Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, March 31, 2019

6 Community Resources & Annual Events for Sustainable Living

Community Resources and Annual Events for Sustainable Living

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)
CISA is a  Western Massachusetts organization that “strengthens farms and engages the community in building the local food economy.”  CISA connects community members with the farms and farmers that produce food in our region to help ensure food security and fortify the relationship between the land and our dinner tables. CISA offers many workshops and community events to provide folks with the opportunity to learn more about sustainable agriculture such as winter vegetable cultivation, homestead woodlot management, farm financing, making the most out of pasture and hayfields, maple sugaring at home and many other subjects throughout the year!  CISA’s website also connects you to nearby farms where you can source your food as well as find resources and recipes.  Consider volunteering with CISA in celebration of Earth Day and sustainable agriculture!

Local Ecological Art
Local Williamsburg artist Todd Lynch creates ecological art installations throughout Western Massachusetts communities at different natural sites to help foster a dialogue between people and the landscape.  One of his installations, the Flotsam Weirs Installation, utilized woven fences made of material found on-site to create an environmental sculpture that helped people learn about hydrology and ecology as well as how structures in the natural world decay throughout time.  The piece is a way to witness the process of nature and to understand the beauty of its ecology through an artistic lens.It is located in Williamsburg, MA.  Pictures are found at

Pedal People
Local business Pedal People practice sustainability every day when it comes to trash and compost pickup!  Serving the Northampton area, this group of cyclists utilize bikes to tote away trash and compost from Northampton homes instead of driving fuel-reliant cars and trucks!

Seed Swaps
Seed swaps are a chance for community members to meet one another, gather together and share gardening tips, ideas, and, more importantly, seeds!  Many local libraries in the Hilltowns and Pioneer Valley host seed swaps in early spring to encourage togetherness, sharing and collaborative consumption by providing the space for people to get together and share the food and plants they grow.  Check out these local libraries for nearby seed swamps. Read more about the embedded learning found in seed saving in our post, Seed Capital Provides Return for Nature-Based Education.

Amherst Sustainability Festival
Every year, the town of Amherst celebrates Earth Day with an annual Sustainability Festival. Usually, during the week of Earth Day, this festival includes performances on the town common, workshops to learn more about how to live more sustainably at home, family entertainment, and local farm animals from the 4-H club!

Earth Day at UMass
The University of Massachusetts celebrates with an Earth Day Festival every year with student groups that host booths, a farmers’ market featuring student grown produce, live music, and art activities.  Each year is different, so best to check the UMass website to see what is on the schedule for this year’s Earth Day Festival at UMass.

Reuse Centers & Businesses Support Sustainable Living & Learning

Community Resources Support Creative and Practical Reuse

As humans have become more aware of our impact on the planet, we’ve also become more aware of the need to live in a way that is more sustainable than how we’ve lived in the past. Part of our search for sustainability includes being mindful of the things that we consume, their source, and the place(s) where they end up when we’re no longer using them. By recycling and reusing objects and materials, families can decrease their impact on the earth – and an added bonus of reuse is the potential to acquire items very inexpensively (or maybe even for free!).

Locally, there are a handful of community resources that support families in their pursuit of learning about reuse. Read the rest of this entry »

Earth Day River Festival Builds in the Berkshires

Earth Day River Festival Builds Community for Preservation

Our local rivers keep the landscape alive – celebrate their importance at the first ever Earth Day River Festival honoring the Berkshires’ Housatonic River! Hosted by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), the event includes opportunities for community members to learn about and connect with the Housatonic River, and to consider the role that the river plays in their daily lives. Held on Saturday, April 23rd from 11am-1:30pm at Pittsfield’s Fred Garner Park, the Earth Day River Festival brings together environmentally-focused community organizations and offers a rich variety of ways to gain knowledge and skills for conservation and self-sufficiency. Read the rest of this entry »

Lenox Fix-It Fair: Supporting Skillsharing and Sustainable Living

Lenox Fix-It Fair Pools Skills to Reduce Community Impact on Waste Stream

Have a toaster that just won’t toast? Favorite wool socks whose heels have worn through? A lamp whose cord has frayed? Bring fixable items to the Lenox Fix-It Fair, an event pooling community fixing knowledge in order to give life to repairable items. From appliances to toys and everything in between, the Fix-It Fair aims to reduce consumption and waste!

