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

Turbine Trifecta Part 2: Tiverton Ups the Ante

Clearly, I need to be tuning into the Cable Access replays of the Tiverton Town Council meetings if I’m to be up on all the sustainability discussions in town…

But regardless, it is extremely pleasing to read that Tiverton is talking the turbine talk. Last week’s Sakonnet Times gives the details around the Council’s recent discussion to put a workshop on the books to explore the possibilities of renewable wind energy projects in town.

As the article explains, Bob Chew, founder and president of Ocean State Wind and Solar Wrights in Bristol shared his optimistic opinion for the potential of wind power in Tiverton, commenting that based on energy usage data provided to him, Tiverton could move it’s schools and municipal buildings significantly towards being off-grid, while generating some income for the town in the form of renewable energy credits (RECs).

These are things we’ve talked about here at Sustainable Sakonnet. An anonymous commenter even suggested the high school as a potential location. To quote just one figure from Mr. Chew -- if the Town can get past the initial sticker shock and think long-term, our school system has the potential to be saving around $126,000 a year in energy costs.

So, it’s imperative that we get as many people as possible to the upcoming town workshop to lend a voice to the discussion and lobby for this bold move. Details:

Town Workshop
Monday, April 30, 2007, 7:00PM
Tiverton Town Hall, Highland Road

Talking the talk will be nothing but hot air blowing in a breeze not captured by a wind turbine if we can’t push this agenda forward. Walk the walk on over to the Town Hall on April 30 and show your support.

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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

Spring is in the air – even though we had a tinge of snow today. One of the best thoughts to cross my mind in spring is signing up for this year’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program with one of our local farmers. What’s a CSA, you ask?

CSAs are an amazing way to make your lifestyle more sustainable. (A CSA history.) Local farmers who offer CSA programs allow people like you and me to purchase a share of the coming year’s harvest at the start of the growing season for a set price. From there, most CSAs provide you with a weekly bounty of fresh (really fresh) fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other wares at a standard pick up location. Most summer CSA programs will last from June through September or even October.

With a CSA, you assume some risk with the farmer (think drought), but it’s a win-win all around: Farmers expand their local markets; consumers support local growers, eat a more local diet, and have the satisfaction of knowing who grew their food and where it came from.

Personally, my family has taken part in two different CSA programs with local organic farms—one in summer, one in winter—and has loved them.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island, a Providence-based non-profit that helps businesses and people connect with local food sources, has a list of local CSAs in our area. The closest three based on a zip code search using 02878 gives you:

Manic Organic in Tiverton (

Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton (no website, but you can email owner, Skip Paul)

Simmons Farm in Middletown (no website, but you can email them)

All three of these farms are certified organic, which is even better. But there are more to choose from. Check out Farm Fresh RI to read profiles of the farms, then reach out to see if there’s still room in their CSA programs.

In a later post, we’ll talk about the local food movement in general. But until then, ponder this stat: When the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically traveled at least 1,500 miles. (Source: 100 Mile Diet)