Students Invited to Create Wind Turbines & Sustainable Dollhouses for Expo

KidWind & Green Dollhouse Challenge at the
Western MA Science & Sustainability Expo

This May, Greenfield Community College will be hosting the first annual Western Massachusetts Science and Sustainability Exposition. The expo is an opportunity for educators and students to share and showcase their projects, initiatives, services, and resources surrounding the topic of sustainability.

The exposition also includes two exciting learning opportunities for students- the KidWind Challenge and the Green Dollhouse Challenge. Each of the challenges calls for students to design and build a realistic, working model.  KidWind calls for a wind turbine, and Green Dollhouse requires students to create a dollhouse that uses renewable energy sources and features sustainable materials and design.

KIDWIND ♦ For KidWind, the turbines will be judged based on a few different criteria, including energy harnessing efficiency and cost to create. More information is available at www.kidwind.org.

GREEN DOLLHOUSE ♦ In the Green DollHouse challenge, students will have to get creative to come up with as many different sustainable aspects as they can to incorporate into their house! From each challenge, students will learn about sustainably building, renewable energy, and architecture/design. Both projects can be tied in with studies of physics, environmental science, and/or architecture.

For more information about the expo or either of the challenges, contact Susan Reyes at 413-259-1658.

Video: Solar Power

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientists Discover Effects of Hurricane Irene on Local River Ecology

As You’d Expect, Hurricane Irene Drastically Altered Local River Ecology

Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes:

The past Wednesday afternoon, Biocitizen teamed up with Hilltown Families to do our annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River downstream of the Route 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. Thank you volunteer citizen scientists!

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Before we began, our hosts Sienna, Jim and Persephone described how scarily high the river rose during Hurricane Irene. Not only did beautiful farmland across the river crumble—old barn and antique garbage dump included—into the torrent; but they also heard giant boulders rolling, bumping, crashing below the surface. In fact, they could feel the vibrations of the boulders in the foundation of their house (Face it amigos; we’re all on jello.).

A first view revealed just how drastic the re-ordering of the river, and riparian corridor, was. Tree branches high on the bank held fist-sized clumps of leaves and debris, proof the flood crested around 15 feet above its present level, which is itself abnormally high. Down at the river, Persephone (9yo)—and Rowan (9yo), Owen (8yo) and Cyril (8y0)—showed me where her fort used to be (on a sedimentary sand bank). Then we saw all the flotsam she’s collecting to build a new one, on higher ground. I was relieved to see our sampling area was basically intact, and marveled with grim fascination at the look of the whole river course, which appears to have been bulldozed.

We did 6 invertebrate collections, 2 each at 3 sites that are within 20-30 feet of each other. Our first sampling shocked us, because we couldn’t find a single invertebrate; last year, each sample teemed with writhing, boisterous bugs. Below are RBA data sheets for 2011 and 2010 for your comparison. Look at the top row of each to get the basic idea: we didn’t find any large stoneflies this year, only tiny ones. (“The meek shall inherit the earth”…?) As we might expect, we found plenty of worms that build cases and glue themselves to large stones.

So: it was a “bad’ year, if we consider “good” to be finding lots of big juicy stoneflies. But for the purposes of cold-hearted science, the drastic alteration of the riverbed and reduction of the number of bugs is “great” because the bug population will definitely rebound (“no empty places in nature”). The biotic resurgence will be cyclical, though, and might take a year or more. The benthic invertebrates we collect live their short adult life next spring and summer (some live under water for more than one year); the reproductive cycle takes at least a year. There will probably be a lot of hungry trout next summer and perhaps less osprey 2 years from now, as a result.

We look forward to next year’s RBA with anticipation—it will show us how the river is a superorganism whose health changes in response to climatic influences.

And we are pleased to report that, notwithstanding the trauma it has endured, the Westfield @ Rt 143 is a river of “excellent quality” water!

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Families in Western MA Offer Earth Day Eco-Tips

Earth Day Eco-Tips from Western MA Families

"Eat food from the earth not from a box to reduce the amount of packaging thrown into landfills." - Cheli Mennella of Colrain, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

“Egg cartons make great seed starters! Windows sills are wonderful places to grow the tiny seeds! Kids love to watch life happen inside and outside their world!” – Elizabeth Jensen (Leeds, MA)

“Toilet paper rolls become trumpets in our house.” – Jessica Morris (Northampton, MA)

“My daughter Kacia, age 8, is fanatical about litter. We recently went to the Energy Park clean up and Kacia was very disappointed to be weeding instead of picking up trash! She grabs it everywhere we go; on the sidewalk, in the parking lot, on the grass. She tells people not to drop it on the ground and really notices when others do so. Give a hoot, don’t pollute!” – Pam and Kacia Kinsmith (Greenfield, MA)

“Stop buying bottled water! There are so many beautiful water bottles you can buy and re use. Our tap water is great, give it a try! Also, unplug your phone charger when you are not using it (all chargers). And don’t let the water run when you are brushing your teeth or doing dishes.” – Anna

“We unplug electronics when we are not using them. We also reuse plastic bags!” – Kristy Dyer (Hatfield, MA)

“Eat food from the earth not from a box to reduce the amount of packaging thrown into landfills.” – Cheli Mennella (Colrain, MA)

“Reuse bread bags and produce bags to wrap food items, everything from cheese to sandwiches to leftovers. no need to buy ziplocs, ever.” – Sandra Dias (Holyoke, MA)

“We line dry our clothes almost all year long. They smell great and the sun works as a natural sanitizer. This is especially useful for cloth diapers and towels.” – Robyn

“Recycling is a great thing, my son Joseph and I spread the word and help people learn what items go in what recycle bin. We have fun doing it .” – Lynda Medina

“We put our wireless router and all those miscellaneous computer appliances all on 2 easy to reach power strips. When we leave the house or go to bed, we turn the power off. There was a noticeable drop in our electric bills when we started this and we’re not wasting energy to power things we’re not using.” – Beth Caissi (Greenfield, MA)

“Here are my daughter Zoe’s environmental tips: No paper cups (she holds me to this one); No plastic spoons forks or knives; No plastic bags; Compost; Recycle; Repurpose; and Plant trees.” – Zoe and Tony(a) in Ashfield MA

Planting Seeds: Music that Celebrates Gardening

Maria & Friends: Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds - Must Hear Music Monday Column

One of our favorite artists, Maria Sangiolo, has gotten a bunch of her friends together to create a new album all about farms and gardens.