What happens when your toaster breaks, and the cost to have it repaired is more than you paid for it in the first place? In the interest of the earth, it would make sense to have it repaired rather than dumping it and purchasing a new one. However, when repair doesn’t make financial sense, we often end up wasting still-useful items in order to make the most financially sound decision for ourselves. It’s no secret that we are a consumerist society, and even those of us who intend to reduce, reuse, recycle, and extend the life of the things that we own sometimes end up making the choice to trash rather than treasure when we lack the skills or financial resources to maintain or repair.

Read the rest of this entry »

Visible Mending Blends Fiber Arts with Sustainability

Visible Mending Activates Creativity and Gives New Life to Old Clothes

Favorite jeans are torn at the knees, treasured flannels have frayed at the elbows, the warmest of socks have split in the toes; what’s the fate of all of these once new, now well-loved garments? Rather than passing them on to a thrift store or adding them to a sewing scrap pile, families can give new life to their well-worn clothes by doing a bit of creative visible mending. Combining basic sewing skills, a bit of artistry, and the principles of leading a more sustainable lifestyle, visible mending is a perfect solution to the woes of well-worn clothing, and provides a simple means of upcycling goods. It’s even a great entry point for exploring sewing skills!

The concept of mending, of course, has been around for eons – dating back to a time when simply buying a replacement simply wasn’t an option. Today, mending remains important, and offers many a simple fix for the small tears and worn patches that clothes will inevitably experience. Visible mending, however, differs from regular mending in that it’s meant to be seen (hence its name), and gives new life to articles of clothing by not only fixing rips, tears, and the like, but by adding interesting (and perhaps artistic) details to clothing. Visible mending is not only practical, but can be exciting and engaging for creative folks. Read the rest of this entry »

17 Kitchen Scraps Born Anew for Experiential Learning

Kitchen Scrap Gardening

While almost all food scraps make great compost, certain scraps can make something even more wonderful – more food! Families can engage in hands-on experiential learning by collecting bits of these special foods and creating their own mini-gardens. Young gardeners can learn about how plants grow, and can enjoy delicious homegrown foods with ease!

Compost bins are filled with all kinds of special wonders – worms and bugs, favorite foods in all stages of decomposition, and a host of smells both sweet and savory. Did you know, though, that some of the bits of food that land in your compost bin can live a second life? Many of the food scraps that we discard can be turned into new plants and, eventually, more food! Creating a kitchen scrap garden is incredibly easy and equally as fascinating, and it can lead to fantastic experiential learning on the topic of plant growth and biology.

Plants possessing the ability to regenerate easily fall into a few different categories. Edible bulbs, like scallions and green onions, will happily continue to produce flavorful green shoots so long as their white bulbs are preserved. Biennial green stalk-y plants like celery, bok choy, lettuce, and cabbage can grow anew if the portion of the plant where the leaves and stalks originate from is saved. Plants whose roots we enjoy, however, work a little bit differently. Rather than saving a small, inedible portion of the plant to regenerate more edible stuff with, food scrap gardeners actually use the edible portion of the plant to sprout more. Ginger and potatoes both grow in this way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Learn About Local Food & Chemistry through Fermentation

The Art & Science of Fermentation: Lessons in Local Food Preservation

There’s lots of space for learning about food science when you turn your kitchen into a fermentation station!

