Showing posts with label environmental education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environmental education. Show all posts

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June Soundbites

BY BILL GERLACH | FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER

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 ecoRI.org (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.

FARMERS MARKETS KICKING OFF

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.


THS ‘ENVIRONMENT DAY’ SOWS SEEDS WITH STUDENTS

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 ecoRI.org.
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.


UPDATE ON THE NEW PURSUIT

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.
Bill

Monday, June 9, 2008

R.I. Sustainable Living Festival


This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion at this year’s R.I. Sustainable Living Festival, hosted by the Apeiron Institute at their Coventry campus. The session was about using the Internet to build real-world communities. Many thanks go out to my fellow panel members:

• Caroline Brown of the Earth Friendly Gardening blog
• Bruce Campbell and Angela Penn of The Ocean Project
• Sue Korte, who runs both The Providential Gardener and the mega-green calendar site, What Grows On in RI
• And to Mary Grady of the Natural News Network for thinking of Sustainable Sakonnet for the panel.

Each of us brought a slightly different perspective on how to leverage the web to engage and enable folks at the local, state, national, and international levels. A key theme was around providing that one-stop-shopping information destination for our respective readers. It was also great to hear how we all keep on keeping on, trying to do more and more with what resources are at our disposal.

The rest of the festival was great too – aside from the blistering heat. Kudos to my wife and kids for sticking it out! You can check out the full vendor list here. Everything from home energy production to recycled products to education and politics.

The Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living is a great resource, especially for students. I know of a teacher at the high school who brings his class there every year to expose them to this incredibly important (and missing) curriculum. It’s fantastic to see that there are alternatives to what might be considered the “normal” way of living – and that our students gravitate towards that kind of knowledge.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Osprey License Plate


Had to pass this opportunity along.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island and Save the Bay have partnered with the state to create this new license plate to help support environmental education efforts. Not a bad price either. Half of the $40 plate fee goes directly to fund programs at both organizations.

Pre-orders are being taken now. Download the order form (which contains more information) here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review: "Reclaiming the Commons"

This is a retrospective review. I've read Brian Donahue's, “Reclaiming the Commons,” three or four times now and it continues to inspire and educate me. It’s one of those few books where I’ve made more notes in the margins than I can shake a stick at. Looks more like a used textbook at this point. But that’s the hook. Last week, it jumped out at me again from my bookshelf.

I picked it up in 2000 while still living in Providence, in-between stints in Tiverton. Looking back, I have to say that this could have been THE book that solidified my belief that turning this crazy world of ours around starts at home in your own community; that food and farming can be those conduits of change; and that I wanted to someday try to replicate this concept in some form.

The book recounts Donahue’s trials and tribulations of creating a vibrant, self-sustaining community farm and forestry business within the 2,000 acres of public land in Weston, MA. The farm, called Land’s Sake, evolved into a true community commons – that focal point of activity that brings together friends and neighbors, old and young alike, together to create a new bond with the land and themselves.

Weston, while slightly smaller than Tiverton in both land area and population, is similar in its geography and agrarian past. Both have classic New England farming heritages steeped in history, succumbing to the challenges of modern suburbia; citizens out of touch of where their food comes from and the value that a local food economy can bring; youth disenchanted with the wonders of an outdoor classroom and that thing called work ethic.

From market farming to animal husbandry to cut flowers; from community forestry to maple syrup production to apple cider pressing, Land’s Sake has taken the natural resources of Weston and transformed them into a successful community-based business model. What makes Land’s Sake a wonderful model for what a community farm could be is its fortitude in ensuring all of its various enterprises adhere to the four basic principles of the ecological, economical, educational, and esthetic.

They farm organically and practice sustainable forestry; their enterprises are self-sustaining and profitable; they include kids at all levels of the operation ensure a new generation of well-educated land and local food advocates; their work beautifies the land and welcomes the public to it as a respite from their hectic lives.

