Parenting Green: Make Yourself Re-useful

Lead by example and develop new habits in reusing materials

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. But do it from reusable water bottles.

I know this to be true about water bottles… They make you drink more water; especially when they’re new, and you’re a kid. It’s worth it to me for our kids to get excited about the purchase of a new one, especially now that summer is finally here. I often forget in those first weeks about switching gears into full-hydration mode, and making sure that everyone is drinking enough water. Without fail, getting a new containment method for liquids provides enough entertainment that even I have fun drinking more.

There are so many choices of BPA free plastic ones and gloriously colored stainless steel ones, you’ll be sure to find your muse. In the $15-30 sticker price, you might convince yourself you’ll be done buying them because they last forever, but they also get lost so easily. (Maybe they’re all where I left my reusable bags.) Then I think about all those moments when I want a cold drink when I’m out and about: an iced coffee, or chai, or a smoothie from the cafe. These are ALL moments we can hand our reusable container over the counter and have it filled up. Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Facilitating the Climate Change Conversation

Kids and Climate

My kids are getting older and are more tuned into our conversations. Remember the days as a parent when you could talk ‘adult’ in the front seat about things that interested you and the kids paid no mind?  Now at age 6 and 10 our two oldest are more aware and have context for the information they are absorbing, coupled with the fact that they want to understand what the adults are talking about. There’s no changing it; we are in complex times and as parents we are facing the challenge of how to digest this information and create a productive environment for our kids to thrive in.

We knew as parents we’d be met in their adolescence with difficult conversations about sex, drugs, violence, mental illness, and death… Can we add climate change to that ‘complex’ list?   Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: 6 Reasons to Bike Ride with Your Family

Biking with Your Family

It just feels good to get out on a bike. It’s liberation, it’s exhilaration, it’s exercise, it’s transportation, and it’s free*! The little trips add up and if you can run your smaller errands by bike you’ll likely feel better, live longer, and save money. Now that you have a family, don’t let transporting children be the burden that puts you in the car. Taking them biking is fun and you can plan what type of biking system to use based on the length of the trip, the time constraints, or the weather. So really, it’s just about integrating it into your life and creating a new habit (or reviving an old one!).


We used to live in the Hilltowns and taking biking trips around where we lived was challenging, I won’t lie. The driveway was gravel (which is a hard surface for kids to get moving on) and we were surrounded by a lot of hills. These can be deterring factors. Finding a large paved lot or getting to a place that has less inclines can make it easier for everyone. If you’re schlepping from the Hilltowns into the Valley to do your grocery shopping you might as well bring your bikes to get around town and enjoy the paved paradise…I challenge you to watch how cars get stuck in traffic while your crew keeps in forward motion! Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate Sustainability on the Amherst Town Common

Amherst Sustainability Festival: April 26, 2014

The Amherst Farmers’ Market and Sustainability Festival takes place this Saturday, April 26th, on the Town Common. Pick up your starter plants and locally grown foods from the Market, and then head to the Common for a fabulous family-friendly festival featuring all things sustainable… including Hilltown Families! Stop by our tent where kids can plant seeds to take home with them while parents can learn about the mission of Hilltown Families.

With springtime comes an increase in our awareness of the natural world – as we plan our gardens and watch trees begin to leaf out, we’re reminded of how essential the earth is to us, and how important it is to live our lives in a way that ensures that our natural resources will be preserved for years to come. Celebrate springtime, sustainability, and all things green at the Amherst Sustainability Festival, an annual free community event that brings together local organizations and resources to promote local sustainability!

This year, the Amherst Sustainability Festival will be held on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, from 10am-4pm. Centered around the Amherst Town Common, the event includes booths from local sustainability-related organizations and vendors, live music and theater performances, demonstrations of skills and techniques, live animals to visit and learn about, local food, and lots of other exciting and educational events and activities for families. Early risers can begin their day of sustainability in the morning by visiting the Amherst Farmers’ Market, whose second market of the season will bring a wide variety of delicious, healthy, local foods to the Town Common from 7:30am-1:30pm.

Once you’ve stocked up on local foods, begin your festival adventure by watching Piti Theater Company’s performance of their original show, To Bee or Not to Bee. Read the rest of this entry »

Earth Day Feature: Unique Recycling Programs

Recycle T-Shirt Sign

Three Unique Recycling Programs

Unidentified keys, trophies from the early 80′s & broken crayons… these three things can clutter up your junk drawer, attics and art supplies. Here are three unique recycling programs that recycle all three of these items for good causes. Gather items together with your kids, ask your neighbors if they have any to contribute too, then package up and ship off. These teaching moments can spark conversations with your kids about the importance of recycling and helping others: Earth Day Feature: Unique Recycling Programs.

Parenting Green: The Gift of Honey

Raw Honey: Learning, Eating & Appreciating

Our family eats honey regularly. The jar lives on our kitchen table.  It’s used daily in tea, we pour it over yogurt, and spread it on toast. It’s something I enjoy and use often, something I place value on. When our friends had us over recently and offered to send us home with a frame of honey straight from their hive, I couldn’t say ‘no,’ though the impulse to negate such a generous offering was stirring. I am so glad I accepted. The 2-5lb weight of the frame was surely felt.  It was densely full of honey, capped off by sweet smelling wax.  How did the bee make two distinctly different substances from one tiny insect body (okay, many tiny insect bodies)? Read the rest of this entry »

Environmental Film Festival in the Berkshires

Project Native 4th Annual Environmental Film Festival
March 29 & 30, 2014
Great Barrington, MA

For the past three years, Project Native has hosted a successful day-long environmental film festival. This year they are expanding the festival to include an evening screening at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA, on Saturday, March 29th in addition to the festival on Sunday, March 30th at the Triplex Cinema.

