Local Sustainability

At the root of the movement for a more just and sustainable way of life is a new way of thinking about the world. It's not just about buying lots of cool green stuff. It's about re-thinking how we live on the planet. We have learned...

• The earth is finite and that what we take from the earth is not for free.
• Nothing can really be thrown away. The idea of "waste" is a misconception.
• Human activity can degrade or regenerate the planet. What we do matters.
• Concentrating wealth in the hands of a few and impoverishing others is unjust and not sustainable.
• Buying stuff and accumulating wealth doesn't alone make us happy or healthy. Living in balance with nature and living in community with others does.

Our local, living economy is a complex set of relationships that exist to provide people with meaningful work and with the products and services they need for a fulfilling life. Here in the Pioneer Valley, there are many people, businesses, non-profits, government entities and cooperatives focused on building vibrant, just, sustainable, local economies.

PV Local First works to encourage people to think local first so that they buy and bank local first. They also work to encourage companies in a friendly way to be socially, locally and environmentally responsible by helping companies create their own action plans to become more sustainable. The Pioneer Valley Sustainability Network is a business network creating a just and sustainable future in our region by fostering dialogue and collaboration between network members. The organizations and businesses in these networks are living a commitment to sustainability and justice in lots of ways.

• Reducing their energy and fuel use and traveling less
• Finding ways to use fewer of the earth's resources
• Finding creative ways to use materials more efficiently in their operations
• Using organic and natural products and practices in their operations
*The Northampton Brewery shaved $32,000 off their electric bill in the first nine months after their Deep Energy Retrofit with Beyond Green. Also, ride sharing with RideBuzz can save people lots of money and help people get around who either don't have a car or who want to use it as little as possible.

• Reusing, recycling and composting what they have to "throw away"
• Generating little to no waste in their operations
*23 Big Y stores in Massachusetts diverted 2,200 tons of produce, unsold prepared foods, deli meat ends, cheese block ends and floral waste from landfills to two farms for composting and a zoo for animal food in 2010 saving $35 to $40 per ton with support from the
 Center for EcoTechnology (CET) in Northampton. CET also operates EcoBuilding Bargains in Springfield selling ecofriendly used and surplus building materials at bargain prices along with deconstruction services which keep valuable building materials out of landfills.

• Restoring dignity and respect to people who have been marginalized in our economy
• Protecting natural resources
• Restoring vitality to natural environments
*Conway School of Landscape Design explores, develops, practices, and teaches design of the land that is ecologically and socially sustainable. Graduate students do design projects for the community as part of their studies. For one project, they reduced erosion and screened the parking area in a popular fishing area on the Quabbin Reservoir by allowing native plants to revegetate the sandy shore; construction details included the design of a universally accessible fishing pier. In another, they redesigned an inner-city schoolyard in Holyoke, MA, providing more shade, greenspace for the children.

• Using renewable energy
• Using products that don't harm the environment
*Solidago Foundation, a foundation supporting sustainability and justice initiatives in limited resource communities around the world, worked with design firm Coldham and Hartman to upgrade the energy efficiency of their offices and hired worker-owned cooperative PV Squared to install a solar electric system on the roof of Thornes Market. Berkshire East recently put up a wind generator that will produce well over 100% of their electricity needs. This makes Berkshire East the first ski area in the world to produce all of its electricity from an onsite, renewable source. Real Pickles, whose ingredients are 100% organic vegetables from regional farms, now is also 100% powered by the sun after the installation of PV panels at their business. Additionally, Urban Power USA is a new local company producing low cost wind turbines in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

• Buying from other local companies, farmers, and individuals who sell things that were created with respect for the planet.
*Our Family Farms is a partnership of local farmers, processors, distributers, retailers and consumers bringing high quality local milk to local supermarkets.

• Treating their workers well
• Buying from other local companies or locally owned companies in other regions who treat their workers well.
*Consumer Owned Food Co-ops - Green Fields Market in Greenfield, McCuskers Market in Shelburne Falls, and River Valley Market in Northampton are consumer owned food cooperatives in the area that bring consumers quality local food, health and beauty products from local producers and treat workers well.

• Helping people understand how to live more gently on the planet and build more vibrant local communities.
*CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) is an education and advocacy non-profit bringing together farmers, families, restaurants and grocery stores to keep local agriculture strong in western Massachusetts. Their Local Hero campaign is the longest running "buy local" program in the country and is a smashing success.

• Helping people and communities transition to a more sustainable and just future in our region.
*Co-op Power is a consumer owned energy cooperative providing affordable energy products and services for homes and businesses and resources to help communities transition to a just and sustainable energy future. Co-op Power members have built Energy Efficiency Services, Solar Hot Water System Installation Services, Northeast Biodiesel (a recycled vegetable oil biodiesel plant in Greenfield) and Energía (an energy services company in Holyoke) to provide quality jobs in marginalized communities and access to affordable, sustainable energy products and services.

By Lynn Benander, President and CEO of Coop Power