What I love the most about the Land’s Sake model is that they have forgone the potential for a more efficient operation for the opportunity to involve kids and integrate an environmental education component into their operation. From summer jobs to school-time fieldtrips, kids are working the land while expanding their minds. What a win-win.

Bottom line: As a resident of the Sakonnet area, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Then sit back and imagine reclaiming our own commons. Building that new focal point for our community that connects the past with the present while ensuring a sustainable future. We could do this. All we need is the land and the vision to make it a reality. It’s the total package: Land conservation, local economic and food security development, and inter-generational engagement.

(Note: Tiverton’s library doesn’t carry this book, but you can order it through the online Ocean State Libraries system.)

Have you read this book? Have you ever envisioned a new “commons” here in Sakonnet? Please take a moment to share your thoughts.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is Recycling That Hard?

Friday is trash day in my neck of the woods. So each Thursday night, I, like all of my neighbors, go through that time-honored tradition of dragging barrels out to the curb. In our case, it's more accurate to say barrel (single). For a family of four, I take a little pride in putting out one barrel's worth of trash. After filling up our green and blue recycling bins (with proper sorting of materials, of course) and dumping all our organics and food scraps in the compost pile, we're only generating one or two bags of trash each week. Not bad considering the average American throws away 4.5 pounds of trash a day.

What I'm still amazed at though is how many households just have a barrel at the curb. No green or blue recycling bins to brighten up the scene. So my question is: Why are people not recycling? Is it sheer ignorance? Laziness? A combination of both, or something else altogether?

When I was part of Tiverton's Recycling Committee a few years back we struggled with that same question. Granted, I’ll say that at the surface you do see more bins out there with each passing year, but we can do – and need to do – better. According to the EPA, only 32% of America’s waste is recycled.

Really, it comes down to changing behavior. Of course, that's easier said then done. Whether you're trying to eat healthier, start exercising, or throwing your soda bottles in a blue bin instead of the trash, the premise is all the same. I think the key to all of this is to start early and have good role models.

The logical place to start is at our schools. That requires that recycling (paper, plastic, aluminum at a minimum) be mandatory. End of story. From a business point of view, it makes good economic sense to recycle and reduce your waste hauling costs. (The Tiverton School Committee can't even figure out Contracting 101, so improving recycling is not even hitting their radar.) But once that problem is taken care of, we should start in kindergarten and teach our kids the why's and how's of it all. Put a bin in each classroom. Give them gold stars for tossing their stuff away correctly. Reward the behavior and it becomes second nature. We all want to receive praise and accolades.

You know what happens next? Domino effect. Kids go home and give their parent(s) guilt trips, wear at them in that way that kids do until the breaking point. Before long, that household has bins at the curb on trash day. Or maybe they are recycling more. At the end of the day, we have our next generation being part of the solution instead of the problem.

So, I ask you: Why is recycling that hard?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tube for Tuesday: Greening Our Schools (Part 2)

On the heels of an earlier post, I came across this amazing video showcasing a new green school in Washington, D.C. The Sidwell Friends School built a new middle school that achieved a Platinum LEED Certification rating (the highest). But beyond the building and grounds, what makes Sidwell stand out is its students and how they have embraced an academic curricula that has environmental stewardship as one of its four cornerstones.



You can learn more about the Sidwell Friends School and their green middle school here.

Let's face it. Our kids are smart, aware, and eager to make their mark. They are going to have to inherit the mess the rest of us are making. Why not prepare them well for this challenge and channel their energy and enthusiasm in the right direction.

Are you a teacher or parent who feels the same way? Drop me a line -- I'd like to see what we can do to make a change in our schools.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Greening Our Schools

I have the pleasure of serving as a mentor to one of our high school seniors this year. She is a bright, articulate student who clearly has a lot of drive and initiative behind her. As part of this program, she has to produce a “product” as the culmination of her experience. Her focus? The environment, of course.