The festival will kick off Saturday, March 29th at 7pm with a special screening of Revolution, an award-winning film by Rob Stewart, director of Sharkwater at the  Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Startling, beautiful, and provocative, Revolution has already won awards at international film festivals. Revolution is not just about the environment—it’s a film about hope and inspiration. It is an urgent call-to-action with an uplifting message that tells us it’s possible to alleviate the damage already done. While creating this film, Stewart met with experts in their fields to investigate the important issues affecting our lives. In an effort to uncover the secrets to a safer world, Stewart goes on an adventure filled with action and drama that will leave audiences around the world, at any age, inspired about how they can get involved in the fight to save our planet.

“Our goal is to not only show the problems facing our world, but to also inspire action for positive change,” says Karen Lyness LeBlanc, Education & Outreach Coordinator for Project Native. Project Native is encouraging middle, high school and college students in the area to attend and bring their friends. This event is FREE, thanks to support from the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation. A panel discussion will follow the film.

Then on Sunday, March 30th, screening at the Triplex Cinema…

Parenting Green: It’s Not What We Say, It’s What We Do!

Your One Thing

Every day we are challenged to be authentic. Authentic to ourselves, to community, and to our loved ones through our speech or actions. There is a tendency to alter our opinions in hopes that they will match others, or in efforts to not offend, or sometimes its skewed to diffuse tension. The goal is to be expressing honestly and receiving feedback empathetically. I am about to tell a story that touched me so single pointedly around my authentic self and my values. I got a soaring feeling in my heart when it happened and I knew that it aligned with my intentions completely, though I hesitated to share it. I was concerned other people would feel guilty or ashamed if they didn’t care about this one thing to the same degree as I did. I wanted to avoid potentially hurting or alienating myself in the parenting community. What I realized in validating that assumption was that I wasn’t being authentic to myself and I was playing party to the ‘what if’s.’ If we are coveted or fear-based about what we truly are and how we express then we are teaching confusion of opinion and identity to our children.

So here it goes… Read the rest of this entry »

Collaborative Consumption: Learning How to be Resilient Supports Community-Based Education

Collaborative Consumption: Supporting Sustainability & Community-Based Education

Farmers’ Markets, both winter and summer, are a terrific opportunity to partake in collaborative consumption… farmers share their knowledge and families absorb the information, learning how to grow a better garden or how to better preserve their foods. The power of collaborative consumption not only supports sustainable efforts, but is a great source for community-based education too!

More and more, communities across western Massachusetts – and around the world! – are working together to create opportunities for pooling knowledge, sharing skills, and increasing each others’ access to useful resources. In creating systems and channels through which to access shared information and materials, communities are building resourceful, resilient foundations upon which to grow. And in addition to the community-sustaining benefits of such systems are a variety of community-based educational opportunities for kids to learn!

Commonly known as collaborative consumption, such practices work to shift emphasis from ownership of goods to access to them, a shift that would decrease the amount of resources necessary for a sustainable way of life. In addition to focusing on goods, communities that practice collaborative consumption often include systems through which to share skills and knowledge with each other, making them even more resilient.

In Western MA, collaborative consumption has manifested in many different ways. The Pittsfield Repair Cafe offers once-a-month events where volunteers share their time and expertise in fixing all manner of items, while Valley Time Trade uses time as a currency, allowing community members to pay for services by putting time and effort into a future endeavor. Projects like the Northfield Tool Lending Library and the Amherst Toy Lending Library allow communities to share sets of items big and small, allowing everyone to have access to tools, toys, and other things regardless of the cost associated with buying them… Read more about collaborative consumption in Western MA…

Parenting Green: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste

Reducing the Consumption for a Family of Five

I was putting out the trash this week and it kind of hit me how little our family of 5 (with 3 children under the age of 10) had to throw out. I have to admit I saw it as an opportunity to share just how second nature it is for us to do the handful of extra things that make a big reduction in our weekly waste. My kids were curious why I was taking the pictures, as they always are, and I thought it was a great opportunity to have them take notice too on how little trash we send away and how much we take responsibility for. “It’s because we compost.” I told them, “And because we cloth diaper.” Imagine if all this extra stuff had to go in the barrel to be sent off to the dump?! We’d be filling two barrels!

With landfill issues coming to a head, conservation commissions are scrambling to do assessments of their towns and promote recycling and waste reduction. I have heard that in 2016 Massachusetts will be lifting the ban on incineration, except, they are just going to call it something different. To me, that’s a red flag. There seems to be more reactionary measures than preventative ones to our problems. Why not take a proactive approach? We don’t have to ‘do it all’ whatever that may be. For our family it really boils down to 6 things that we do with a little extra effort to reduce our trash. So I hope that these suggestions come not as a wall of guilt if you’re not already incorporating them, but as seeds of opportunity for change: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste…

Parenting Green: Winter Curiosity & Outdoor Play

Winter Nature Play

I am always amazed at how the kids tend to be the ones to notice the pulse of our natural world through their curiosity. It’s how discovery happens! We just have to bring them to the opportunity and they will certainly find it. — What are some of the ways your family stays connected to nature within the limits of winter?

I love the adage, ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.’ especially this time of year when the winter winds and flakes can make you feel like it’s not worth the fight to get bundled. What’s your strategy for getting the kids geared up before the inner heat you’ve created sends your minds to a boiling point!? Sometimes I don’t get the process down so wisely. I feel like if our coat area was set up more like a firehouse station, we might gear up and get out…it’s always a back and forth with finding gloves, the hat, and which door the snow pants are hanging up at. Keeping myself from getting overheated helps me have more patience in that process. Luckily we have a screened in porch so I can send the bundled baby and big kids out once they have their gear on, and they can wait there until I get winterized.