The resulting project, Planting Seeds, is an amazing compilation of songs about the earth, gardening, and eating right.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD is also going to benefit the good work of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

This album is both beautiful and fun and not at all preachy. Maria and her friends (including Rani Arbo, Alastair Moock, and SteveSongs) teach kids all about nature and growing your own food. My favorite song on the album, Didn’t Know What I Was Missing, a duet between Alastair and Lori McKenna, really gets to the point. Until you’ve had a tomato you’ve grown yourself, you just don’t know how good a tomato can be. And I can attest to that since we planted our first vegetable garden last year!

We’ve got plans for a HUGE garden this year. We’re planting tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, radishes, spinach, zucchini… and what ever else we can fit! This could be a great project for your family, too. Listen to the songs on the album and begin planning your garden now. By the time you’re ready to get your hands dirty in May you’ll know all the songs by heart!

Here’s to a prolific garden Dancin’ in the Breeze!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

Earth Hour Concert & Kids’ Dance Party in the Hilltowns

Sarah Stockwell-Arethen of Cummington, MA writes:

Earth Hour celebrates a worldwide commitment to ongoing change for the betterment of our home. Along with millions of others around the planet, we will douse the lights (at 8:30 pm) for one hour. Please bring a candle IN A JAR if you have one!

In these uncertain times of volatility in the climate, the economy, and politics world-wide, our local communities are ever more important to our well-being and to our future.  On Saturday, March 26th, we will celebrate local community and local food in a truly embracing Hilltown event.  Come to one or all: Kid’s dance (5pm), Potluck (6pm) and Concert (7:30pm) at the Cummington Community House. 33 Main St. Cummington, MA

We will dance!  We will eat and talk!  We will make music!  We will hear plain talk about our food supply — both the disturbing realities and also the actions we can all take that will improve our community’s food resilience and make us less reliant on distant, and ultimately uncertain, commodities.  Foods that are sometimes needed right where they are grown.

5pm – KID’S DANCE PARTY: Radio Free Earth and Maureen Shea. Radio Free Earth dubs its style Crossover Music because it’s paradoxically acoustic and electric, rootsy and innovative, funny and serious, and politicaland spiritual. Josh and Rob provide the music, Grasshoppa Maureen Shea leads the dance scores. All ages! (>$) www.radiofreeearth.com

6pm – POTLUCK/NETWORKING: Bring food to share — all welcome.

7:30pm – EARTH HOUR CONCERT: Sarah Stockwell-Arthen with Josh Wachtel, Sean Kimball and Heather Cupo. Sarah sings songs which are rooted in the land, ancestors and our deepening connections to the Earth (oh, and you will also laugh). Join us for music and some vital food for thought from Kathy Harrison (on strengthening our food resiliency) and Sarah Fournier-Scanlon (on creating a local “foodshed” — land to table — in the Hilltowns). For the networking table, please bring fliers or info about what’s happening with sustainability and community in your corner of the Hilltowns. Children in quiet mood are welcome to the concert (there may even be a back room space for quiet play). For more info email: music@sarahstockwell.com. or go to www.sarahstockwell.com (>$)

8:30pm – EARTH HOUR: Earth Hour celebrates a worldwide commitment to ongoing change for the betterment of our home. Along with millions of others around the planet, we will douse the lights (at 8:30 pm) for one hour. www.earthhour.org. Please bring a candle IN A JAR if you have one!

This program is supported in part by grants from the Cummington, Windsor, Worthington, and Chesterfield Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. http://www.massculturalcouncil.org

(Photo credit: (ccl) theqspeaks)

Morris Dancers, May Pole & Solar Powered Music on 3 Stages at the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival!

Update: Joining the festival this year will be the Juggler Meadow Morris Men and the lovely ladies from the Wake Robin Morris Dancers!
Seth Isman, Economic Development Director at the Hilltown CDC in Chesterfield, MA writes:

Morris dancers, maypole, solar powered music on 3 stages, local food, family activities, and much more! Find it all at the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival on May 14th at the Cummington Fairgrounds. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Please join us on May 14th, 2011 at the Cummington Fairgrounds for the Hilltown Spring Festival! There will be music on 3 stages, healthy local food, children’s activities all day long, displays by businesses and artists, a Focus on Sustainability, dancing around the Maypole at 12:30 with Morris dancers.

JOIN US! There are still opportunities to display your work, promote your business, or volunteer to help out. Some businesses are signing up to sponsor the event, others are signing up to display their products and services, and many are offering raffle prizes. And volunteers are signing up to help us build stages, direct vendor traffic during morning setup, and encourage recycling during the day. Last year, we reduced our waste stream by 30% by recycling paper, plastic, metal, and compost. This year, with your help, we can do even better.

Performers who are already scheduled include: The Nields (kids show), Tony Vacca (world music percussionist), Swing Caravan (alt-jazz quartet), Gaia Roots (vocals and percussion), string band Appalachian Still, singer/songwriter Laura Wetzler, Misty Blues (blues you can groove to), the Dave Bartley Trio, Pat and Tex LaMountain, Boxcar Lilies, and popular children’s performers Mister G, and Ben Rudnick & Friends. One of the three music stages will be devoted to family music all day long, but families and children will enjoy all the music being performed.

Local food highlights confirmed so far include: fresh wood-fired pizza from The Baker’s Oven of Colrain, fried rice, lo mein and spring rolls from the Goshen Snack Bar, bratwurst and hot dogs from Elke’s Catering of Worthington, and Bart’s Ice Cream.

For more information, or to participate, go to http://www.hilltowncdc.org, email Seth Isman at sethi@hilltowncdc.org, or call Seth at 413-296-4536 ext. 112. We look forward to seeing you at the Hilltown Spring Festival on May 14th, 2011, at the Cummington Fairgrounds!

Farm Film Fest in the Berkshires

Farm Film Fest: A Day of Film and Food
Sunday, March 13th in the Berkshires

In celebration of Spring and the upcoming growing season, the Williams College Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program, Storey Publishing and Images Cinema will present Farm Film Fest: A Day of Film and Food on Sunday afternoon, March 13. Hosted by Images Cinema at 50 Spring Street in Williamstown, two screenings and five films about food and farming will be presented beginning at 1 p.m. Mezze Catering will present a cheese tasting between screenings featuring local cheeses from Massachusetts, Vermont and New York State.

“The Berkshire region is truly a leader in the ‘honest food’ movement – most of the issues play out here, and in the Berkshires we’ve found solutions that have often had national significance,” said Deborah Burns, acquiring editor at Storey Publishing. “The Farm Film Fest is an opportunity for our local community to connect with global issues surrounding the food movement.”