In thinking through possible projects for her to take on, we talked about trying to calculate the high school's environmental footprint – basically, the total negative impact the school has on the environment – then implementing some initiative to lessen that. During our conversation I learned that the high school just isn't getting it done even with the little it tries to do to be “green”. Granted, I can't confirm this, but paper recycling (the only recycling they do) is being called into question because it is thought that the janitors simply threw it all in the trash at the end of the day.

In researching this project idea further, I came upon this article at Green Options about calculating your school’s carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide emissions it generates). Great timing! But it got me thinking bigger, way beyond the high school, and how the town should be leading by example here.

Greening our schools would have positive impacts at many levels: From financial, to the health of our students and teachers, to the trickle-down effect that an environmental education curricula could have on all these kids' families and their lifestyles.

We can't do anything about it now, but the town missed the boat with the new Ranger Elementary School. This building should have been designed to be LEED Certified from the get-go. But it is possible to LEED certify an existing building through the remodel process (my employer did it with our building). What are the odds that the rest of our elementary schools will be updated to such a high standard of performance? You don't have to look far for resources on how to make this happen.

Beyond the structure itself, we should be looking at how much energy these all our school buildings are consuming. I'm certain that schools comprise the biggest slice of the pie when it comes to yearly energy costs. Again, some proactive steps could make huge strides in helping to curb the school budget. Just look at what Portsmouth is trying to do with placing new wind turbines at several school locations. Granted, not all our schools will have favorable wind conditions, but they could be taking other steps: Updating heating/cooling systems and insulation, using all CFL light bulbs, heck, even trying to install a solar array or two as part of a science project.

Then there's recycling. Why only paper? Plastic and aluminum should be recycled too. Doesn’t the town know that they once our landfill is maxed and we have to pay to have our trash hauled and dumped at the Central Landfill, that the more we recycle the less our tipping fees will be. Start now and make recycling part of the normal day-to-day routine. It makes me wonder what they are doing with their electronic waste, not to mention the hazardous waste like paints, cleaners, etc. And how about composting all the food waste coming out of the kitchens? (That compost could be used in the school gardens, of course.)

Alas, the list could go on. You get the point. As citizens of this community, we should be raising our voice on this issue. Some proactive steps now can have positive impacts for years to come. Do it for the kids, do it for the positive financial return, do it for the earth… just do it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Help Promote Recycling

Here’s a great step for recycling in Tiverton:

The Tiverton Recycling Committee has partnered with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation to create a new sponsor-a-public-recycling-bin program to help improve recycling rates at some our town recreation areas.

Anyone who has spent time at one of our town’s youth sports events knows how much trash is left over after a game -- and how much of that waste is in the form of recyclable cans and bottles. That’s ground zero for the new effort. I think it’s a great partnership between the leagues and the town to help make a difference.

According to the press release, the new CycleMax program runs like this: For a $65 sponsorship (or 5 units for $300), you help the Recycling Committee put a ClearStream(R) CycleMax container (picture from manufacturer) at one of our local recreational areas. This bin is printed with your sponsorship information and monitored by the appropriate youth sports league (e.g., Little League), who transports the recyclables to the Town Farm facility after am event.

It seems the program works. The press release states that CycleMax containers are in use by over 1,500 communities nationwide. The clear nature of the bin helps ensure the public uses it only for recyclable materials (fingers crossed). They are sanitary and portable, making them even easier to use.

This is a great move. Kudos to Steve Rys and the Tiverton Recycling Committee for making it happen. For small businesses in town looking for a worthwhile -- and different -- kind of sponsorship opportunity, this is a win-win.

The Committee needs commitment for at least five sponsorships before the bins can be purchased. If you’re interested, send an email to Cheri Olf at recycling@tiverton.ri.gov.

Come on. They only need five. Sustainable Sakonnet is going to chip in for one. Can four other readers of this blog commit to the same?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hitting the Ground Running

Well, I hope everyone’s Earth Day was enjoyable and green. So now what?