This time of year, it’s so easy to forget how badly we longed for crisp pickling cucumbers and fresh local tomatoes during the winter – sometimes, it all comes in at once, and it’s all we can do to keep the bounty of our gardens and farm shares from going to waste. Gardening is, of course, a great way to expose kids to cycles of growth and the joy of producing your own food, and the cooking that eventually follows. A solidly planted garden brings with it a myriad of other kitchen-based learning experiences (measuring math, recipe literacy, and lots of fine motor skill development for small folks). But what do you do when you’ve cooked all you can eat and your self-sufficient kiddos have already mastered the ins and outs of your kitchen? Start fermenting! Read the rest of this entry »

Buy Nothing Project: Creating a Sustainable Sharing and Caring Economy

Community Sharing Drives Ideals of Collaboration, Repurposing, Consumer Consideration and The Power of Networks

“The mission of the group really resonated with me,” says Northampton/Easthampton BNP volunteer administrator, Alyssa Pratt on why she got involved with BNP. “I really enjoy community building and I loved the idea of bringing people together through this very specific project. Also, as a volunteer admin, I really appreciate the thoughtful guidelines that are in place for all of the groups; they foster etiquette and kindness, and make my job much easier.”

Combinations of random acts of kindness and collaborative consumption are the foundation of caring economies like the Buy Nothing Project. The Buy Nothing Project is an international (yet still community-based) movement that not only promotes strong communities through kindness, sharing, and collaborative consumption, but promotes a low-impact, resilient, cost-saving lifestyle for folks of all ages.

Read the rest of this entry »

Support Hilltown Families During Valley Gives!

Schedule your donation today for December 10th!

This month, Hilltown Families will be entering our 10th year! We will also be participating in our 1st ever Annual Appeal through Valley Gives this Wednesday, December 10th! Your tax deductible donation to Hilltown Families during Valley Gives will help us continue to support community building and community learning initiatives throughout western MA!

Supporting Education through Community Engagement

For nearly a decade, Hilltown Families has been working towards creating resilient and sustainable communities by developing and strengthening a sense of place in our children and citizens through community-based education and engagement.

Schedule your donation now for December 10th!In this TEDx Talk, “Supporting Education Through Community Engagement,” Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield, shares her story on why feeling connected to where you live matters, and how community-based education and community-service learning can help grow active citizens who care about where they live.

Service-Based Learning

Part of our mission includes connecting, creating and collaborating in service-based learning opportunities for families in Western MA. Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Events are one of our signature events that accomplishes this mission. We have been able to deliver over 1,500 hours of community service through service-based learning with our yearly Family Community Service Events and collaborations with local businesses and non-profit organizations!

Help us generate 1,500 more hours of community service!Volunteering as a family has so many benefits for children, parents, families and the community… yet families are so very busy that it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer together, or to identify ways to support causes and organizations they care about. Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Events offer a bridge between families and service organizations in our region, bringing our community together in the spirit of volunteerism and collaboration to amplify the work of these organizations while supporting service-based learning and the value of giving back to our community.

Learn more about Hilltown Families Community Service Events in this video, Hilltown Families: Sense of Place:

Pay it Forward with Hilltown Families’ Premiums

Local businesses and community institutions love Hilltown Families just as much as our community members! Every day we make connections between the embedded learning & community building opportunities they offer and ways our community can engage with them to support their interests and education.

Schedule your donation now for Valley Gives!We want our donors to be able to share our local community-based educational resource with your friends, family & community members too. During Valley Gives Day we will be partnering with local businesses and community institutions, like Historic Deerfield, Amherst Cinema and A2Z Science Learning Center, to offer Premiums to our donors to share with others! We will be offering museum passes, movie tickets, gift certificates, music and more to our donors, encouraging you to “Pay it Forward” by gifting awarded Premiums to another.

Not only will you feel good about supporting Hilltown Families, but you will also feel good when you share a Random Act of Kindness with another by gifting them the opportunity to engage in our community in a way that supports their interests and education too!

If you own a local business or are involved with a community organization and would like to add a gift to our pot of Premiums, encouraging giving as a Random Acts of Kindness following Valley Gives, contact Sienna to make arrangements.

Why Valley Gives?