It was really about commitment the other day when the idea to go outside in the falling snow came over the living room where free play was happening. There was no pressure of schedule to follow, we didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. We knew that the need for physical activity was necessary and that being outside was always welcomed and enjoyed once we got there. Somehow we kept the momentum going even with the resistance voiced by the happily engaged big kids. I think that’s where the commitment came in. We had a vision and we didn’t waver. We wanted to go for a walk in the trails at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. There were plenty of easy trails and a lookout tower that we could climb. It would be fun… Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Morning Clean-up: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

It’s a Wrap!  Time to Recycle!

Gift wrap IS recyclable! Reuse what you can and toss the ripped up stuff into your paper recycling bin (Do not include gift wrap with metallic ink, glitter, or foil). When opening gifts, use a brown paper bag to capture gift wrap, tissue paper, greeting cards, envelopes and boxes.

Unwrapping gifts this morning?  Have a mini-mountain of wrapping paper, or pieces strewn across your living room? Did you know that all wrapping paper is recyclable (except wrapping paper with foil)? Recycle your wrapping paper this year with your other paper.

Also, keep in mind that all cardboard gift boxes, tissue paper, gift cards and paper shopping bags are recyclable (just no foil or glitter), and you might be able to bring Styrofoam packing peanuts to the UPS store for reuse.

On the other hand, ribbons, bows and tinsel cannot be recycled are not. Next year (or for any other special gift giving occasion), try making your own gift bows from old magazine pages.  Check out this tutorial from How About Orange.

Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Eco-Gift Wrapping Ideas for the Holidays

Reusable & Creative Wrapping Alternatives

Alright, it’s here. We have turned the corner into winter and holiday season is upon us. There is excitement and anticipation and joy ahead (as well as a healthy dose of anxiety and stress). I usually reflect on the previous year’s gift giving and how to come up with original ideas this year that save us money, time, and just feel good. This year I’m focusing on hand-made because I know it feels good for me to get creative. I purchased materials I was excited about (felt fabric) and could create a myriad of projects from (french press cozies, pencil holders, bookmarks, ornaments, pot holders, etc). I also realized that some of the things I make regularly anyway are enjoyed by others and to celebrate that. Are you known for your cooking or baking? Do people love the photos you take? The other year we cut out family pictures and put them into old bottle caps and covered them with epoxy resin, and put a circular magnet on the back as keepsakes. Spending less on tangible things and focusing more on giving hand-made helps us tap back into the idea that it’s about the gesture and not the grandeur.

Wrapping paper is often just used once and then thrown away. I wanted to share some sweet, easy, and achievable ideas I have seen as alternatives to traditional gift wrap…  Read what ideas Angie shares this month…

Debut of Parenting Green: Earth Friendly Ideas for Raising a Family!

No Seat Belts

We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure! (Photo credit: Angie Gregory)

My nine year old rides the public transit bus to school, with no adult chaperone. Just with some classmates, typically some war vets, and sometimes a doughnut in hand, this is how she experiences the responsibility of being on time. As well as the reward of it: the once a week ‘doughnut day’ is our incentive for getting out of the house on time (or early rather). It helps the kids move through the morning routine without too much derailing. Sure, there might be some bribing (read incentivizing) going on here, but there’s a lot more to our story.

We made the choice to send our child to a charter school. We garden and grow some of the food we eat, and think a lot about where the rest of our food comes from and what’s in it. We’re in the mindset of being purposeful with our decisions. We think a lot about giving our kids the most ‘optimal’ environment to thrive. It’s our natural inclination as parents.  We all have this drive, right? As parents we’ve thought that riding the city bus can provide valuable real world experiences.

But isn’t there some stigma around public transit? We’ve all absorbed the less than stellar conversations between some public transit riders. And now my daughter is among these regulars. She’s been riding this bus route since she was a kindergartener. Didn’t a mom in NYC receive backlash because she sent her similarly aged child onto the subway to commute on his own? Am I in neglect, or putting my child in danger?

I’ve been inspired by my daughter’s un-phased character. She’s not greasing profanities or languishing in any noticeable way. In fact she’s building friendships on the bus, learning about how to get around, recognizing other buses around town (kind of like the car complex we experience when we own a Subaru and we start seeing them everywhere), feeling empowered, and being rewarded with responsibility.

We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure. The bus money is a novelty, the driver a chuffer, the steps like floors of a building, the freedom to choose your own seat, big windows….no seatbelts!

We don’t necessarily live right on the bus line. You don’t need to even live in a city in order to ride. We have to get to the stop by car most mornings. However, spring has brought out our bikes again and yesterday we enjoyed a side-by-side ride into town to catch the bus. First her bus arrives, and then mine right after. Life isn’t without coordination and planning and now that these rhythms have become habit we’ve worked through the humps of ‘I have to walk too far after the bus drops us off’ or ‘There was a man on the bus sitting near me that smelled like peppers. And then another man got on the bus, and he smelled like peppers.’

I can’t guarantee there won’t be some kind of altercation or disturbance, but it’s not like the bus is without boundaries. There are other eyes, ears, and helpers (community) on the bus to diffuse and report. That’s the trust I have in us as people and the effort I place in my own heart to do the same. Oh, and did I happen to mention the 45 minutes of driving time it saves us in the mornings…equating to rewards on gas, money, and inevitably our natural resources.