Roman calendar year aside, I think Sunday has ushered in a new time for us here in Sakonnet: the Year of the Earth. Momentum is gaining both locally and globally. Things will start to happen this year; things that will see our community begin its transformation into one that’s more sustainable, prosperous, and inspiring.

We’re going to take this one week at a time, one positive action at a time. It’s the sum of all our individual efforts that will add up to make the difference we all wish to see. Again, I’m inspired by Ghandi’s words, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Let’s hit the ground running. Here are some things we can all do in the coming week to start off on the right foot:

Change a Light Bulb (or three). We’ve heard the facts. So what are you waiting for? This simple action benefits your wallet and the earth. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) use a quarter of the energy than traditional light bulbs and last up to ten times as long. And with retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot making it easier than ever to purchase them, the time is right see your own bright idea come to light. (NOTE: This is not an endorsement for Wal-mart in the least; I still think they have nearly single-handedly wiped out a generation of mom & pop stores. I welcome the small overture to green their image though.)

Switch to Renewable Energy. You can choose where your power comes from. With New England Green Start(TM) from People’s Power & Light, you can help support clean, renewable energy in Rhode Island, while making a difference in your own home. Why support coal, when you can support green?

Learn About Global Warming. Come see a FREE showing of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” on Thursday, April 26, 7:00, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Tiverton. Brown University’s Professor Steven Hamburg will lead a Q&A session afterward. Free raffle for a cool sustainability door prize. Event notice.

Support Wind Power in Tiverton. Come to the Town Workshop on Monday, April 30, at 7:00 at Town Hall (Highland Avenue) and lend your voice to the discussion. The Town Council will discuss possible wind turbine projects in town. This is where the rubber meets the road. Be there and show your support.

Sign Up for a CSA. Eat healthy and support local food all in one bite. Local farmers are our lifeline to the land. Read the post.

Here’s to the Year of the Earth. As always, your comments, suggestions, stories, and ideas are always welcome. Dialogs are always better than monologues.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Earth Day Week: Beyond One Day a Year

Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22. It comes every year. In fact, this is the 37th year that an official holiday will be celebrated across our planet. Over the last few years, we’ve seen “green” collide with “mainstream” as tree-hugger-like awareness has given way to an almost hip coolness about doing good for our Earth. While that’s good, there is still an air of shallowness to it all. It is not engrained in our everyday; not a modus operandi, but rather a trend du jour for many of our populous.

Award-winning New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, hits the nail on the head (yet again) on this subject with his article from Sunday’s NY Times Magazine article, "The Power of Green". (Full disclosure, I’m a big Thomas Friedman fan.) In a nutshell, Friedman – who is also using this article, I imagine, as a precursor to his Discovery Channel series -- argues that while green has gone "Main Street", the USA still has a way to go if we’re to meet the challenge of global warming. Yet, this challenge is a huge opportunity for our country to once again prove its leadership in the global marketplace and community.

So what does all this mean for our Sakonnet Community? How are we to demonstrate our local leadership to become, as Friedman puts it, "The Greenest Generation"?

We all have a roll to play. As a community we are the sum of its parts – that is each and every citizen, business, and institution. We have an obligation to leave future generations with something better.

Let’s inspire one another. Let’s help each other figure out how to do ONE thing differently that will help our ourselves, our families, and our communities live more sustainably. But let it not start and stop with Earth Day. Let it be something that becomes part of our daily routine, something that IS engrained within us.

What are you doing this Earth Day? What do you want to share with your neighbors? What do you want to pass on to your kids?

If you had to make one change this year to live more sustainably, what would it be? Replace a few incandescent light bulbs with CFLs? Plant a garden or participate in a CSA? Sign up with a renewable energy source program? Buy carbon credits? Commit to supporting local businesses? Ride your bike to the local store?

Post a comment. Send me an email and I’ll get the stories out.

