Sunday, November 29, 2009

Old Buildings. New Lives.

Tomorrow night, the Tiverton Town Council will be holding a special workshop to discuss future plans for the old Nonquit and Ranger schools. The meeting, which starts at 7:00 at Town Hall (Highland Road), is open to all.

Now, I don't know the details of what it costs to maintain/operate these buildings, but it would be a shame to lose them to a knee-jerk decision that only sees the short-term gain and not the long-term value to the community.

In a previous post I've mentioned that Nonquit would make a wonderful home for a community arts center. As for the old Ranger (where I went to elementary school), perhaps it could recycle itself into a new, bigger, and better town hall? With all the development happening in the Bliss Four Corners area (library, recreation center, etc.), relocating Town Hall to this neck of the woods could go a long way in redefining this (sort of) center of town.

The bottom line: With all the history and character that these buildings exude, to lose them for the wrong reasons would be a shame. Please lend you support. Can't make it to the meeting? Drop a note to Town Clerk, Nancy Mello ahead of the session at

[Images Source: Town of Tiverton website]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

From our family to yours: Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving! Be well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Green Building Boost from New State Law

Good news for green building coming out of the State House. According to the press release:
The Green Buildings Act (2009-S 0232B), passed by the General Assembly in October and signed into law by Governor Carcieri this week, requires that all new major public facility projects and major building renovations in Rhode Island, including schools, be designed and constructed in conformance with high performance green building standards.

The new law applies to new construction of more than 5,000 square feet and renovation of spaces greater than 10,000 square feet if such projects receive any funding from the state. The law takes effect immediately but will apply only to buildings entering the design phase after Jan. 1, 2010.

Under the law, building design must conform to the internationally recognized United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system or an equivalent high-performance green building standard, including the Northeast Collaborative for High-Performance Schools Protocol.
What makes this legislation even better is that it was written by our own State Senator Louis DiPalma (District 12 // Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton). Thank you, Senator DiPalma!

Naysayers aside, this is a bold move that is long overdue. It focuses on the long-term, not the knee-jerk short-term. Analysis of green building ROI (return on investment) has shown that the impact on upfront building costs continues to be minimal if integrated at the start of a project. The small volume of municipal green building projects is probably due more to a lack of fact-based knowledge about the how-to's and ROI than a blatant aversion to project costs. With the launch of the Rhode Island chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, this information void should begin to shrink.

This legislation is timely for another reason: Our own efforts to build a new library in Tiverton are focused on providing the most long-term value for the town through the integration of energy-efficient and other green building elements into the design. It's not just about the lowest bid anymore. It's about responsibility -- to the community, to the environment, AND to the bottom line. Green building achieves all three.

Two final comments: Too bad we didn't have this legislation when our elementary schools were going through the re-hab process; AND when will this type of legislation make its way down to the residential level through zoning and building codes?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let Thy Laundry Fly

"If my husband has a right to have guns in the house, I have a right to hang laundry."

So says Carin Froehlich of Perkasie, Pennsylvania, the focal point of this article about the growing tensions between folks who want to save a dime with line-dried laundry and communities who are not so hot-to-trot about seeing their neighbors garb flapping in the breeze.

Give me a break. Can the powers that be find something else much more worthwhile to spend their time on?

We've been line drying for over a year now and I just LOVE it. Call me crazy, but I look forward to getting out there for a few minutes -- often by myself -- and just putting up the wet stuff piece by piece. It's almost meditative for me, especially early in the morning when the sun is just starting to peek through the trees and the bird songs are being carried on the tip of that slight breeze blowing by.

But beyond the psychological benefit (for me anyway), line drying does save money. No doubt about it. Less carbon in the air, more cash in your pocket. Works for me.

Project Laundry List, a non-profit promoting line drying and line drying rights, is quoted in the article with the statement that up to six percent of a home's annual energy usage is tied to the clothes dryer. If your monthly National Grid bill averages about $100, that six percent works out to $72 per year. I can sure find something else to spend that on. I bet you can too.

Here's to exercising our collective "right to hang"!