It might not seem like much, but this extra effort to be resourceful has enriched our lives in other unforeseen ways. When we participate in our community we’re building familiarity, safety, and ownership where they didn’t exist before, and raising kids to be engaged in the place they live.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture 
and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.

Reuse & Recycling Rally in Northampton

Reuse & Recycling Rally Offers 3 Ways to Practice the 3 R’s!

Northampton Reuse & Recycling Rally happens Saturday, April 20th from 9am-12noon at Smith Vocational High School. Find new-to-you toys for the kids at the community tag sale, shred confidential papers, donate old baby equipment, recycle well-loved pants with holes in the knees and t-shirts with juice box stains for the textile drive, and bring by those hotel shampoos and conditioners from your family winter vacation to Florida to donate to the Hampshire County Interfaith Emergency Shelter. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Northampton Department of Public Works is sponsoring another reuse & recycling rally on Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at the Smith Vocational High School from 9am-12pm, in cooperation with the City’s ReUse Committee, the Salvation Army & ProShred of Wilbraham.  This is the third in a series of events in 2013 to promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling of unusual materials.  Once again, it’ll be a three ring circus:  a community tag sale and donation drop off, a shredding event for confidential papers and a textile drive to keep usable goods out of the landfill.

COMMUNITY TAG SALE & DONATION DROP OFF

The Community Tag Sale is a flea market with a twist.  Fifty-four sellers will load up their trunks and sell stuff from the back of their vehicles in the Vocational School’s back lot at 80 Locust Street (Route 9, Northampton, MA).  Each will be given two parking spaces- one to park in and the other for sales (note: pre-registration is required for vendors through the Northampton DPW.   Yard sale devotees will be delighted with bargains at this huge multi-family tag sale!

The Salvation Army will be on site to accept donations of small household goods, including but not limited to kitchen ware, fireplace sets, lamps, wall decorations, board games, books, DVD’s/CD’s, tools, sporting goods, luggage, radios, umbrellas… practically anything in good condition except mattresses, upholstered furniture, and baby equipment.

Voluntary donations for the Hampshire County Interfaith Emergency Shelter will be gratefully accepted in exchange for this service (hotel-sized shampoos, conditioners & hand soaps, men’s and women’s socks & underwear, small deodorants, toothbrushes & small toothpastes, razors & shaving cream, combs & brushes, women’s hygiene products, gloves & mittens, etc.

TEXTILE DRIVE

The Salvation Army will also be accepting clothing, shoes, accessories and textiles.  Textiles that are unsuitable for reuse or resale will be reprocessed into polishing cloths for industrial use, fibers for insulation, soundproofing, carpet padding and building materials.  Acceptable textiles can be worn, torn, stained or missing buttons- but they must be clean and dry.

SHREDDING

Concurrently, a free regional shredding event for confidential papers will be offered to residents and small businesses.  ProShred’s mobile shredding unit will provide confidential destruction of documents on site.  Participants can deliver up to two recycling bins to be safely recycled, and pre-registration is not required.

For more information contact Karen at 413-587-1059 or at kbouquillon@northamptonma.gov, find them Facebook (“Northampton ReUse”) or go to the DPW’s website at www.northamptonma.gov/dpw/Recycling/reuse.

Kids Swap Meet In Northampton

Northampton’s Free Kid’s Stuff Exchange
Smith Vocational High School Cafeteria
Saturday March 9 from 8am-12pm

Upcycle Artist, MaryLynne Boisvert, will lead an art activity for families to create fun, wearable garments form upcycled clothing.

The Northampton DPW’s ReUse Committee is sponsoring a free “Kid’s Stuff Exchange” at Smith Vocational High School this coming Saturday March 9th, 2013.  Pre-registration is required to participate from 8-11am, opening up to the general public from 11am-12noon.

This swap meet will allow local families to exchange clothing, toys, books and sporting goods in good condition at no cost.  Participants might find almost anything for kids ages 0-12 except baby gear (car seats, strollers, cribs), stuff with parts missing (puzzles, games), items with possible cutting/choking/lead hazards or over-sized items (play structures).  From 11am-12noon, the general public is welcome to come and take whatever they can use.  At noon, any remaining items will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Kids will be welcome.  Childcare will not be provided, but representatives from the Artisans of WMASS, Northampton’s Early Childhood Program, and  other local reuse & craft artists will offer free “make & take” art activities for ages 4+ (with adult) at the Kid’s Stuff Exchange from 9am–12Noon:

  • Lou Leelyn: Transform plastic trash into flowers & accessories
  • Aviva Sieber & daughter Tali: Create sculptures from household recyclables
  • Jenny Lisa Kass: Melt old crayons into fun, new shapes
  • Zoe Ma: Make personal creations from First Night buttons
  • MaryLynne Boisvert: Create fun, wearable garments from up-cycled clothing

Space is limited, and participants will receive more information when they register.  Signing up is easy!  Just provide a full name, mailing address, daytime phone number and email address by phone: 413-587-1059; or by email: kbouquillon@northamptonma.gov.  No dealers, please.  More info is available on Facebook www.facebook.com/NorthamptonReUse and on the DPW’s website www.northamptonma.gov/dpw/Recycling/reuse.

Repair Café in the Berkshires

Pittsfield Resilience Circle Host a Repair Café
Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The Repair Café concept was formulated in 2009 in the Netherlands by journalist and publicist Martine Postma and sustainability accelerator Peter van Vliet. Since January 2011, the Repair Café Foundation has provided support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries wishing to start their own Repair Cafe (repaircafe.org). [Image: First Repair Café held in Brussels.]