I’d like to put the challenge out there of creating a new local community event for Earth Day 2008. Something to bring our communities together, learn, and walk away with a new inspiration for being part of the solution. Does anyone want to join the cause?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Event Notice: "An Inconvenient Truth"

Celebrate Earth Day 2007 with a FREE screening of Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary about global warming, climate change, and the moral imperative facing humanity. Question and answer session to follow. Open to everyone in the community. All viewpoints welcome.

Special Guest Speaker: Steven Hamburg, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology, Center for
Environmental Studies, Brown University. Professor Hamburg is featured in this month's Brown Alumni Magazine.

This event is co-sponsored by The Adult Spiritual Formation Program, Holy Trinity Church, and your friendly neighborhood blog, Sustainable Sakonnet. Many thanks to our friends at Holy Trinity for the opportunity to co-sponsor and promote the blog!

Event Details:
"An Inconvenient Truth"
Thursday, April 26, 2007, 7:00PM
Upper Parish Hall, Holy Trinity Church
1956 Main Road, Tiverton

Email me for more information.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gearing Up for Earth Day 2007

Mark your calendars. Earth Day 2007 will be celebrated on Sunday, April 22. Just about 30 days away. Now what?

Well, for starters, Sustainable Sakonnet will be having a special series of blog postings during the week leading up to April 22. We’ll focus on a handful of topics that are informative, actionable, and inspirational.

I’d like to also post any kind of events happening around the community so that we can all share in them. From clean-ups to school projects to tree plantings to recycling, let’s get the word out. Feel free to send an email me at sustainablesakonnet@yahoo.com and I’ll put it together.

I’ve always envisioned a larger community event centered around Earth Day. An opportunity for everyone to come together, have some fun, and learn about how they can make a difference in their everyday lives. Good examples of this type of event include the Tiverton Land Trust’s annual “Country Day at Pardon Gray” and Norman Bird Sanctuary’s annual fall harvest event. That is definitely something to work towards.

In the meantime, here are some resources to help you prepare to celebrate Earth Day:

Earth Day Network. National organization that helps promote and organize around Earth Day. Search for local events by state. (Nothing so far in our neck of the woods.)

U.S. EPA’s Earth Day Site. This does not constitute an endorsement of the present administration in the least, but it does get an “A” for effort. The RI DEM has nothing listed, which is a shame.

Earth 911 Kids’ Earth Day Site. Recycling resource Earth 911 presents a robust site for kids, parents, and teachers from elementary through high school.

Until next time, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Connecting Farms, Food, and Kids

Well, we’ve had two 50-degree days in a row and I’m thinking spring. And that makes me think of kick-starting the garden and compost piles. We’ll save composting for a later post. For now, let’s talk about growing food and what we do with that food here in the Sakonnet area.

When I think local food, I think local farmers. We have a lot of them. From community supported agriculture (CSA) programs to local farm stands, we’re blessed with bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for a good chunk of the year. Local farmers are our link to the land, our link to a time when they were literally a lifeline for the communities they farmed in. While that is still true to an extent, local farmers continue to face tough challenges in an ever-more competitive and price sensitive marketplace.

Now, let’s talk about another issue: School lunch programs and their connection to the health of our kids. This topic has been all over the news of late and for good reason. While lunch programs are regulated for content, there’s only so much that you can provide for a certain price point. Look at the Sakonnet Times every week for the school lunch listing. Pizza, hot dogs (foot long, no less), etc. We can do better.

Let’s create a farm-to-school program. This is a national trend whereby local farmers are finding new markets with local schools to provide them with fresh produce for use by their lunch programs. It’s a win-win all around: Farmers grow their markets; our kids get nutritious, wholesome food that sure beats pizza and hot dogs. Kids are learning about where there food comes from, better nutrition, and creating life-long eating habits that put them on the path to health and wellness.

