12 July 2012
Usually this column describes one of the specific projects that Sustainable Woodstock is facilitating. This week, though, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture: Why is it important to have a local organization devoting so much time, effort and thought to “sustainability?"
03 July 2012
Sustainable Woodstock, in collaboration with the ShackletonThomas company, invites area residents and visitors to this year's Naked Table workshop and celebration on August 25 and 26. Over the past four years, fifteen Naked Table events have been held in Woodstock and other towns in the area, and the concept is so distinctive popular that it is featured in the latest issue of Yankee magazine.
Charlie Shackleton conceived the idea in 2009 after one of the early community meetings here on local sustainability. An internationally admired furniture craftsman, he felt that “we should be making beautiful, simple furniture out of local wood, that local people could afford.” He devised the project to involve local landowners, forestry workers, and woodworkers in obtaining and fashioning the components, and then opening his workshop so that individuals could create their own furniture.
Shackleton explains that the furniture is “naked” in two ways: First, its simple design allows novices to experience the creative pleasure of crafting useful things for their homes, putting their own personal stamp on these pieces. Second, the entire process of obtaining and using the wood is apparent. During the workshop, table-makers make a field trip to the forest where their wood was grown (this year, that is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park), and a forester explains sustainable harvesting methods.
After the tables (and this year, chairs and benches as well) are done, the group celebrates at a community meal, held on Woodstock's covered bridge, using the tables they made. Tables, says Shackleton, bring people together in practical as well as symbolic ways; we eat, play and discuss around them. Naked Table is a powerful community-building event as well as a lesson in using local resources in creative ways.
The Naked Table project shows how we can go beyond being “consumers” by getting more involved in producing what we need. This is an important component of community sustainability and resilience. Ian Aldrich, the author of the Yankee article, concluded after participating that the experience was an “act of renewal. . . . What it did for me, and I believe others, was to spark the idea that we can all be makers, not to mention appreciate more fully the origins of the materials that go into making the things that make up our lives.”
This year the workshop will take place on Saturday, August 25, in the ShackletonThomas workshops in the Bridgewater Mill, and the community meal, open to all, will be held the next day. Locally sourced food will be provided by the Woodstock Farmer's Market.
Proceeds from the Naked Table benefit Sustainable Woodstock's projects. The cost to make a table is $950, for a chair $480, and $450 for a bench. Tickets for the community meal are $40. Spaces will fill quickly, so make your reservation soon. Call 802-672-5175 or email the Naked Table; more information here.
by Ron Miller
30 June 2012
For the past three years Sustainable Woodstock has been establishing a meaningful presence in the community steered by the expert and unflagging guidance of co-chairs Denise Lyons and Anne Macksoud. Denise and Anne’s terms of office have come to an end and they have handed over the reins to us, Barbara Barry and Jill Davies.
We’d like to start our term by thanking Anne and Denise for their leadership that brought the organization from a “good idea” to a healthy, active group that is spearheading five community gardens, the Nonprofit Network, recycling at area events, energy projects such as the Town Hall audit, weatherization, the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership, the Property Assessed Clean Energy program( PACE), Economic Development Council and fun projects like the Naked Table and Trek To Taste. Most recently they led Sustainable Woodstock in coordinating the Woodstock Area Relief Fund.
Luckily, as we move forward, we are not alone. We are working with the energy of our vibrant board, including new members Patsy Highberg, Pieter Bohen and Ron Miller. And we have a wonderful group of volunteers. As the work of the Woodstock Area Relief Fund winds down we can turn our attention again to other elements in our vision of “a vibrant, inclusive, thriving community where we live sustainably now and in the future.”
One initiative is to encourage the Woodstock community to divert recyclables from the waste stream, as described in last week's column. Public recycling bins will be in place within a few days. Our second initiative is to take a look at our community climate gas output/carbon footprint and really understand what actions we can do that will have the most impact as individuals, businesses, and community. As this one takes shape we’ll let you know more.
If you’d like to get involved with these new initiatives or any of our other fun projects, please get in touch with Sustainable Woodstock director Sally Miller at 457-2911 or by email. We would love to hear your ideas/suggestions and have you join us as a volunteer for one event, task force or project!
By Barbara Barry and Jill Davies
20 June 2012
With this article, Ron Miller takes on responsibility for the Sustainable Woodstock column in the Vermont Standard from Chris Bartlett, who has been writing this column for the past several years. (Thank you, Chris!) Ron, the owner of Shiretown Books, recently joined the board of Sustainable Woodstock. He invites comments as well as ideas for future columns; you can reach him by email.