Janet Henderson writes:

What do you do with a broken toaster? Or with a bike that needs repair? Or with a pair of pants when a seam rips? Or a partially dysfunctional umbrella? Throw it away? Certainly not!

The Pittsfield Resilience Circle is organizing the Berkshires’ first ever Repair Café. It will be held in Pittsfield on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the St. Stephen’s Church basement at 67 East St. The event is entirely free.

[The  Repair Café] involves people in the community giving to other people in the community, making needed repairs of all kinds. Various repair persons will be available to fix small appliances, clothing and other fabric items, bicycles, toys, small furniture items, computers, and so on. Anyone with a broken item in need of repair may bring it to the Repair Café between 1 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 19th. We will fix as many articles as we can during that time. We’re also offering free refreshments for those waiting in line.

The Pittsfield Resilience Circle could use more volunteers for the Repair Cafe. Persons with experience in any kind of repair craft or who would like to provide general help, please call Tom Harter at 413-212-8589 or email Janet Henderson at jmh227@hotmail.com. The Repair Café is looking for more sponsors (those who donate $20 or more). We are thankful for our sponsors, including the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), who is contributing both money and time!

By holding a Repair Café, the Pittsfield Resilience Circle wants to help reduce waste, promote repair skills, teach us all to be more self-sufficient, have fun, come together in a non-consumerist way, forge bonds of friendship through mutual dependency, and make Pittsfield a better place to live.

ABOUT RESILIENCE CIRCLES

Members of the Pittsfield Resilience Circle meet twice a month to learn together and become better friends through doing things for and with each other. The Resilience Circle is based on information available at localcircles.org. The group also has an informal Gift Circle. Information about Gift Circles can be found on the OpenCollaboration’s Blog.

Christmas Morning Clean-up: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

It’s a Wrap!  Time to Recycle!

Gift wrap IS recyclable! Reuse what you can and toss the ripped up stuff into your paper recycling bin (Do not include gift wrap with metallic ink, glitter, or foil). When opening gifts, use a brown paper bag to capture gift wrap, tissue paper, greeting cards, envelopes and boxes.

Unwrapping gifts this morning?  Have a mini-mountain of wrapping paper, or pieces strewn across your living room? Did you know that all wrapping paper is recyclable (except wrapping paper with foil)? Recycle your wrapping paper this year with your other paper.

Also, keep in mind that all cardboard gift boxes, tissue paper, gift cards and paper shopping bags are recyclable (just no foil or glitter), and you might be able to bring Styrofoam packing peanuts to the UPS store for reuse.

On the other hand, ribbons, bows and tinsel cannot be recycled are not. Next year (or for any other special gift giving occasion), try making your own gift bows from old magazine pages.  Check out this tutorial from How About Orange.

Read the rest of this entry »

Western MA Libraries Organize Community Alternatives to Holiday Consumerism and Consumption

Holidays are a Time to Give and Regift

Western MA libraries offer youth patrons a chance to focus on giving and not just receiving during the holiday season.

During the holiday season many Western MA libraries organize community alternatives to holiday consumerism and consumption while enabling their youth patrons to think about giving rather than just receiving for the holidays.

For over 20 years the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield has hosted an annual Children’s Holiday Bazaar for their youth patrons. For several months leading up to the bazaar the library asks town residents to donate small items to be regifted during the bazaar (donations of gift bags, wrap, tags and tape are welcomed too). On the day of the bazaar the children’s room is transformed into a pop-up shop where kids ages 5-11 years old may shop for their family. All gifts are 50-cents,  gift wrapping included. During the bazaar parents are not allowed into the room and younger children are escorted by their very own personal shoppers – 6th graders and National Honor Society volunteers.  This year the Children’s Holiday Bazaar happens on Saturday, December 8th from 10am-12noon.

Newer to this regifting tradition is the Meekins Market at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, now in its fifth year!  All patrons are welcome to both shop at and donate to the Meekins Market, which begins in late November and runs through December.  The market is a special in-house tag sale where families will find lots of small (and not so small) inexpensive recycled gifts to give friends and family. It’s a great place for children to find presents to give their parents, grandparents and teachers. Library patrons can stop in and shop (or donate items for regifting) any time during library hours. For more information call: 413-538-6489 or 413-268-7472.

Does your library have a holiday tradition, new or old, you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear!  All of these great traditions and ideas are an inspiration for communities both in and outside our region!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sarah Parrott]

Beyond Sustainability: UMass Leads the Way!

Growing a Model Sustainable Campus:
UMass Permaculture Documentary Series

UMass Permaculture Committee writes, “Together, we have the unique ability to create huge positive global transformation, and inspire more colleges and universities, towns and cities, and all communities to adopt permaculture and sustainable design principles into their Master Planning. A powerful video can sometimes be a catalyst for this kind of big change, and the goal of this entire project is to inspire direct action.”

With your help, several Western MA elementary schools could be the recipients of a UMass funded, designed and installed permaculture garden!

UMass Permaculture Committee writes, “Please help us to make this video (above) “go viral” and thus, furthering the UMass Amherst and global sustainability movement. Consider posting this video link on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and e-mailing it to family, friends and colleagues. http://bit.ly/Rnx5Ot – If we achieve 50,000 views by September 15, 2012, UMass Permaculture and sponsors will donate fruit and nut trees to 4 local schools, which is part of our vision to co-create more edible, ecological, and educational landscapes throughout the community!”