Check out the new report from the National Farm to School Program entitled ”Going Local: Paths to Success for Farm to School Programs”. It’s a wonderful and inspiring read, showcasing examples of successful programs from across the county.

According the Farm to School website, there are no municipal level farm-to-school programs in Rhode Island. Why shouldn’t we be the first and set the bar for the rest of the state? We have farms, we have schools; all we need is the desire for something better.

Are you a parent? An educator? A municipal official? A farmer? Please post a comment or email me if you’re interested in exploring this further. We can make this happen. This could be sustainability in action.

Need some more inspiration? Check out what Alice Waters is doing in California at The Edible Schoolyard; or closer to home in Connecticut with Chef Timothy Cipriano’s effort called Local Food Dude.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's Your Idea?

Let’s start this conversation off on the right foot. Demographically speaking, the communities of Tiverton and Little Compton make up a decent sized footprint in this state. Consider this equation:

50.3 square miles of land + 18,853 residents + 7,552 households = The Potential for Many Good Ideas

So what’s that green idea you’ve been mulling around with for a while? Want to share and get some feedback? If you haven’t thought about it of late, here are a few to jumpstart your juices:

• Outfitting public buildings with renewable energy and energy conservation devices (Inspiration: Check out the headquarters of Rhode Island’s own Peoples Power & Light at www.17gordonavenue.com)

• Connecting our local farms with local schools to develop new curricula, appreciation for local food, and maybe even a more healthy school lunch program (Inspiration: Check out what local food advocate Alice Waters has created in Berkeley, CA, at www.edibleschoolyard.org)

• Creating a new public education forum to connect citizens and learn about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle (Inspiration: Check out the breadth of events being sponsored just across the border in Newton, MA, at www.greendecade.org/events.html)

• Supporting local business with our own municipal currency. (Inspiration: Forget Monopoly money, the real thing is happening in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts. Check out www.berkshares.org)

So ask your friends, ask your children, ask your neighbor. Then post a comment or email it to sustainablesakonnet@yahoo.com. We’ll share the results and see where it leads us.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Welcome to Sustainable Sakonnet

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

And with those words of Mahatma Gandhi, Sustainable Sakonnet is born.

Why? Well in a nutshell, it’s time. Time to stop thinking about doing something about the problem and griping about the lack of progress and start taking action. “Think global, act local” is cliché, but it’s at the heart of how we as a community of concerned citizens will shape the future of our efforts here in the Sakonnet area. Think of it as the release of Sakonnet 2.0.

If you’re reading this, you have taken the first step. Maybe you know all about environmental sustainability, maybe you’re interested in learning more about how to do your part. Maybe you’re of the same inclination as myself and want to do something to help. To all, welcome. It’s my hope that this blog can all be the first step for our community as we journey towards lessening our impact on this corner of the world; that we can create a new community-based dialogue and bring people together to learn, inspire, and most importantly, act.

The seeds are being sown: Organic farms and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, a wind turbine (across the river, but it still counts), newly evolved town planning strategies, land trusts, and renewed recycling efforts. Then there are individual efforts such as those to improve recreation and transportation with a new bike path; to bring together the worlds of art and recycling in our schools; plant tress and gardens; and build greener buildings. And kudos to those small businesses that are doing their part too to keep things local and create an ever-expanding local economy.

The time has come to connect these seeds of sustainability and cultivate even more. While the greater challenge of global sustainability seems daunting, it’s all about what simple steps we as individuals take here at home that creates a change for the better. So here’s what we’ll do on Sustainable Sakonnet:

• Talk about town activities regarding sustainability and what we can do to shape them
• Highlight other communities being successful and inspire new ideas in our own
• Give practical and simple advice for how each and every one of us can do a little bit to help
• Create an ongoing dialogue between all of us, foster new networking opportunities, and bring like-minded people together

I’m inspired by those words of Gandhi. I hope you are too. Here’s to a greener future for ourselves and generations to come.