This is the second year for Farm Film Fest, which originated from the surging interest in food and farm issues and the many films that are addressing various aspects of this urgent subject.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown 24-Hour Bagshare Sewing Marathon this Spring!

Sewing Marathon: Sew Bags for the Ten Bagshare Locations in the Valley, Hilltowns and Berkshire County

Leni Fried of Cummington, MA writes:

threading the needle

24-Hour Bagshare Sewing Marathon begins Saturday, April 16th at 7:30am. Sign up to participate or organize a marathon in your area!

The Hilltown 24-hour sewing marathon will be at The Village Church and Hilltown Sewing Center on Main Street in Cummington, MA on April 16th—17th from 7:30am to 7:30am the following day. There will be six 4-hour shifts with at least one experienced bag sewer to head up each shift. Please let me know if you can head up a shift.

The idea is to sew as many strong and quality bags as possible in the time allotted.  • No rules. • Sew tags on existing bags. • Make kits ahead of time. • Just use scrap fabric is the main thing. • Sign up for a shift. • You don’t have to stay for the whole shift. • No sewing experience is necessary.

Here are the shifts:

  • 7:30am—11:30am
  • 11:30am—3:30pm
  • 3:30pm—7:30pm
  • 7:30pm—11:30pm
  • 11:30pm—3:30am
  • 3:30am—7:30am (Insomniac shift! This is a very popular shift. Barbara and I are already signed up for it. Bring your jammies! The Creamery will be supplying Rattlesnake Brew coffee to keep the sewers going.)

The Creamery will open early for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 17th to feed the bag sewers!

ORGANIZE YOUR OWN MARATHON

We invite you to organize your own marathon in any increment so people travel shorter distances to participate. The marathon can be organized as a 4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, or 24-hour marathon. We encourage ride sharing, car filling, carpooling, bike driven and human power to get to the marathon!

For now e-mail me to sign up and let me know if you are organizing a marathon in your area. Remember yours can be any amount of time you want. I hope that they all can be on the Saturday/Sunday before Earth Day so the bags can re-supply the 10 locations as an Earth Day action.

Let me know your thoughts. This is a FUN thing!

Photo credit: (ccl) Leia Barker

Bullitt Reservation Grand Opening in Ashfield

The Trustees Encourage Visitors to Dream Big about Making Small Impacts on Local Land

Farm that Once Swirled Near the Center of History Returns to Community as The Trustees of Reservations’ Newest Property in Ashfield, MA.

When globe-trotting Ambassador William Bullitt needed a place to ponder the world and relax with family, he retreated to the woods and fields of his farm in Western Massachusetts on the Ashfield-Conway border. Now, visitors can enjoy those same pursuits on a property that once hosted diplomats and dignitaries, as The Trustees of Reservations welcomes the public to the grand opening of its new Bullitt Reservation on Saturday, October 23rd. Festivities begin at 3PM.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009. Although most recently part of the estate of Ambassador William C. Bullitt, Jr. —best known for his role as the first U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and for his service as the Ambassador to France at the dawn of World War II— the land has deep community roots. The farm even served as Ashfield’s town poor farm from 1839 to 1874.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009.

Today, the Bullitt Reservation looks largely as it did in centuries past. A quintessential New England agricultural landscape, it abounds with a mix of forests, fields and streams, which provide natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and a diversity of species. It was the wish of Ambassador Bullitt’s daughter, Anne Bullitt, that the property be conserved and the legacy of her father be carried on at the site for the community and future generations to enjoy.

After guidance from local residents and a year of planning, the Bullitt Reservation will now offer a place for the community and visitors to meet, hike, stargaze, and connect with family and friends, providing opportunities for both people and wildlife to interact with and be enriched by the land. In keeping with Ambassador Bullitts’ legacy of looking outward, the Bullitt Reservation will also serve as a resource for learning about ways to lighten our individual and collective impact on land, and to significantly reduce our contribution to the indelible marks that a warming climate will etch on the nature and culture of our local hills and valleys.

The 18th century farmhouse on the property receives a complete renovation and "deep energy retrofit."

At the center of those efforts, The Trustees have nearly completed renovation and a “deep energy retrofit” of the 18th century farmhouse on the property, thanks to a gift from the Bullitt Foundation and a recent $100,000 stimulus grant received from the Patrick Administration’s Department of Energy Resources. Slated as the future offices of the Highland Communities Initiative and the Hilltown Land Trust, the renovated farmhouse will combine readily-available electric heat pump technology (with plans to add solar power as funds are available) and super-insulation to increase energy efficiency, cutting energy consumption by more than 50%. Thanks to the creative energy of general contractor Mary Quigley of Quigley Builders in Ashfield, nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

Nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

When complete, The Trustees hope the new Bullitt structure will have earned Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a building rating system established by the United States Green Building Council to measure the “greenness” of buildings), and showcase a viable selection of energy conservation strategies for area homeowners and businesses.

The grand opening of the Bullitt Reservation will be on Saturday, October 23rd with family activities, pumpkin decorating, cider pressing, live music and potluck. Festivities begin at 3PM.

Guests are welcome to attend the grand opening of the new Bullitt Reservation on October 23rd and explore The Trustees of Reservations’ newest special place, take a tour, and enjoy the views over a potluck dinner with friends and neighbors. The day will begin at 3PM with tours of the ongoing green transformation of the old farmhouse, a guided hike on the new scenic Pebble Trail (moderately difficult), leisurely strolls through the wildlife meadow, and family activities including pumpkin decorating and cider-making demonstrations. At 4:30PM there will be live music, a potluck dinner, and toasts to the new reservation. The Trustees will provide hot soup and fresh bread. Guests are asked to bring a dish, snack, or beverage to share. The event is free and open to the public and will take place rain or shine.

For more information and to RSVP, please call 413.268.8219 or email highlands@ttor.org

More About The Trustees in Ashfield

In addition to owning 262 acres of conservation land, The Trustees hold a conservation restriction on the majority of the remaining Bullitt estate land, comprising approximately 103 acres on the northern side of Bullitt Road, which was sold with the main Bullitt house and barn to a private buyer late last year. Together, these complete an important missing piece in a large puzzle of connected conservation land in the area. The Trustees also own and manage two other properties in Ashfield – Bear Swamp and Chapel Brook Reservations – both popular community recreational sites and important ecological habitats. The new reservation will add to The Trustees’ diversity of program and property offerings in this corner of the Pioneer Valley.