[Photo Credit: Sallster via Flikr]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Farmers Market This Weekend

Great news! A special Thanksgiving Holiday session of the Sakonnet Growers Market will be held this Saturday from 10:00AM - 2:00PM at Pardon Gray Preserve, Main Road, Tiverton.

I'm not sure of the farmers/producers that will be on hand, but it's safe to say there will be lots of great things to pick up. This might be one of the last times to help support our local farmers this season. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

October Poll Results; November Poll Gives Food for Thought

So much for being timely with the polls! Nevertheless, our October poll asked about interest in connecting with like-minded folks from around town to get your green on. The majority of you (78%) said yes with the rest voting in with a maybe. So now what?

I have a couple ideas and wondering what you're thoughts might be. We could:
  • Create a new online community using a tool like Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups. Folks could create new discussion threads on topics that interest them (home-scale renewable energy projects, gardening, local food, kids & the environment, homesteading skills, etc.); maintain a new community calendar of events; etc
  • Meet face-to-face on a regular basis in a relaxed, loosely organized way. Maybe it's a green film series with discussions, or maybe even more of a meet and network approach a la the Green Drinks model (Providence, Newport).

  • Any other idea you might want to throw out there. I welcome your feedback!
Now, onto November's poll:

Coming off of our Local Food Weekend (see previous post), I'm really interested in how feasible eating a totally locally grown/produced diet could be here in Sakonnet. Have you thought about it? Tempted to start out with just a totally-local meal (Thanksgiving is coming up!)? Or maybe try it for a week? Or a month? Granted, fall/winter might not be the most appealing time of year, but as the Wintertime Farmers' Market shows, there is still plenty of fresh, local, seasonal food out there.

To help with this idea of fostering a more widespread approach to eating local and in season, I'm starting work on something that I hope you might find of interest -- a comprehensive list/guide of as much locally grown and produce items as I can find. Basically, what's out there and where you can get it. Tapping into resources such as Farm Fresh RI, Edible Rhody, local grocery stores and the like should make for a good guide.

Knowing my schedule, it's going to take some time to pull together, but I'm hopeful it will be worth it. If you have a favorite local food product, feel free to comment on this post or drop me a line. Thanks!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Local Food Weekend!

What a great weekend! Fantastic weather, lots of catching up with old friends, and everything seemed to be connected by local food.

On Saturday we headed to Pawtucket for the first weekend of the Wintertime Farmers' Market. What an amazing space. Located in the south end of the Hope Artiste Village, this indoor market was buzzing with activity. From veggies to meats and seafood to cheeses to jams and just about everything in-between. We scored some lunch from the Hewtin's Dogs cart, washed it down with some very tasty local soda courtesy of Yacht Club Bottling, and then hit the market.

Walking along, surrounded by over thirty different producers just brings the importance of supporting and growing the local food scene home for me. It is community nirvana. While we were there, our friends Eric and Jenna introduced us to one of their friends, Steve Hancock of NorthStar Farm in Westport. Steve had a booth at the market where he was selling some amazing greens and radish (amongst other things). Actually, the Sakonnet area was well represented at the market with a number of farmers/producers setting up shop. 

Then, as if Saturday wasn't great, on Sunday night, Sara and I sat down to watch Food, Inc. We had this documentary in our Netflix queue for some time and it finally was released this week. Over the course of an hour and a half we were floored, astonished, mortified, and motivated. You MUST see this film; then tell all your friends to watch it. Honestly, you will never look at "food" and your grocery store the same way again.

If you're not into documentaries, no worries. The film is extremely well produced with a story line that hooks you from the first minute. We finished the movie recommitting ourselves to work even harder to ensure that as much of our food as possible is locally grown and in season. I'm sure you will too.

Seeing Food, Inc. is really driving home the notion of trying to assemble a comprehensive local food resource guide. Maybe you call it the "100-Mile Diet". Maybe you just call it smart eating. Whatever you call it, we really need to try and do all we can to foster our local food systems: Conserving farmland, bolstering farm education and training programs, enabling local market development, and then leveraging that market to change our eating behaviors for the better. We can do it. We have to do it.