To see the UMass Permaculture Documentary Series in it’s entirety, follow these links.  Each video is approximately 5mins:

5 Western MA Parks Go Organic!

5 Local Parks to Implement Organic Lawn Care Practices

Look Park in Florence offers recreational opportunities for walkers, runners, bikers, and other users. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Five municipal parks in the Hampshire and Hampden county areas will transition from using synthetic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides to using organic practices and materials. These parks attract thousands of visitors each year, creating an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the benefits and beauty of organic lawn care.  This is GREAT news for families, pets and our natural environment!

Participating Western MA parks include:

  • School Street Park in Agawamwithin walking distance of the Connecticut River, School Street Park features 50 acres of land with four multi-purpose athletic fields, a handicap accessible playscape, a basketball court, shuffleboard and bocce ball courts, walking trails, picnic tables, and a historic barn. The park has a high volume of adult and children using its facilities.
  • Look Park in Florence —Look Park offers recreational opportunities for walkers, runners, bikers, and other users. One of its focal points is a grass 2,200-person capacity outdoor concert theatre. Earlier this year, using a Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) grant, this outdoor theater transitioned to a petrochemical- and pesticide-free venue.
  • Greenwood Park in Longmeadow—the park abuts Greenwood Center, which houses the Council on Aging and the Longmeadow Park and Recreation Childcare Center. The Childcare Center uses Greenwood Park daily for its outdoor activities, as does the Council on Aging for certain seasonal events.
  • Town Center Park in Ludlow—the Town plans to use TURI funding to transition this park, which hosts a summer community concert series, into a pesticide- and petrochemical-free space. The park is located in a highly visible area in the center of Town and the concert series is well attended.
  • Wistariahurst Museum Grounds in Holyoke—in 1959, Wistariahurst was given to the City of Holyoke for cultural and educational purposes. The grounds contain extensive ornamental gardens and an expansive lawn. The museum is home to the Master Gardener’s Association and hosts weekly meetings and multiple plant sales and regional conferences throughout the year.

In addition to their actual lawn care programs, each park will participate in an extensive public awareness and promotion campaign including workshops and seminars, display banners, lawn signs, brochures, and promotions at local park events.

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Earth Day 2012 in Western MA

Recycle T-Shirt Sign

Earth Day Weekend 2012

Earth Day is this weekend and there are several ways families can be eco and community minded this weekend and next.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Volunteering in their community can help kids learn to appreciate the resources available to them, and spring clean-ups are a great way to get involved. Here are five community service clean-ups which families can take part in:

  1. In Plainfield the Historical Society will be planting sugar maples, a tree with great importance to our local culture and history. Join them in planting more of these important natural resources for generations to come.
  2. In Great Barrington families can volunteer to prepare the Housatonic Riverwalk for the summer (River walk tours follow the clean up).
  3. In Williamstown the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation welcomes families to help them clear land and mark a new trail.
  4. And families can help clean up  downtown Westfield at one of many locations around town.
  5. Then next weekend the Springfield Museums invites families to come help them clean up their grounds.

COMMUNITY CELEBRATIONS

Looking for an Earth Day community celebration? The annual Amherst Sustainability Festival happens on the town common this Saturday and on Sunday there will be an Earth Day Festival at the Springfield Museums! Both events will have live music, hands-on activities, and opportunities to discover the work of eco-friendly businesses and non-profits.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

Other ways the community is marking Earth Day include a screening of The Lorax at the Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams, a seed-planting activity at River Valley Market in Northampton, earth-friendly crafts made out of recycled bottles at the Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield, and the Great Cloth Diaper Change happening simultaneously in both the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley.

RECYCLING IDEAS

Looking for ideas on how to participate in Earth Day, every day? Here are four recycling ideas:

  1. Trophy Recycling Program: Do you have old trophies cluttering up your attic from your days of glory? Did you know there is a Trophy Recycling Program you can donate those beauties to to support non-profit organizations? Find out how you can conduct a Trophy Recycling Drive and collect trophies to be passed along rather than ending up in a landfill or on the free table at your next tag sale!
  2. Keys for Kindness: How many old, unidentified keys can your kids find in your junk drawer? Have them take a look, pull them out, and mail them off to Keys for Kindness. Every key mailed in goes towards raising money for M.S., and is an excellent way to recycle keys from previous cars, unused locks and unknown origins!
  3. National Crayon Recycling Program: Did you know there is a National Crayon Recycling Program that families, schools, day cares, restaurants, etc. can send their unwanted, broken and rejected crayons to for recycling?  Find out how this program works and how you can set up a crayon collect in your local school, library, or community center.
  4. Recycling Shoes into Art: Wondering what to do with that single shoe(s) that is missing it’s matching pair? Donate it to the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls this Friday, April 20th! They are hosting a free shoe-decorating workshop for the village Art Walks and welcome the donation of shoes (single or paired). Drop by any time between 3-7pm this Friday to donate and/or decorate! Art Garden is located at 14 Depot St.

Looking for more ideas? Local families in Western Mass offer helpful tips showing that it IS easy being green. Here are over 10 suggestions on how to celebrate Earth Day and make each day a little greener. Get inspired and share your own idea and inspire others!

Three Textile Drives to Recycle Outgrown & Outworn Clothes and Linens

Textile Drives for Earth Week in the Berkshires & Pioneer Valley

Last year nearly 100 schools participated in the oneShirt National Clothing Challenge, collecting over 16 tons of recycled textiles!

What does your family do with outgrown clothes when they’ve already been handed down as many times as possible?  How about participating in a textile drive!

Center for EcoTechnology will be partnering with Goodwill in Pittsfield on Saturday, April 14th for a textile donation drive! Families can also bring documents for shredding, courtesy of Valley Green Shredding, and donate computer and small household appliances. Goodwill is located at 158 Tyler Street and the event will run from 10am-2pm.