Grow Food Northampton

Meg Taylor of Williamsburg, MA writes:

Grow Food Northampton envisions a community farm to include CSA's, microdairy, farming microenterprises, farm store, community garden plots, apprentice trainings, workshops, community celebrations, school programs and camps right in Northampton, MA. You can help to make this happen!

Some of you may already know about the local nonprofit, Grow Food Northampton, and their plan to purchase 117 acres of prime farmland in Florence (walking distance from town center, near Meadow and Spring Sts.). If you read the Gazette, it is starting to get some press and you will see more in the upcoming months. The vision is to create the Northampton Community Farm on this land which will include a vegetable/flower CSA (which plans to sell shares for spring 2011), potentially a grain and meat CSA, microdairy, other farming microenterprises, a farm store with local products, and community garden plots. The vision also includes a farmer apprentice training program, adult workshops, community food celebrations, school programs, and future farm camp site. In addition, the abutting land will have hiking/biking trails along the Mill River connecting to Look Park and recreation fields for youth sports. This new public space will have a significant positive impact on the Northampton community as well as throughout the region.

I have been involved with Grow Food Northampton since last fall and I am writing to encourage you all – but especially those folks who live in Florence, Northampton, Leeds, or Williamsburg/Haydenville to make a donation (of any size!) towards the purchase of this agriculturally and historically rich land. Grow Food Northampton is 1/3 of the way to reaching their fundraising goal of $461,000 by January 31, 2011. If the remaining funds are not raised, the Northampton Community Farm and its programming will not happen as envisioned. Every donation counts! It’s easy to donate on their website.

Opportunities like this do not come around too often for a town and this is one you can be sure will leave a lasting impression on the food, farming, and community landscape of Northampton. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like more info or would like to become involved with the exciting work of Grow Food Northampton. Volunteers for upcoming events are always welcome! And please forward to anyone you think might be interested.

Learn more at: growfoodnorthampton.com

Old Creamery Co-Op Welcomes Founding Member-Owners!

On behalf of the Old Creamery Co-op Steering Committee, Kimberly Longey of Plainfield, MA, writes:

Greetings: Just 6 months ago we gathered in Cummington to launch the effort to transition the Old Creamery (Cummington, MA) into a community owned cooperative. Today we’ve reach a major milestone – we are now welcoming founding member-owners to join the Co-op!

By joining now you will help us keep the momentum building and move us closer to the goal of purchasing the Old Creamery store from Alice and Amy. Your support will ensure that our vibrant local store remains in service to this community for years to come.

Read the rest of this entry »

Green Mama: Kelly’s Top 10 Reason to Live a Greener Lifestyle

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

Let’s Hear It For The Bear

(ccl) Alan Vernon

Photo credit: Alan Vernon

Apparently no one told the neighborhood bear that the McIlquham’s were making an attempt to live greener and had enough forces working against them in their attempts to do so, so we most definitely did not need his/her help in thwarting our efforts.

Really, every time we feel like we are making great strides forward, something gets in the way. The spring sports season rules our dietary intake (as I’ve said before there’s nothing organic about the food at the Little League snack bar). My husband or I forget to pick up the organic fruit and vegetable basket for the week and have only canned, processed fruits and veggies to feed our kids for the week. The weather gets so hot and humid that the bedroom feels 50 degrees warmer than a sauna and we break down and put the air conditioning unit in the window. And now the BEAR.

As I might have mentioned in previous posts, we purchased a composter and began using it a couple months ago. We had been wanting to get one for a long time and when my husband came home one day and presented me with this beautiful, green, plastic canister I couldn’t have been happier than if he had done all the laundry, folded it and put it away. I purchased a pretty green countertop canister online to house our daily scraps and the kids were temporarily fighting for the chance to be the one to bring out the scraps and turn the composter. All was well and green at the McIlquham house. But the scraps were not composting as quickly as we had hoped and soon we had two problems. The smell began to deter our children from the chore of emptying the bucket while at the same time attracting our curious neighbor — Mr. or Mrs. Bear.

Each morning we would find the composter pulled of its stand and pushed half-way down the blueberry path. I guess the bear realized the encroaching forest would make it difficult to roll the canister all the way home so he/she developed another tactic: the bear decided to try and remove the compost cover and get at the goods inside, while hanging out in our backyard at all hours of the night.

His first few attempts merely left a few claw marks in the plastic and the composter left to be retrieved from the blueberry path, but it didn’t take long for him to figure out how to get the cover off. That incredibly clever bear was able to rip the screws right out of the plastic and the cover right along with it. After a few choice words, Mark had had it and for a week or two there the unused, coverless composter sat, our scraps making their way back into the trash can. Hey, it was a good effort on our part, but apparently composting in the backwoods of Hinsdale wasn’t meant to be. Or was it? Mark and I began making lists. These lists included all the reasons to continue our green journey. They also included all the ways that we had changed in a few short months. It was unanimous that one of the most noticeable changes was evident in the amount of trash we were collecting (significantly less than the waste months before), and that was a direct result of our recycling and (you guessed it) our composting.

Renewed with our lists my husband (with some help from my dad) found a way to fix the cover, we moved the composter to a sunnier location so it would compost more quickly, smell less thus deterring the bear from the area and not the kids, and we began collecting our scraps again. We are back in composting mode. Yahoo! We even used some of the composted soil to repot a few plants recently.

But I know this is not the end of the “forces that be” and I know somewhere along the line in the not-too-distant future we will contemplate just giving up on this whole green thing and be tempted to go back to living our old, wasteful way of life. So in anticipation of that day I have created a new list of why we should continue on this journey, for myself and my family … maybe it will help you when various forces of nature try to thwart your environmental efforts.

Kelly’s top 10 reasons to live a greener, more environmentally friendly, health conscious lifestyle:  Read the rest of this entry »

HHuGE Wagon Update: New Hours & Volunteer Opportunity

HHuGE Wagon Hours Are Changing!
By HHuGE Coordinator, Janet Henderson

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hi! I am Janet Henderson, the new Hilltown Home Garden Exchange (HHuGE) Wagon coordinator, and I am writing to let you know that, because the produce in the wagon is not lasting in this heat (and other issues), the hours the wagon is open are changing.

The new hours are:

  • Fridays from 5pm-8pm
  • Saturday from 9am-8pm

If you have extra produce to leave off at the wagon, please do so during these times. And, please, regardless of whether you have anything to donate, do take advantage of the large amount of produce that is being left and take whatever you can use. The produce is available to all.