Why through Valley Gives? Valley Gives is a collaboration of non-profits throughout western Massachusetts working together to engage 20,000 donors in a single 24-hour day of giving on December 10th.  By scheduling your tax deductible donation to Hilltown Families through Valley Gives you too become part of this collaborative effort while amplifying your donation with bonuses and prizes given out by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to participating non-profit organizations.

Schedule your donation now for Dec 10th!Valley Gives offers big prizes and bonuses for the highest number of new and individual donors. Every tax deductible donation made to Hilltown Families through Valley Gives counts!  Can only give $10? We need your donation and Valley Gives boost your donation & support!

Have you seen Hilltown Families promotional video for Valley Gives video contest?  Hilltown Families placed in the top 10! Check it out:

Matching Grant

Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’  Meet Your Match Bonus is one way you can help us raise over $7,500 on December 10th This is a special competition only for nonprofits that secure matches for Valley Gives Day. Bonus awards will be announced at the end of the day and will be chosen randomly. Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts will award $2,500 to 25 randomly selected nonprofits that meet their matches. Minimum match must be $2,500.

If you’re a BIG BIG fan of Hilltown Families and can support us with a tax deductible donation of $500 or more, your donation can be pooled together with other supporters to create a matching grant of $2,500. Please email Rick Feldman or Sienna Wildfield to make arrangements prior to Valley Gives Day.

Join our Virtual Street Team!

Are you already a fan of Hilltown Families? Join our Virtual Street Team!!! Get social with us and share Hilltown Families on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, email and your blogs! As we get closer to December 10th we’ll be asking our virtual Street Team to rally for Hilltown Families, inviting friend, fans and family to support Hilltown Families with a donation during Valley Gives Day.

To get started, connect with us through our various social media channels.

“Like” us on Facebook
“Follow” us on Twitter.
“Follow” us on Pinterest.
Add us on Google+.
“Follow” us on Instagram.

Schedule your donation now for Dec 10th!Then get busy Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, and Pinning our updates, letting those in your own social networks know why you support Hilltown Families and your plans to make a donation of any size on December 10th.

The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration

The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration

What do storm drains have in common with art, watersheds, and poetry? They’ll all be a part of The Art of Clean Water celebration put on by Enchanted Circle Theater and their community partners on Saturday, November 8th from 10am-11:30am at the Holyoke Public Library! The celebration will feature an unveiling of new artwork inspired by Holyoke students on several of the storm drains in downtown Holyoke. The event will be focused on education and advocacy around water for youth and local families and will have activities and opportunities to learn for the whole family.

Bring your children to investigate microscopic critters with the Hitchcock Center, create trash art and poetry with the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and learn about rain gardens with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission… to name just a few highlights! Read the rest of this entry »

What to Play? Make Your Own Toys!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Getting back to creative basics, and making your own toys!

DIY toys stimulates creative free play. Make this cup & ball with materials you have at home! (Photo credit: Carrie St. John)

While looking for some DIY toys and games for my summer campers to make or design and to inspire play, I found a great book at Gabriel Books in Northampton, MA. John has amazing finds in his $1 box on the sidewalk. I am guessing these are the books he considers duds. Not his best sellers. They take up valuable shelf space. I frequently find good things in that box. I have never had it in me to be a tag sale person or thrift shop hunter but I love to stop and check on old books. This find, Easy-to-Make Old-Fashioned Toys by Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., is dated in style and illustrations. It was published in 1979. I was 8 years old. I am dated, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Project 333 Challenges Consumerism While Supporting Style

Less is More: Minimize Your Fashion Footprint

Project 33

Project 333 encourages a minimalist approach that throws down the gauntlet challenging us to dress with 33 items for a period of 3 months. It slims down the closet and cuts back on consumerism while finding the essence of your style!

The teen- and tween-age years can often bring with them a deluge of clothing-driven creativity and expression of personality, often continuing with us into parenthood! In turning outward appearance into an accurate portrayal of the inner self, some teens and tweens may find themselves wanting to fill their closets with endless styles, patterns, and sizes. While fulfilling their desire to express themselves is important, there is also much to be learned from taking a more minimalist approach to fashion – one that requires fewer possessions, encourages less consumption, and poses an interesting challenge to clothing creativity.

