Working Toward Sustainability.

[Originally published in the Rutland Herald on 3/25/10.] In the fall of 2008, Carol Tashie and myself were selected as the new co-chairs of Sustainable Rutland. Since then, we have been working to promote environmental, economic and cultural sustainability throughout the Rutland Region. In partnership with our 40-plus member organizations, we have initiated and supported a number of projects that strive to emphasize issues of sustainability.

You’ve no doubt seen or even participated in some of our projects over the past year and a half. Maybe your family took the Thanksgiving Localvore Challenge, preparing your holiday feast with food grown and produced within 100 miles of your home. Maybe you bought one of the almost 2,000 organic cotton “I am Local” bags we distributed for our Bag the Bag Campaign, an initiative with the long term goal of eliminating plastic bag use in Rutland City. Perhaps, you took part in 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action in October, where we worked with our partners to organize over a dozen events that raised awareness about the very real threat of climate change. And hopefully you had your holiday gifts “sustainably” wrapped using all recycled and reused materials at downtown Rutland’s Holiday Wrapping Depot this past December.

Last summer, we also launched something called GoGoVerde. com, an online community where Rutlanders can share news, materials and interests. Rutland is one of a handful of cities around the country that was chosen to beta test this site. Part classifieds, part barter and time bank, part bulletin board, on GoGoVerde you can sell your bike, trade a blender for a ladder or tell people about the open-mic at your favorite coffee shop. With almost 200 members and growing, it’s a great way to use social media to connect with your community on a personal level. Visit the site today to join up.

Our most visible project so far has been our Trash to Art Showcase during Friday Night Live last August. Working with the Rutland County Solid Waste District, the Downtown Rutland Partnership, Casella Waste Management, Hands On Minds On Children’s Arts Studio, Rutland Public Schools and the Rutland Arts community, over 50 artists of all ages submitted works constructed entirely of materials that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. The event was so successful it will be returning to FNL again this August (stay tuned).

Another project of which we are especially proud has been the Rutland School Garden. Last spring, we broke ground on a vegetable garden behind the Rutland Middle School. Thanks to collaboration among Rutland Public Schools, the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link, Stafford Technical Center, the Tapestry Program, the Rutland Recreation and Parks Department and Boardman Hill Farm, intermediate and middle school students were able to grow and work in the garden through the spring and summer. The garden was wildly successful, yielding over 600 pounds of produce that was donated to RAFFL’s Grow an Extra Row Program.

Looking ahead, our work will be a continuation of current projects and the addition of several others. Plan on seeing some new growth in the School Garden this spring as well as work more from our Bag the Bag Campaign.

New to the agenda this spring will be our Zero Waste initiative at Friday Night Live. Working with the DRP and the RCSWD, we will work to reduce the level of waste generated at these events through a comprehensive composting and recycling effort.

We also hope to raise awareness about vehicle emissions through an idle-free campaign that will explore the possibility of an eventual ordinance banning the idling of vehicles in public spaces. This is a project in which we will be partnering with city leaders as we work to make municipal services more environmentally conscious and efficient.

Another partnership that we are pleased to announce is our recent work with Efficiency Vermont. As you may know, the state energy efficiency organization has targeted electrical energy use in the Rutland area. To that end, we have partnered with EVT to bring a compact fluorescent light bulb fundraiser to Rutland schools, clubs, nonprofits and churches.

Through this project, these organizations can make up to one dollar for every light bulb they sell. It’s a great opportunity to simultaneously raise money for your favorite community organization and achieve EVT’s goals of putting 10,000 CFLs into Rutland homes and businesses. For more information, visit our blog at http://www.sustainablerutland.org

Behind the scenes, we have begun work to engage the Rutland area’s often-overlooked college community. We have already begun conversations with representatives and students from all our local colleges, and are exploring how the college-city relationship can be expanded both culturally and academically. If Rutland is to achieve its goal of becoming a vibrant and successful community, a new generation needs to discover and invest in the region. We need to build that foundation now.

Ultimately, it’s your involvement that is going to make the difference and the Creative Economy has proved that citizens can be the catalyst for change. But we need you. In the sustainability department, there are a number of ways you can effect change in your everyday life. Learn how you and your family can live more sustainable and socially responsible lives. Make your home more energy efficient. Buy locally and support your area merchants, restaurants and farmers. Tell our leaders that you support ordinances on vehicle idling and plastic bag use and the implementation of some real recycling laws. Tell them you support alternative/renewable energy.

We’re still a long way from unfurling that “Mission Accomplished” banner, but we’re on the right track. And with your help, we’ll get there sooner. To learn more about Sustainable Rutland, please visit our blog at http://www.sustainablerutland.org and join our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sustainablerutland for the latest news on all our exciting projects, and to find out how you, your business or your organization can get involved.

And remember to come to the Creative Economy’s Community on March 31 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland to share your positive vision of Rutland’s future. Learn more about the Creative Economy and its other committees at http://www.rutlandcreativeeconomy.org.

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