Friday, August 12, 2011

Forever Green...

Conservation is nothing new for Vermonters.

Image: D.A. DeMers.
When I left the importing business some years ago and moved to Philadelphia, I sought out a job as a custom furniture designer for a small Vermont-based solid wood furniture maker with a showroom in Manayunk. It was a true green company, and always had been since its beginning nearly 40 years ago - something they might not have even thought about at the time. 

I've since moved into more direct green job roles in weatherization and green-building fields. But during that career phase, it was a significant change. A good change. Granted, the income and perks of working for a major player in the design world were gone. But here was the uptick - instead of traveling across the globe eight times a year to a dirty industrial sector to inspect mass-market items destined for the landfill a few years after purchase, I took train rides up to a little mill in bucolic Vermont to review beautifully handcrafted yet affordable items made from Forest Stewardship Council wood sources and built to last a lifetime. I had reduced my carbon footprint from the size of Sasquatch to that of an ant. I had turned over a new green leaf, if you will.

The possibility for major societal change regarding spending choices, support for American products, local economies, healthy buildings, and a continued path toward sustainability, is not unrealistic. Only a few years ago people would say bunk if told a home would essentially be worth little more than the brick and mortar with which it was built. In a world of uncertainties comes opportunities for change - opportunities to rebuild the American dream. Thus, take a peek at this recent article from Danielle Sacks at Fast Company on the growing concept of micro investment in local communities, which, by no coincidence, uses a small town in Vermont as the base example: 

Locavesting: Investing in Main Street Instead of Wall Street.  Via Fast Company.

What if you didn't send your money to a faceless investment bank, but instead gave it to a local business? We spoke to author Amy Cortese about local investing, where people keep their capital within 50 miles of where they live.
Seal of Vermount. Wikipedia.
"The crazy thing is it’s easier for most people to invest in a company halfway across the world than in their own backyard," says Amy Cortese, author of the recently published Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It. 
Cortese, a former BusinessWeek editor, got her first glimpse of the revolution in 2009, as she witnessed communities swallowed up by the hangover of the economic collapse. "Wall Street rebounded, bonuses were back, everything was looking up, but it was so starkly different on the ground, on Main Street." 

Cortese spent the next year on a journey to uncover the most innovative experiments in citizen finance around the world, from local stock exchanges to cooperatives and DIY IPOs.   Read More...

On a similar note, Jeffrey Levy's post the other day at the EPA's Greenversations blog regarding sustainable Vermont, past and present, brings fond recollections of days spent in the land of 'freedom and unity' and the long-lasting tradition there to reduce, re-use, and recycle:

The View from Vermont.  Via Greenversations.

Image: D.A. DeMers.
Ah, Vermont. Where I go to get away from my job, but also where I’m reminded of why I do my job.

Every summer, we go to “camp,” the cabin on a Vermont lake built by my wife’s great-grandfather in 1913. Think “rustic,” not “luxury.” The walls are plywood, the floors creak, there’s an abundance of spiders and usually a few mice, and it smells musty. I try to convince my daughters that spiders help keep the mosquito population down, to mixed success. When I sit up late at night reading, or we stargaze, the world outside vanishes. In other words, it’s heaven.

Camp is where we take stuff like furniture and appliances when we buy new things for home. The recliner chair where I’m sitting to write this is at least 50 years old. Some of the books on the shelves date to the 1930s. The cupboard is full of plates from when my mother-in-law grew up. People here were reusing long before we started talking about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”   Read More...

East Coast Faith-based Groups Go Green.

Philadelphia has been in the news recently due to its surge of support from faith-based groups on issues of environment and energy efficiency. This was documented nicely in an article from the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences a few month ago regarding a series of forums conducted by the Interfaith Environmental Network.

It's wonderful to see similar involvement happening elsewhere. For example, an inspirational push for clean energy by religious and other non-profit organizations appears to be emerging from our neighbors down in the DC area. This write-up from Dustin Thaler of the group Weatherize DC details the effort, originally posted last week on their blog:

Community Energy Purchase. Via Weatherize DC.

Philadelphia Neighborhood. Image: Wikipedia
Who knew that energy savings could be so…sublime?

The Community Energy Purchase, The DC Project’s newest brainchild, is a remarkable undertaking that includes major cooperation with the Washington Interfaith Network.

The chief goal of the Community Energy Purchase is to provide close to 40 faith institutions and nonprofits in D.C. with reduced energy rates. These lower rates will have a significant impact on the institutions’ bottom lines. Congregations, many of which remain open to receive congregants at all hours of the day, often struggle with expensive utility bills. And nonprofits, who are constantly on a mission to secure funding for their causes, will also save valuable dollars.

The Community Energy Purchase has brought these faith and non-profit institutions together, and will put up to ten energy companies in competition with each other to provide them with a cheap electricity rate.   Read More...


Coming soon to Home Science - A guest blogger's tale of some unsightly experiences at work with an innovative new Delaware composting company. Hey, just because it's called clean energy or a green job, doesn't mean you wont get your hands dirty!--D.A. DeMers.

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