Last week the Woodstock Village Board of Trustees approved and funded a Sustainable Woodstock plan to install recycling containers next to eight existing trash bins in the village center. SW’s recycling committee (the “Trash Force”) will carefully evaluate the results of this pilot program from July 1 through the end of October to determine whether these public recycling sites are effective enough to be set up permanently.
The new containers will be easy to use, because all recyclable materials—glass and plastic bottles, cans, paper, and other plastics—are collected together, without the need for presorting. Woodstock Recycling and Refuse, the local company that has a contract with the village to service trash bins, helped SW design the program and will collect the recycled materials.
The trustees welcomed this initiative. “Everybody knew it needed to happen,” explained Ana DiNatale, a summer intern with SW who presented the proposal. Only the week before, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law H. 485, which mandates “universal recycling of solid waste.” In a statement after the signing, Gov. Shumlin pointed out that “our landfills are nearing capacity” and half of the waste brought to them could be recycled instead. His administration estimates the annual value of discarded recyclables at $7.6 million. In the near future, the state will also require yard and food wastes to be composted.
Besides the immediate benefits of cost reduction and extending the life of landfills, recycling is an essential element of a truly sustainable economy. Practicing recycling makes us more aware of our consumer society’s assumptions about unlimited resources and careless disposing of wastes.
Sustainable Woodstock will continue to educate the public as well as local businesses about the benefits of recycling and the ease of separating reusable materials from trash. (One point to keep in mind, which will contribute to the success of the program, is that leftover food should not be deposited into recycling containers; all cans & bottles must be empty.)
We aim for Woodstock to be a leader in the state’s waste-reduction campaign. With no-sort collection sites in place, residents and visitors alike can help ensure that recyclables are made available for re-use rather than permanently dumped into the waste stream. When you see the new collection bins in town, please use them!
By Ron Miller
12 June 2012
Here’s a sure sign that summer has arrived. The Mt. Tom Farmer's Market is up and running with a full complement of 25 vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables and farm eggs to baked goods and crafts. And starting this week, the Market on the Green is back in business with a similar array of offerings. So let's celebrate with David Lettuceman’s Top Five Reasons to Love Farmer's Markets.
Reason #5: You’ll develop a relationship with your food.
When you talk to the person who grew the asparagus he just dropped into your shopping bag, you create a relationship that is entirely absent when you pick up a plastic-wrapped Styrofoam tray of stalks with dried ends in a grocery store. The farmer will tell you how she grew it and her favorite way to prepare it, as well as what she's planning to bring to market next week.
Reason #4: Local farming is sustainable.
Many of the farms selling at our local farmers markets are certified organic, and almost all follow sustainable practices. In contrast, the industrial farms that supply most supermarkets are heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They are also major users of fossil fuels to run their equipment and transport food to market, and a recent study showed that produce sold in grocery stores has traveled an average of 1500 miles to reach you.
Reason #3: You support our local economy and protect our local farmscape.
For every dollar you spend the supermarket produce section, 75 cents goes to the packagers, processors, truckers, wholesalers, and distributors of the final product. In contrast, when you buy at a farmer's market, 90 cents of every dollar goes directly back to the farm to sustain our rural heritage and landscape.
Reason #2: Local sustainably grown food is so much healthier.
Unlike factory farms where heavily fertilized single crops exhaust the soil, local practices such as crop rotation and composting enhance soil quality and increases vitamin and mineral concentration in the crops. And local produce is sold fresh, so it doesn't contain preservatives and isn't subjected to irradiation to increase shelf life. Little wonder that compared to factory farmed produce, organic spinach contains 52% more vitamin C and carrots 69% more magnesium.
Reason #1 to love our local farmers markets: The food tastes a whole lot better!
And why wouldn't it? It’s picked fresh and ripe, often the same day you buy it. And local farmers grow varieties that are bred for their flavor, not for their shelf life or travel durability.
So at the Mt. Tom Farmer's Market on Saturday, ask the bearded Robert Clark how he naturally ripens the gorgeous Whiskers Wonders tomatoes he sells from the back of his truck. Then check in with Anne Dean for her favorite way to prepare the beautiful fresh Swiss chard she sells. And have a chat with Kevin Taft about why he refuses to use any spray, chemical or organic, on his crops. The more you know, the more you'll want to return each week.
The Mt. Tom Farmer's market, on Route 12, a mile north of Woodstock Village, is open from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM on Saturdays. The Market on the Green operates right in the village each Wednesday from 3 PM to 6 PM.
by Christopher Bartlett