Monday, December 31, 2007

Event Notice: Greening Your Congregation

Going green for God. The RI chapter of Interfaith Power & Light is hosting it's first annual "Greening Your Congregation" conference at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick. Details:

January 10, 2008, 7 pm - 9:30 pm
Bishop Hendricken High School
2615 Warwick Ave, Warwick, RI

According to the organizers, this is the "first interfaith conference on developing a religious community response to Climate Change in Rhode Island." Clergy, lay leaders, parents, educators, business people and other interested individuals are invited to participate. Speaker and workshop details here.

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.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wanted: A Transformed North End

[A belated Merry Christmas to everyone. Things have been busy, hence I've been behind on posts. Here's wishing you a happy, healthy New Year! -- bg]


My brother lives in North Tiverton so I find myself driving through there almost on a weekly basis. I’m sorry, but it’s borderline depressing to see all those vacant buildings yearning for some economic and neighborly activity. What gives?

There’s one stretch in particular that I think could be attractive if given the right investment. Close to the Fall River border, just north of Interstate Insurance on Main Road lies a series of abandoned store fronts. Yes, it absolutely needs some rehab, but the possibilities are exciting if left to the inspired imagination.

There are plenty of examples to draw from: Broadway in Newport, downtown Bristol, Main Street in Warren, all of Wickford, the first two blocks of Westminster Avenue on the west side of Providence. The list could go on. These are places with small mom & pop shops; convenient, walk-able locations; destinations for towns people. Eclectic fare that helps give a community a sense of self and a flavor to be proud of.

When you get down to it, the north side of town could really transform itself into a nice little retail destination that goes beyond the current small-to-mid-size corporate box stores; something to draw out folks from other parts of town. All it would take is one or two new outfits to blaze the trail, create some buzz, and kick-start the momentum. Think of your potential customers: Folks from those high-end condos (that will remain nameless), a large student population, families that descend on the ball fields for either soccer or baseball throughout the year, church-goers, state-line crossers, residents at the eventual Bourne Mill complex, never-mind your everyday residents. The traffic is definitely there.

So what will it take to make all this happen? Better planning/zoning regulations, rehab investment for buildings and sidewalks, more business-friendly allies at Town Hall, a couple of people with good retail ideas and the gusto to give it a shot? What kind of stores do you think would do well? What retail needs could be met with a local business solution? Do we have the best resources to help with small business development in town?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Describe YOUR Sustainable Sakonnet

It’s a cold, blustery, sleet-filled morning. As I look out over the crusty white yard watching the trees sway aggressively back and forth I am finding myself pondering how to grow this effort called Sustainable Sakonnet. I have some ideas, but are they the RIGHT ideas? Will they meet the needs of a community prime with opportunity but short on delivery? Will they meet YOUR needs, the dedicated readers of this blog for whom I am grateful?

If the events of the past week at the United Nations climate conference in Bali have driven home, it’s that it is up to individuals and communities to take the lead in shaping a better future. We cannot wait for others to lead; it is up to us to take up that helm with gusto and determination.

So, what does YOUR Sustainable Sakonnet look and feel like?

What are the needs of our community when it comes to making it a model for sustainability?

If you had a pool of resources available to you to help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle, what would it look like? What activities/resources do you think could help raise awareness with our neighbors and help them take some proactive steps?

Here are a couple things that I’ve been thinking about:

• Developing a comprehensive website that could serve as one-stop-shopping for local information and resources related to all-things sustainable: local food, green building, renewable energy and energy conservation, recycling and waste reduction, green business, etc.

• Launching a dedicated committee (or even non-profit organization) to shepherd and partner with the town and its citizens in areas of environmental sustainability

• Producing a local sustainability video series that could air on Cox local access (and the web)

• Pitching a regular green issues column in some of our local papers

• Creating a speakers series to bring in local experts and organizations to help engage and educate us all

• Creating some kind of dedicated resource for local businesses to learn how to green their operations

• Developing an environmental education curricula to help teach our kids how they can be stewards in both our local and global communities

No idea is too small or too big. All it takes is a little bit of time, effort, and collaboration. You probably have great ideas that I haven’t even thought of. Thanks for chipping in. Together we can do this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sustainable Energy Group to Meet; Thoughts on ALLCO

In an earlier post, we talked about the fantastic kick-off meeting of a new community group focused on creating and driving a new sustainable energy agenda in town.

While we are still in the early formation stage, our second exploratory meeting will be taking place next Monday, December 10, from 7:00 – 8:00 PM at the Tiverton Community Center on Judson Street (off Main Road, past Holy Ghost Church). Our agenda will focus on reviewing the initial scope of the group that we formulated last time and talk about how best to align ourselves with the town for maximum impact. If you’re interested in being a part of this exploratory discussion please join us. Questions? Email me.

While we’re talking about sustainable energy, I can’t help but pass along a few thoughts on the recent news regarding the potential ALLCO project off Little Compton’s coast. I’ve hung back to observe initial reaction from the community and local papers. All-in-all, it’s been mixed.

I admit that I’m biased, but this matter requires a strong and thorough discourse by everyone involved. What makes the stakes even higher is that this project – possibly the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. -- could have the eyes of the nation on it (assuming that Cape Wind does not progress). We have an opportunity to create the model, not only for the rest of Rhode Island’s offshore projects, but nationally as well.

Admittedly, I understand both sides of the table. Cut our dependence on carbon-based fuels or disrupt wildlife? Dig deep to pay for ever-increasing oil prices or “jeopardize” the pristine view (and the real estate prices they command)? Compromise a new sustainable energy-based economic model at the expense of a well-established local sea-based one?

These are difficult questions with no easy answers. A logical place to start could be by benchmarking all the offshore European wind farms. They’ve been operational for some time. What have they learned? How have their lives and environment changed (if at all)? We need to hear directly from those who have gone before us. The lessons they have learned could shine some much-needed light on the discussion. Closer to home, there are well-informed individuals who could carry a big flashlight here. Let's get the right people at the table before we start a round-robin of misinformation.

ALLCO’s website describes its community-based approach to wind farm development. At the surface, this appears to offer some relief from immediate concerns of Mr. Big-Time Developer coming in and tearing up our neighborhood. Hearing from some of the Midwest ranchers they’ve worked with would also be enlightening.

At the end of the day though, we need to do something to change course. I’d hate to position it as picking the lesser of the two evils, because there’s nothing bad about any of this. But as citizens of Sakonnet (and the Earth for that matter), we need to decide on what kind of future we want to have. Think only in the short-term and we are bound miss out and wonder how future generations will think of us. Think long-term and we have a wonderful opportunity to help set a new course and find comfort knowing that future generations will look back with admiration at the courage we had to think and act progressively.