To encourage a minimalistic approach to your wardrobe, teens and parents alike can take inspiration from Project 333, an initiative that supports people in scaling back their wardrobes so as to consume less and show off their own unique style even more! Project 333 challenges participants to create a capsule wardrobe – a collection of clothing that is small yet offers variety, and reflects the wearers favorite pieces and styles without closet crowding. In order to take on the project, participants choose 33 articles of clothing and accessories to get them through a 3-month period of time. Pairs of shoes, backpacks, and jewelry all count as items, aside from things that are never removed like piercings, wedding rings, sentimental necklaces, or certain earrings. Once 33 items are chosen, all other items are boxed up and put away until the three months have ended – the time when you’ll reassess and start over again.

While a Project 333-inspired wardrobe limits a fashion-conscious teen or tween’s clothing options, it also challenges them to really think about what items are important to them and how many items they really need. Instead of having many versions of the same few favorite items, choose one of each and save both closet space and clothing-selecting time. Look to Project 333’s Pinterest page for examples of capsule wardrobes that fit the project’s model, yet offer lots of variety and personality. There are endless graphics that detail how to be unique while sticking to a small number of items. 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 »

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…

The Children’s Garden Project Brings Garden-Based Learning into the Community

The Children’s Garden Project

Working on garden bedsA childhood filled with playing in the dirt is something that rural folks can almost take for granted. Small lessons about seeds, plant growth, weather, and seasonal changes almost teach themselves when kids are able to explore the earth – and the things that grow in it – for themselves. But what happens when the dirt to dig in is covered with pavement? How do we help children to learn these lessons when the materials aren’t quite so handy?

Thanks to The Children’s Garden Project , kids in the urban areas of Hampden and Hampshire counties have easier access to dig-able, plant-able, fascination-inducing earth! The organization – which begun their work just last year – has helped to bring gardens to locations in Holyoke and West Springfield. This year, the organization has partnered with Head Start to bring gardens to seven new locations in Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee.

While school gardens are becoming increasingly more and more prevalent, the founders of The Children’s Garden Project saw one major flaw with the model of using school gardens as a tool for teaching…  Read the rest of this entry »

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 the 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 natural trails and a lookout tower that we could climb. It would be fun… 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…

Parenting Green: Cloth Trumps Paper


In our house, it’s hard to remember how we made it from the days of paper towels by the roll and paper napkins by the stack to the cloth napkins that prevail in our home now.

The adage ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ seemed to move from a motto to a household reality pretty quickly in our home. I’m glad about that. When I talk to my husband’s grandma about some of the projects the artisans and crafters are making around here from repurposed materials she kind of chuckles about how that was just the way things were back when she was young. It’s more of a trend now, she felt, and less out of necessity as it was when she was mothering. Though like me, I believe she was glad to hear people were getting back into that type of reclaiming regardless. Perhaps we are circling back in time a bit. History does tend to repeat itself, and this is one relapse not only worth reliving, but perhaps one we are increasingly unable to do without.

Back are the days of cloth napkins and cotton bags for bringing home groceries! Even the big chain grocery stores are retraining us with posters at their entryway reminding shoppers to get their reusable bags from the car. And before we know it, we end up using these bags for a whole lot more than groceries! Whether they’re used to hold beach towels, kids snow gear for trips, sleepover items, or for on-going projects that live in our shed, it’s no wonder I’ve lost track of them along the way…

Read the rest of this entry »

More than Honey: Film Explores Relationship Between Bees & Human

Film & Local Panel Explore
Relationship Between Bees & Humans

Bee pollination is vital to the survival of 80% of the world’s plant species, yet populations of the fuzzy flying insects are declining all around the world. What does the decline in bee populations mean for farmers? Learn about this current and pressing issue at a screening of More Than Honey, a documentary that explores the effects of colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon responsible for bees’ recent scarcity.