Also, please let others know about the new hours. I don’t want people to be frustrated going there only to find it closed. I will also post the new hours on the wagon.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

If you would be available to help open the wagon on Friday evenings (around 5PM) or to close it on Fridays (after 8PM) or to open it on Saturday mornings (before 9AM), please let me know (bellajanet27@gmail.com). I could use the help. Opening the wagon should only take a few minutes, but closing it may take a little longer, since any wilted produce needs to be removed and any bags, boxes, buckets, etc. need to be tidied. The main qualification for this volunteer opportunity is dependability.

Thank you for helping to make the HHuGE wagon a success in providing free fresh produce to people in the area!  Find out more about HHuGE at www.HHuGE.org

Green Mama: There Is Always Someone Who Needs It

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

A Lesson from Brazil

The honking of the car horn as they approached the driveway announced their arrival. Max, who had been helping me make the bed, quickly abandoned the task (and me) and bolted down the stairs to greet his friend. Discarding the pillowcase in my hand I quickly followed suit. Menial tasks could wait: Our friends who had just returned “home” after a year in Brazil could not.

Arriving seconds behind Max, my heart did a silent leap in my chest at the sight before me. All three of my children stood in the driveway taking turns embracing our visitors and then it was my turn.

I held out my arms in invitation and 11-year-old Nick quickly accepted. He ran into my arms and squeezed. My sentiments exactly, I thought as I proceeded to squeeze him right back.

The Julianos had moved back to their native Brazil last July after five years in the United States. None of us had been happy about it, Lilly and her children included. But that moment in the driveway reconnected us all in a matter of seconds and it seemed as though my friend Lilly and her two sons Nicholas and Arthur (her husband could not make this trip but we had seen him the previous week when back in the area on business) had never left and most importantly, hadn’t changed a bit.

But first impressions are deceiving, and after six days of togetherness and countless hours of conversation later I realized that one cannot go from the backwoods of Hinsdale, MA, to the suburbs of Sao Paulo in Brazil and not change.

The most notable change was with the kids. They had grown a lot in a year, not only in size but in maturity. Their English was interspersed with Portuguese more than ever and the two brothers who previously had only spoken English to each other slang and all (they were so “American” when they were here) most often than not spoke to each other in their native tongue.

Lilly still had the same laid-back, loving personality, but I noticed she struggled more finding the right English word to use in describing Brazil, food, her emotions … everything.

What I noticed most though, was Lilly’s unwavering appreciation for the place she called home for five years — Berkshire County.

She commented on the birds that woke her up in the morning: “It was beautiful.” She took great joy and even cried in the supermarket when she reunited with the brands she hadn’t seen in a year: “Ahhh, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” she said. She relished the low, low prices in the U.S. despite the current recession: “A $20 video game here costs $120 in Brazil.”

But most of all Lilly talked about how much we had in the U.S. — “You have no idea.” She discussed the great disparity in social classes at home, and she talked about the need of others.

In Brazil, nothing goes to waste. I knew that’s how Lilly lived here, the same food made it to dinner, lunch the next day and dinner again, and if it still wasn’t gone it was frozen for another day. In Brazil, Lilly informed me, everything is recycled as much as possible including clothes, furniture and other household items and appliances.

“There is always someone who needs it,” Lilly has commented on more than one occasion.

During this time with Lilly (that is not over yet) I even learned some things I hadn’t known about her. Like how disappointed she was when she moved that no one would accept the dining room table she wanted to donate so it ended up getting burned in a farewell bonfire. To Lilly that was shameful.

After living in a disposable society for five years, Lilly moved back to a place where everything is precious either because of the cost to acquire it or because you know that a great number of people cannot afford it.

It’s something to think about as I continue my Green Mama journey. Living greener, it seems, is as much about people as it is about the environment. I think sometimes that’s something that can get “lost in the translation” and we should work hard to ensure that it doesn’t.

So when Lilly leaves in a couple weeks she will not only leave me a little sadder and slightly heartbroken to lose the constant company of my friend once again, but also a little more aware, a little more appreciative of what I have and where I live, and little more inspired to continue our family’s journey.

Vamos nessa!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, two black labs, a cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate in the Berkshires where she especially enjoys writing family- and education-related articles and her monthly “Parent to Parent” column. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her work published by Wee Ones online family magazine. Her new blog “Green Mama” chronicles her journey as a “green” parent in every sense of the word — from her parenting naiveté to living greener. When not writing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games. kwm229@msn.com

Hilltown Home Garden Exchange Wagon Reopens at the Old Creamery in Cummington

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Make 2010 a HHuGE Success for Food Security in the Hilltowns!
By HHuGE Coordinator, Kathy McMahon

The Hilltown Home Garden Exchange (HHuGE) ‘wagon’ is open once again! Thanks to Steve Yoshen (built the wagon), Leni Fried (artistic fruit and veggies) and the Goodtime Stove Company (wagon wheel provided), our ‘wagon’ is all ready to open up once again! Thanks to the Old Creamery for hosting it again this year! We’re hoping an early start will encourage folks to drop off extra seedlings and cuttings to produce even MORE food for our area!

Want to volunteer or coordinate volunteers for your church or organization? It is easy to open and close the wagon, and takes only a few minutes each day! If you will be driving by the Old Creamery in Cummington, MA (or on Route 9 and 112), why not agree to open or close it for a few days or a week? You get to see what great stuff has been dropped off!

Chesterfield Fourth of July Parade Beckons us once again!.Will you join us (in costume or not)? Handing out veggies and flyers announcing HHuGE is loads of fun!.Just ask the carrot, apple, farmers and other veggies that danced last year!

That’s all for now. Thanks for your interest in Hilltown Food Security!

Do you grow fruit or veggies at home? HHuGE will bring together
 Hilltown residents who want to share, learn, and encourage growing food at home and want to distribute their excess bounty throughout the Hilltowns via their HHuGE Garden Wagon. Find out more about the Hilltown Home Garden Exchange at www.HHuGE.org, or contact Kathy McMahon at 634-0002, peakshrink@peakoilblues.com
(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Anxiety of Green Living

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

I’m Going Green Crazy

Hilltown mothers of the world would be proud. Two months ago my family embarked on a journey to eat healthier, but as we began our trek through the grocery stores talking about healthy eating, living, BEING it began to spark some interesting conversations.

Our family began to talk about the environment. We began to think about how our unconscious stream of living was affecting the environment around us. The kids worried about what was in their snacks and cafeteria lunches at school. They began to inquire about our recycling habits and occasionally they turned off a light or two.

