "crap", you just need to thin things out, especially when it comes to the kids' stuff. This time around though, we had more than just the clothes and toys to give away. Instead of tossing it in the trash or putting it at the end of our driveway with a "FREE" sign, I wanted to find another avenue for passing it on.

I've always been a big fan of freecycling (hence the stuff at the end of my driveway), but I was curious if there was a more organized option. Our friends in Cape Elizabeth, Maine have an amazing "Swap Shop" at their municipal transfer station where folks can drop off stuff for others to rummage through. It's well organized, clean, and I usually pick up a thing or two when we're up for a visit.

So I searched out "freecycling" and came upon Once there I searched by city/state and lo' and behold, there was a Freecycle Tiverton/Little Compton Group. Awesome! I created an account and requested to be added to the group (you have to be "approved" for the group before you can post items you're looking to acquire or get rid of).

That was nearly a week and a half ago. I received an email with a list of dos and don'ts for the group (auto-sent, but the attached document was from the group administrator, Nicole). But I'm still waiting to be "approved".

This could be an awesome resource for folks. It's frustrating that it has to be such a cumbersome process to get up and running.

So, Nicole, if you're out there, please, please approve my account ASAP!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lend Your Voice to the New Library -- September 23

This is a fantastic opportunity to help be part of the design process for our new library. Come get an update on the project and participate in breakout sessions with other neighbors on key elements of the new library's design and program development.

Click on the image to see the details. Map to Tiverton Middle School.