Then for Earth Week, Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield is hosting a used clothing drive the week of April 16- 20!  Sponsored by SustainU, a Pittsfield company producing 100% recycled t-shirts, the drive will be taking place on college campuses around the country.  As part of the oneShirt National Clothing Challenge, schools will be competing against each other to collect the largest amount (in terms of weight) of used clothing.  During last year’s drive, over 16 tons of clothes were collected!  Clothes donated will be kept out of landfills and donated to organizations who use recycled clothing sales to provide people with valuable work experience (such as Goodwill).

Donating clothing is a way to de-clutter your closets in a way that is environmentally friendly, and it can teach kids about disposing of unwanted items responsibly.  Clothes can be dropped off at Berkshire Community College’s Susan B. Anthony Lounge or at Goodwill Industries at 158 Tyler Street in Pittsfield (bags must be marked BCC Clothing Drive) between April 16th and 20th.  For more information, contact the BCC Student Life Office at 413-236-1660.

And the week will conclude with a textile drive to benefit the Amherst Survival Center and the Fisher Home Hospice Shop at the 3rd Annual Amherst Sustainability Festival in Amherst on Saturday, April 21st from 10am-4pm.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Nick Zadrozny

Third Annual Sustainability Festival on the Common in Amherst

Amherst Sustainability Festival on the Town Common
Saturday, April 21st, 2012

The Raging Grannies performed at the 1st Annual Amherst Sustainability Festival in 2010, singing for peace and justice. This year at the 3rd Annual Festival, featured talent includes the Piti Theatre Company, Carrie Ferguson, Jay Mankita, Who’da Funk It and Iroko Nuevo.

Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst Sustainability Festival Coordinator, writes:

The 3rd Annual Amherst Sustainability Festival is being held on Saturday, April 21st from 10am-4pm on the Amherst Town Common.  There’s something for everyone!  Learn how you can save money via energy efficiency in your home and/or business, learn about tree care, participate in an Eco-Hero scavenger hunt and see live entertainment, hula hoops, play games, face painting and more! Support local artisans, sustainable product and energy suppliers, as well as non-profit and other agencies, by shopping at over 100 vendor booths.

  • This year’s featured talent includes the Piti Theatre Company, Carrie Ferguson, Jay Mankita, Who’da Funk It and Iroko Nuevo.
  • See baby goats, demonstrations by Pure Flight Disc Golf and Ultimate, martial arts by Moving Zen Karate, hooping by Alottahoopla and electric vehicle displays by the Pioneer Valley Electric Automobile Association.
  • Booth demonstrations include Lou Leelyn of Lou’s Upcycles.
  • Arbor Day highlights feature bucket lift rides, tree identification activities and games led by Jim Terruso, Mt. Tom Park Ranger, free seedlings provided by WD Cowls Inc., Land Company and a display of the Amherst school’s 4th – 6th grade entrants and winners of the Arbor Day poster contest!
  • Bring your unwanted clean and dry clothing, bedding, linens, stained and worn out items to benefit the Amherst Survival Center and the Fisher Home Hospice Shop.
  • The Spring Street Farmer’s Market will kick off their 2012 season between the North and South Common.
  • The festival is sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Electric Company, the Berkshire Gas Energy Efficiency Program, the Town of Amherst, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment.
  • For more information visit our website: www.amherstma.gov/sustainabilityfestival

Northampton Winter Fare Helps Families Eat Locally Year Round

Northampton Winter Fare
Saturday, January 14th, 2011

Bring your shopping bags and stock up on fresh salad greens, root vegetables, local grains and bread, eggs, meat, cheese, yogurt, maple syrup, honey, jam, pickles, and more, all grown by local farmers. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Claire Morenon, CISA Program Coordinator writes:

CISA’s Winter Fare, a vibrant, diverse farmers’ market and community event, is coming to Smith Vocational High School in Northampton on January 14th, 2012 from 10am-2pm. Winter Fare is a celebration of the amazing local food that is available year-round in the Pioneer Valley, bringing together vendors from winter farmers’ markets around the Valley to kick off the new year.

Twenty-two vendors, including many from the weekly winter farmers’ markets in Amherst and Northampton, the bimonthly winter market in Springfield, and the once-monthly market in Greenfield, will be present with their goods to inspire shoppers to make farmers’ markets a regular part of their winter routine.

CISA strongly believes that healthful, local food should be available to everyone in the community, so Northampton Winter Fare will accept SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), and CISA will be matching the first $10 of all SNAP purchases. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In addition to perusing the array of local foods, shoppers can attend one of the several educational workshops scheduled during the market. Topics include home food preservation, cheese and yogurt-making, and herbal medicine. All the workshop leaders are local people who practice these skills at home, and the workshops are free and do not require pre-registration.

At 11am, the Soup Café will open for business so shoppers can take a break and enjoy a hot cup of soup made from local ingredients by Local Hero restaurants. Bring your own mug to help us reduce waste.

The Barter Market, a fun, lively food-swapping event, begins at 1pm. Bring your own home-preserved foods and trade with your neighbors to diversify your pantry and get to know other people that can, dry, and freeze the local harvest.

More details about Winter Fare, including complete lists of vendors and workshops, are available at www.buylocalfood.org. Volunteers are still needed to make this event possible! Please contact CISA at 413-665-7100 or claire@buylocalfood.org to sign up or for more information.  Read the rest of this entry »

Green Tip: Composting

Green Tip: January 2012

Did You Know?