And conversation wasn’t the only environmental flame ignited. My family actually began taking some steps to implement some really sustainable habits.

For Earth Day we purchased a composter. That big, giant, hunk of plastic was as pleasing to my eyes as the beautiful butterfly bush that used to reside in the stonewall flower garden our composter now calls home.

About two days after that little treat, the McIlquham family began a home recycling center. I even spent an afternoon grilling my dad about the best way to separate our recyclables for our local transfer station since he’s the one who makes the weekly trek to dump. (Hey, he’s retired. It gives him something to do, and besides I think he likes it.) Thanks to that afternoon of quality father/daughter time and multiple phone calls later, I think I’ve got it figured out.

That same week, my 10-year-old daughter (now 11, her birthday was last week) commented on how green we had been living that week. Thanks to the car being in the shop we walked a mile to a friends house, bringing along our own healthy, semi-organic lunches to hang out for the day, and even walked the return trip home knowing we could have gotten a ride. We enjoyed that so much, that we opted to leave the newly fixed car at home and ride our bikes to the lake the following day.

My children were so impressed by their multiple displays of greendom that week that they asked to go out to dinner (some greasy dive down the road, not a chance that anything there would be healthy or organic), to celebrate.

OK we aren’t completely there yet, but “we’ve come a long way baby!” And to be completely honest I don’t think we will ever be 100 percent there — completely green, organic and sustainable. But I’m OK with that. We are living healthier and more consciously and the environment is better for it — and so are we!

But there is one thing about this whole “Green Mama” adventure that I am not OK with and that is the neurosis I have begun to develop in the process.

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Potty Talk at the Hilltown Spring Festival!

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Poop Happens at the Hilltown Spring Festival
Composting Porta-Potty to Debut!

If there is any thing parent’s become comfortable talking about once they have their first baby, it’s potty talk. So what better audience to announce to that the first-ever composting porta-potty will debut at the Hilltown Spring Festival, slated for Saturday, May 15th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cummington Fairgrounds. The environmentally-friendly toilet will be built this Sunday, May 2, by local installers of Phoenix Composting Toilets.

“Composting toilets are becoming more popular and people have been asking me for years, ‘When are you going to have one that’s a porta-potty?’” says Ben Goldberg, a Leeds resident who sells and installs Phoenix composting toilets. “We’re excited to be building this in time for the Hilltown Spring Festival.”

The fourth annual Spring Festival, produced by the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, is a daylong celebration of Hilltown life, featuring 15 musical acts on two stages, arts and crafts, unusual games, children’s activities, local food and local brews. (Program details at www.hilltowncdc.org)

The composting toilet is part of the Festival’s continued focus on eco-friendly business and sustainable living. The idea for the toilet has received approvals from the Cummington Fairgrounds and the Cummington Board of Health. A local farmer will provide a long-term home for the compost produced by the porta-potty.  Potty training however is still left up to the individual parent!

Family Fun Festival to Celebrate Life in the Hilltowns

Spring Festival to Celebrate Hilltown Community Through
Music, Arts, Hands-on Learning and Family Fun

The Hilltown Spring Festival, a daylong celebration of Hilltown music, arts, culture and community, will take place Saturday, May 15th, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cummington Fairgrounds.  Produced by the Hilltown CDC, the fourth annual Festival will feature 15 musical acts on two performance stages, including headliners Charles Neville, The Primate Fiasco and Swing Caravan, all-day children’s activities, local food and local brews, arts and crafts and a sustainable living expo.

Last year’s event drew 1,500 people from across the far-flung region and this year’s family-friendly Festival will be another opportunity to celebrate the distinctive culture of the Hilltowns. “The Spring Festival is a music festival, a food festival, a sustainable living expo and an arts and crafts fair–all rolled into one,” says Seth Isman, the CDC’s Economic Development Coordinator and festival organizer. “It’s a reflection of who we are in this region and the shared qualities of life that we value.”

New this year:

The Festival has added a Kids-Made Craft Bazaar, featuring homemade crafts and art for sale by children up to age 13. Also new this year is a maypole dance scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Hosted by EarthSpirit of Worthington, the community maypole dance will be accompanied by traditional rhythmic stepping by multiple teams of Morris Dancers. Another new feature is an all-day puppet-making workshop led by MOther Earth JOurney Puppets of Williamsburg. Families can create their own stick puppets, inspired by the giant marionettes on display.

A focus on sustainable living:

The Hilltown Spring Festival is a zero-waste event and will continue its focus on eco-friendly living with demonstrations of solar heat, hot water and electricity, and information about local agriculture and home energy solutions from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Among the vendors at the business expo: Hilltown Hybrids will display energy-efficient cars; Manda Organic Farm will be selling hormone-free meat products; and folks from the Washington, MA-based Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts will talk about unique woodworking crafts such as timber framing.

A diverse musical lineup:

Musical offerings at the Festival will range from the jazz saxophone of Charles Neville to the Scottish pipes of Dan Houghton. Also on the bill are the local psychedelic Dixieland band, The Primate Fiasco, alt-jazz from Swing Caravan, world music from Gaia Roots, Celtic fiddler Katherine First and student choirs and musical groups from Hilltown-area schools. Look for special musical jam sessions and hands-on demonstrations throughout the day.

From dog sled demonstrations to a Triathlon of Unusual Games, the Festival will offer participants a day of rain-or-shine activity. Admission to the Spring Festival is free. Parking is $10 per carload. No dogs, please.

Check out the event page for the Hilltown Spring Festival on RideBuzz.org to coordinate carpooling.

A program schedule, details and directions are available at 413-296-4536 or www.hilltowncdc.org. Interested in being a vendor at the festival? Click here for registration forms.

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Update on Hilltown Home Garden Exchange (HHuGE)

Update on Hilltown Home Garden Exchange (HHuGE)
By HHuGE Coordinator, Kathy McMahon

We were in the Chesterfield Parade on the Fourth of July, (dressed as farmers and vegetables) and handed out produce to the crowd. We won Fourth Place!!!! Many people had ALREADY heard about us, so we're getting around!!! Wonderful coverage in the Country Journal as well, complete with evidential photography! (Photo credit: Jennifer Peotter)

WHAT IS HHuGE? In a nutshell

  • Bringing family gardeners together to donate their excess bounty – in trade or just to help local families in need.
  • Nature is abundant, just not evenly distributed.
  • Sharing fresh, wholesome produce is the neighborly thing to do!