Amherst Cinema and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) have partnered to offer a special showing of the film More Than Honey at 7pm on Tuesday, October 15th. Along with the screening will be a panel discussion featuring local bee experts Dan Conlon of Warm Colors Apiary and Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms…

Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Repairing and Connecting to Our Communities


There is a sentiment of resiliency and connection to our community when we participate in sustainable practices…

Every time I walk into a home and see the paper cuts of Nikki Mcclure’s work hanging on a wall or a page of her calendar looking back at me, I’m reminded of the sweet work that it is being human. I’m immediately flooded with ideas of repairing, reusing and reclaiming our creative heritage. Inspired to pick up thread and attend to the basket of mending that covers my worktable. Days and weeks go by, and now that basket has been demoted to the closet, almost forgotten about. Within are the possibilities of new outfits, stockings, and pants, so long forgotten when they reappear mended, that it will feel like a new wardrobe. How is it then that I feel the need to go shopping instead?…

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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.


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.


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.


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, find them Facebook (“Northampton ReUse”) or go to the DPW’s website at

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:  No dealers, please.  More info is available on Facebook and on the DPW’s website

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 ( [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 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.


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 The group also has an informal Gift Circle. Information about Gift Circles can be found on the OpenCollaboration’s Blog.

Celebrating Sustainability and Local Food at the 7th Annual North Amherst Harvest Festival

7th Annual North Amherst Harvest Festival
Sunday, September 23rd

Have you ever made your own cornmeal, or dyed your own fabric using wildflowers?  Families can do all of these things and more at the North Amherst Harvest Festival on Sun, Sept 23rd from 12noon-5pm at the North Amherst Community Farm at 1089 N. Pleasant Street in North Amherst. This is a free rain or shine event (>$ parking). (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

When was the last time that you enjoyed a bike-power-blended smoothie?  Have you ever made your own cornmeal, or dyed your own fabric using wildflowers?  Families can do all of these things and more at the North Amherst Harvest Festival!

The harvest festival takes place on Sunday, September 23rd from 12noon-5pm at the North Amherst Community Farm (NACF), a farm run as a grassroots project to provide affordable, locally and sustainably grown food to the community.  The festival will include seasonal activities like hayrides and cider pressing, along with live music, local food, face painting, games, and other family activities.

A range of fun children’s activities will be offered throughout the day, including pumpkin bowling, face painting, operating a cider press and making your own smoothie using a kid-sized blender bike! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In addition, the festival offers a plethora of hands-on opportunities!  Kids can participate in pumpkin bowling, cider pressing, using fresh local apples and a manual press to extract delicious juice.  Hayrides offer an opportunity to tour the farm fields – families can see the fields and animals, and learn about the farm’s biodiversity soil-rejuvenating practices.  There will also be hand-crank food mills on hand for families to try out making their own homemade cornmeal – kids can hand-pluck dried kernels from the cob and use their own muscle power to grind the kernels into meal… and after all of that hard work, they can enjoy a smoothie blended using bike power!

Each activity is sure to be fun and exciting for kids of nearly any age, and each offers a unique learning opportunity.  By participating in food processing, kids can become more aware of how food products are created and the amount of effort that is necessary to produce them.  In touring the farm, they can become familiarized with farm machinery, farm practices, and farm animals, and can begin to develop a deeper connection to their food.  Bring learning full circle by enjoying a local dinner together after the festival!  For more information, visit

This year, NACF is collaborating with Amherst Community Connections (ACC) and Craig’s Doors, two local non-profits offering services to those in the community who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. Hwei-Ling Greeney of ACC will oversee the food production for the Festival utilizing volunteers recruited from NACF, ACC, Craig’s Doors and The Amherst Survival Center. In return, a portion of NACF’s Festival proceeds will be shared between these agencies. The organizational missions of these groups all share a common concern for the issue of local food security.

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. – 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:

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