Food waste, including uneaten food and food preparation scraps from residences, restaurants, and grocery stores, makes up a large portion (up to 40 percent) of the municipal solid waste stream. As a result, diverting organic wastes from final disposal is an important waste reduction strategy that can help extend the useful life of our region’s landfills.

Green Tip:

If you work in the food industry, see if your company is interested in participating in a region-wide commercial composting program that offers free technical assistance, signage, and training to help set up composting programs at businesses and institutional facilities. For more information, contact the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission at 413-781-6045.

Meanwhile, at home, consider adding backyard composting to your spring cleaning list this year. Visit the Greenscapes Guide at greenscapes.org to learn how to start. If you are not able to compost at home, contact your municipality and ask if your town’s waste drop-off facility collects food waste.

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Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms

Farmageddon: The Unseen War on
American Family Farms

Screenings in Western MA

Kristin Canty, a small farm advocate and mother of 4 kids from Concord, MA, is the Director/Producer of Farmageddon; The Unseen War on American Family Farms.  When one of her children was sick with asthma and multiple allergies as a preschooler, and medications offered no relief, she turned to raw milk and helped her young child recover. Since that time she has been buying most of her groceries from local, organic farms.

When Kristin discovered that co-ops and small farms were getting raided by the government, she decided she would  make a film about what was happening in hopes that local citizens would become small farm advocates too.

Screenings of the documentary film, Farmageddon, are scheduled for Western MA:

  • Thursday, September 22nd @ 7pm
    Beacon Theater, Pittsfield, MA
    Presented by Berkshire Organics
  • Monday, October 17th @ 7pm
    Images Cinema, Williamstown, MA
    Presented by Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)/ Mass Raw Milk Network
    www.imagescinema.org
  • Sunday, November 13th @ 7pm
    Academy of Music, Northampton, MA
    Presented by Grow Food Northampton

Western MA Farming Resources  (add more in the comment field below):

5 Solutions to Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

Back-to-School with a Waste-Free Lunch

According to wastefreelunches.org, families can save nearly $250 per year PER PERSON just by packing a waste-free lunch! That’s $1,000 a year for a family of four!

You know that time between Memorial Day and Labor Day they call Summer?  It came and went so fast!  And now here we are again, with children preparing to go back-to-school, school buses slowing down morning commutes, and a buzz of conversation about after-school classes, where to find non-toxic school supplies, and idea swapping on the age old dilemma … what to pack for your kids lunch.  Just this past week I put a PB&J sandwich into my daughter’s PVC free sandwich bag for her first packed school lunch of the year… and she turned her nose up at it!  What’s a mom to do?

Solutions to what to pack for lunch are many, but what about a waste-free lunch? You know, a lunch that’s not filled with lunch-size-that or mini-this that build up your grocery bill (and landfill!). According to WasteFreeLunches.org, families can save nearly $250 per year per person just by packing a waste-free lunch.  With that thought in mind, I looked online to see what PVC-free products I could find that would help me pack a waste-free lunch.  Read the rest of this entry »

Green Tip: Community Supported Agriculture

Green Tip: September 2011

Click on the photo to read "CSA Farms Are Like Family," by Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Dana Pilson.(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Did You Know?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a new and growing model of farming that allows people to directly support local farmers and receive a diverse variety of local food crops from their farmer every week during the growing season. Most CSA farms provide vegetables, fruits, and herbs to their members, and some CSA farms produce meat and dairy products.

Green Tip:

’Tis the season to…purchase your share from a Community Supported Agriculture farm for next summer! CSA farms then know how many members they are growing for and spend the winter planning next season’s crops. In addition, many CSAs offer winter shares for sale in the fall so that you can eat local throughout the winter, too. For a list of CSA farms in our region, visit farmfresh.org.

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Preserving the Bounty in the Berkshires

Preserving the Bounty: Canning, Pickling and Keeping the Harvest

Berkshire Grown’s Preserve Exchange will take place at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market in Great Barrington on Saturday, October 15th from 11am-1pm. Join other families in a community exchange of home-preserved goods.(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

With six canning and preserving workshops in August completed and another six to come in September, Berkshire Grown is demonstrating its commitment to the resurgence of the lost art of preserving food. Preserving the Bounty: Canning, Pickling and Keeping the Harvest is a series of fun and educational community workshops coordinated in partnership with more than a dozen Berkshire restaurants, food purveyors and partners.

The workshops teach participants procedures to safely preserve food with hands-on experience under the leadership of local experts. Preserving the Bounty presents demonstrations and information on preserving fruits, vegetables and herbs using techniques including freezing, canning, pickling and drying, as well as making salsas, sauces and ketchup.  In addition to classes on canning and preserving, Berkshire Grown will host a food swap in October.

Berkshire Grown’s Preserve Exchange, a celebration of Preserving the Bounty will take place on Saturday, October 15th from 11 am – 1 pm at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. Community members are encouraged to stop by and exchange their home-preserved goods with other home canners. This free exchange presents an opportunity to taste and take home other canner’s recipes and share personal favorites.

September Workshops:

Saturday, September 10th (4 – 5 pm) – Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington will host Let’s Can with Community Cooperative Farm. The workshop will feature zucchini bread-and-butter pickles, sauerkraut and blueberry jam and is free to the community. RSVP at mattn@berkshire.coop or 413-528-9697.

Saturday, September 10th (2 pm) – Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield will present a Return and Learn Event: Canning 101. Led by Danielle Steinmann, associate director of interpretation at HSV, the ingredients will be sourced from the CSA at Hancock Shaker Village. The event is free for HSV members or with HSV admission. RSVP at DSteinmann@hancockshakervillage.org or 413-443-0188 x274.

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