UPDATES: A few quick updates about the happenings with HHuGE

  1. Our Grand Opening is Monday, July 20, 2009. Please stop by and take a look! We’ll be in the Old Creamery parking lot on the corners of Rte 9 and Rte 112, Cummington, MA.
  2. We are needing volunteers to help paint our ‘wagon.’ It needs to be primed in the next few days and final paint put on before Monday. If you can help between now and then, please contact me (Kathy- 634-0002.) We need your help with priming and putting on the final touches!
  3. We have a website now, and a calendar of events. See www.HHuGE.org and click “calendar” to see the weeks we have open weeks. If you can get a group of friends or an organization to open and close the wagon for one week, let me know. It is a job that will take less than 10 minutes.
  4. We were in the Chesterfield Parade on the Fourth of July, (dressed as farmers and vegetables) and handed out produce to the crowd. We won Fourth Place!!!! Many people had ALREADY heard about us, so we’re getting around!!! Wonderful coverage in the Country Journal as well, complete with evidential photography!
  5. If you haven’t already, it isn’t too late to Take the Lead, Plant More Seed. If we ever DO get a steady week of heat, consider planting a whole host of plants like carrots, lettuce, kale, radishes, swiss chard, and the like. Consider helping those facing hard times, and creating the sharing spirit for which the hilltowns are so famous for.

TIP OF THE HAT:  A Word of Thanks

HAVE WE MISSED YOU?

We’d like to involve all area churches and organizations that are invested in improved food security in the hilltowns. If you’d like to get involved, please let us know.

We ask anyone interested in coordinating their civic or religious organization’s participation to contact Kathy at peakshrink@peakoilblues.com for more details. All volunteers: Please stay tune for a late summer party held just for you (you’re the greatest!!!) celebrating our upcoming success!!!

PILOT PROGRAM

If you know of folks that would like to participate in this pilot program (to adopt it into their own town next year…) have them contact Kathy McMahon at peakshrink@peakoilblues.com

Thank you for your time reading this, and for your interest in caring for your friends and neighbors in these wonderful hilltowns.

Northampton Zoning Changes for Sustainability?

Lilly Lombard of Northampton, MA writes:

Hilltown Pets

Raising chickens in the backyard is not only sustainable, but educational and fun for families too! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I attended Northampton’s Zoning Revisions Committee tonight (recently formed to recommend zoning changes more inline with “sustainability”) and spoke for about 5 minutes encouraging the Committee to revise our current zoning ordinance that restricts most urban residences to 3 female fowl (and prohibits keeping goats, sheep, etc). I described how these laws were adopted during the era of cheap oil when people became separated from food production, and food started traveling 1000s of miles to reach our tables. For food security and economic resilience, I argued, we need to give people maximum control over their food sources, including raising their own livestock, yes, even in town. I emailed research on many other cities that have revised their ordinances (eg. Seattle now allows dwarf goats).

I told them how our three hens did not fully meet the egg needs of my family of four, and how we’d also like to be able to keep goats for milk & cheese. I referenced the Pioneer Valley Backyard Chicken Association to demonstrate a growing movement of people enjoying the benefits of keeping backyard chickens. The Committee was quite receptive, and decided to add this topic to their list of priority areas. A working group was created to study the matter in-depth and propose recommendations.

I encourage any/all of you living in Northampton to chime in on this revision process because the ZRC will ultimately need strong citizen backing to get this through. Do you have research or wisdom you can share on the matter? Would you merely like to express your opinion? Here’s a person to contact on the Committee: Adin Maynard: adin@gaiaweavers.org. Also, if you want, please email me with any thoughts or questions.

Hilltown Residents Invited to Take Charge!

Williamsburg Launches Campaign to Save Energy

Take Charge! (April 25th, 2009)

On April 25th, local hilltown residents pledge to take up to five suggested energy-saving steps in their homes. - Come join area residents and Take Charge! to save money and energy!

On Saturday, April 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon, Meekins Library on Main Street in Williamsburg, MA, will host the launch of Take Charge! Williamsburg.  Take Charge! is a ten-week, community-wide campaign to reduce home energy use.  Residents pledge to take one or all five suggested energy-saving steps in their homes. Cummington, Worthington and Plainfield are also launching Take Charge! campaigns.  The first 10 people to sign up on Saturday in Williamsburg will receive a free compact fluorescent light bulb.

This campaign is for every resident.  There are basic no-cost or low-cost changes we can all make in our homes that can help us take control of our energy use,” said Kim Boas, Chair of Williamsburg’s Energy Committee.  “We’re challenging everyone to take the first steps and discover that saving energy means saving money too.”

Suggested measures targeted in Take Charge! include scheduling a free home energy audit, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, turning down thermostats and water heaters, and taking a “Kilowatt Challenge” – clocking fewer kilowatt hours on a household’s electric bill than in May and June of last year.  Residents can also write down any extra step they are taking to save energy.  Local Hilltown businesses are supporting the campaign by donating over a dozen raffle prizes that residents who make pledges can win.  Raffle winners will be drawn on July 4.

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Global Sustainability Movement: Earth Hour

Vote Earth: Your Light Switch is Your Vote

Last year we lit candles and placed them through out the house as we shut the lights off for one hour.  We were participating in a global statement to take action against global warming called Earth Hour (www.earthhour.org). We invite other families and businesses in Western Massachusetts (and beyond!) to join us this year on Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30pm by switching off your lights too.

Local organizers have suggested we go one step further, and replace our conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs when we turn them back on to keep the benefits and energy savings going beyond the single hour. Just think of the fun you could have with your family: eat a candlelight dinner, read ghost stories with your kids, have a candlelit music jam, go for a night walk or get out a star chart and star gaze. What are your plans for Earth Hour? Share with us in our comment box below.

[EarthHour.org] – This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.

VOTE EARTH by simply switching off your lights for one hour, and join the world for Earth Hour.

Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30pm.

Free Green Living Seminars and Workshops through April at MCLA

Good Food: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century

Beets at the Florence Farmers Market
The public is invited to attend a series of 12 free Green Living seminars and workshops at the Berkshire Environmental Resource Center (BERC) at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams, MA.  The series is titled, Good Food: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century. and is aimed to inform students and the community about why and how to increase the sustainability of our food system.

“I encourage area residents to attend these ‘Green Living’ lectures and workshops as we collaborate together as a community for a sustainable future,” said Elena Traister, MCLA professor of environmental studies.

The series begins with “Pruning Fruit Trees” tonight at 5:30pm will continue on Thursdays through April 23. For more information, go to www.mcla.edu or contact Elena Traister at (413) 662-5303.

