Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Community Action with Local Heroes

I've been getting more involved with my community lately. I've taken on a number of volunteer positions with some green/environmental groups in town and at church. I'm meeting some terrific people who redirect my focus from the national mindset of confrontational politics and economic malaise toward effective local action. They are positive, proactive and progressive. Some of them are not only full of ideas, but they are incredibly hard working and dedicated to seeing them through.

I'm hoping some of that is rubbing off on me. Here are a few of my heroes:

Here's M teaching kids about composting.

As part of our local Green Team, M. has pushed, cajoled and spent an enormous amount of effort making deep recycling and composting happen in our local schools. For almost a year she has been: visiting and learning from other schools that compost; getting our local school lunch director, principals, teachers, and administrators on board; raising money; building sturdy composting bins; organizing volunteers; and now teaching composting and recycling procedures to over 600 kids in one of our elementary schools. We estimate that we are reducing the school's waste by nearly 60% by weight. By the end of the month we have likely kept a ton of food out of the landfill. Instead of creating methane, it's turning into rich soil for school gardens. Currently, the program is expanding to another elementary school, the middle school, and the kindergarten. Just last Friday and Saturday, M and other Green Team volunteers including a girl scout troop built six raised garden beds at a local school. Composting and gardening will be worked into the curriculum and will hopefully become lifelong habits for our local kids.

The new compost bins at one of our elementary schools,
built by volunteers and financed with donations.
There are three big bins at right to hold the food waste.
On the left is is covered bin for leaves and straw to cover the food scraps.

P. is a former middle-school teacher in our town. Although he doesn't live here, he's been instrumental in an effort to recycle cans and bottles on our town fields, at the town beach, and at our schools. He's distributed dozens of recycling bins to those areas and arranged for volunteers to pick up the cans and bottles and take them to the recycling center. As part of the Green Team, he's been helping negotiate with the department of public works trying to get them to pick this stuff up. (They already pick up the garbage!) As of now, the town is set to begin picking up recyclables in these areas starting next year when they get a new truck for that purpose. P's work has been instrumental in getting the town to recognize the need for this step. He also takes middle school kids on canoe trips where they not only have a great time, but also clean trash out of our beautiful waterways.

B. is another dedicated hero. He and a few friends have revitalized an old apple orchard on public recreation land in town. They began planting new trees back in 1993. Now those trees are bearing fruit. Each tree is labeled with the species name, the origin of the plant and the time of ripening. Anyone walking by can pick some fruit to enjoy. He and other volunteers continue to plant new trees and maintain the established ones throughout the year. Now the orchard includes apples, cherries, peaches, pears and a paw paw. Recently, I arranged a hike to this orchard, and B. generously agreed to tell us about its history and about orchard creation and maintenance. Between 15 and 20 locals joined us for the event. Perhaps, more orchards will be starting in people's yards!

B. teaching in the orchard

Finally, K. is an inspiration. She has started a Transition group in this town. Transition is an international movement that seeks to create community and resilience at a local level. The current group is small, but she has brought together dedicated individuals and reached out to established groups to get a conversation started about water safety, bee keeping, sustainable energy use, land conservation, and more.

All these individuals work in many capacities in a number of these groups. We are all compost bin builders, recycling volunteers, community organizers, friends, supporters, game changers. Who are your local heroes?

1 comment:

Kaat at MamaStories said...

One of them is named Andrea!