Discover Hilltown Sustainability at the Hilltown Festival 2008!

‘Focus on Sustainability’ to Highlight the 2008 Hilltown Spring Festival

In addition to featuring new family activities (click here to read), a ‘Focus on Sustainability’ will also highlight the Hilltown CDC’s 2nd annual Hilltown Spring Festival, which will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2008 from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Nearly twenty local enterprises and organizations have signed up so far to offer information and demonstrations about a wide variety of approaches to improving the sustainability of our environment.

Come to the Cummington Fairgrounds and discover why the hilltowns are so rich in sustainable activity:

  • Berkshire Organics is a new enterprise providing home delivery of organic vegetables from area CSAs (subscription-based Community Supported Agriculture farms), increasing weekly variety of produce while reducing gas and travel costs.
  • Two local CSAs will be on hand to sign up customers and sell seedlings – Crabapple Farm CSA of Chesterfield and Fall Harvest CSA of Cummington, which introduces fall and winter crops to extend ‘eating local’ through the year. Manda Organic Farm of Plainfield features organic, pasture-raised meat, eggs, milk products and vegetables, and will provide a map of Plainfield farms.
  • Hilltown Tree & Garden of Chesterfield will provide information on pesticide-free garden management. Meadowlark Landscaping of Cummington will have seedlings available.
  • Berkshire Photovoltaic will provide information about solar installation options and the state incentive program, “Commonwealth Solar.”
  • Jeff Brown of Ridebuzz.org will introduce his ridesharing web-site. Leni Freid of the BagShare project will demonstrate their approach to sewing re-usable shopping bags to eliminate use of paper and plastic bags.
  • Red Gate Farm of Buckland will demonstrate wool spinning and provide information about its summer Farm Camp for Kids.
  • Greenfield Community College will provide information on credit and non-credit programs in sustainabilty -related education.
  • Smith Vocational School will also provide information on their sustainability courses and focus on solar energy.
  • Students from Gateway Regional High School in Huntington will provide information on their ‘Go Green Gateway’ initiative for other schools interested in replicating their student-sponsored school recycling program.
  • The Hilltown Sustainability Group will promote the educational projects they have organized through their ‘Sustainability Gathering Point.’
  • Laura Wetzler of Cummington will also describe how people can support international grassroots sustainable development work through www.kulanu.org.
  • And Ravenwood Learning Center of Plainfield will provide information on environmental curricula for educators.

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Carbon Foodprint

Carbon Foodprint
By CISA

Getting Your Feet Muddy? Understanding the Carbon Foodprint of Local Food

You may have noticed, as we have, a flurry of news about the “carbon footprint” of buying locally grown products. At first glance, it seems that the energy costs of long-distance transportation make locally grown an environmental winner. But the reality is far more complicated, as many analyses point out: to understand the environmental impact of a particular product, you have to consider production systems- how the food was grown, in what season, using what inputs, and what energy sources-as well as how it was packaged and shipped. Read the rest of this entry »

Plug in, get involved and make a difference!

Another Way

Many people who have seen The Story of Stuff have asked what they can do to address the problems identified in the film.

Each of us can promote sustainability and justice at multiple levels: as an individual, as a teacher or parent, a community member, a national citizen, and as a global citizen. As Annie says in the film, “the good thing about such an all pervasive problem is that there are so many points of intervention.” That means that there are lots and lots of places to plug in, to get involved, and to make a difference. There is no single simple thing to do, because the set of problems we’re addressing just isn’t simple. But everyone can make a difference, but the bigger your action the bigger the difference you’ll make. Here are some ideas:

10 Little and Big Things You Can Do

  1. Power down! A great deal of the resources we use and the waste we create is in the energy we consume. Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle. All these things save energy and save you money. And, if you can switch to alternative energy by supporting a company that sells green energy to the grid or by installing solar panels on your home, bravo!
  2. Waste less. Per capita waste production in the U.S. just keeps growing. There are hundreds of opportunities each day to nurture a Zero Waste culture in your home, school, workplace, church, community. This takes developing new habits which soon become second nature. Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace….the list is endless! The more we visibly engage in re-use over wasting, the more we cultivate a new cultural norm, or actually, reclaim an old one!
  3. Talk to everyone about these issues. At school, your neighbors, in line at the supermarket, on the bus…A student once asked Cesar Chavez how he organized. He said, “First, I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” “No,” said the student, “how do you organize?” Chavez answered, “First I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” You get the point. Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action.
  4. Make Your Voice Heard. Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. In the last two years, and especially with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the media has been forced to write about Climate Change. As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent other important issues as well. Letters to the editor are a great way to help newspaper readers make connections they might not make without your help. Also local papers are often willing to print book and film reviews, interviews and articles by community members. Let’s get the issues we care about in the news.
  5. DeTox your body, DeTox your home, and DeTox the Economy. Many of today’s consumer products – from children’s pajamas to lipstick – contain toxic chemical additives that simply aren’t necessary. Research online (for example, http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) before you buy to be sure you’re not inadvertently introducing toxics into your home and body. Then tell your friends about toxics in consumer products. Together, ask the businesses why they’re using toxic chemicals without any warning labels. And ask your elected officials why they are permitting this practice. The European Union has adopted strong policies that require toxics to be removed from many products. So, while our electronic gadgets and cosmetics have toxics in them, people in Europe can buy the same things toxics-free. Let’s demand the same thing here. Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body. Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Holidays: Green Ideas, Lesson Plan, Safe Toys, and More.

ECO-FRIENDLY HOLIDAY IDEAS

eartheasy.comEartheasy: Sustainable Living‘s December Newsletter is full of ideas for a eco-friendly holiday season with the family, including the following:

Christmas Bird Count
Join over 50,000 people across North America in this annual tradition to take a ‘citizen census’ of migrating birds. Or you can create your own count as a way of getting outdoors and learning more about your local wildlife.

How to have a ‘green’ Christmas
Christmas does not have to be a burden on the environment. With a little effort and imagination, we can reduce the environmental impact of the holiday season.

Tips for sustainable giving
Gift-giving does not always have to come at a cost to the environment. Some of the most memorable and personal gifts cannot be found at the mall. Here are some ideas for low-impact giving.

All I want for Christmas are some lead free toys
It’s not just imported toys that carry harmful chemicals, but brand-name, U.S.-manufactured ones too. One organization is helping shoppers identify non-toxic toys.

Free energy lesson plans & activities
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers 350 downloadable lessons and activities on energy efficiency and renewable energy, organized by grade level and topic.

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