Local Sustainability

Whether you are a visitor to the Pioneer Valley or call Western Massachusetts home, you may have noticed that the Valley's businesses are becoming collectively greener.

Owners and staff at a growing number of local retail stores, brewpubs, copy shops, builders, architects, manufacturers, chambers, lenders, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and media organizations are working diligently to complete their "green business checklists." These inspiring enterprises are helping to build a local ECO-economy through making practical investments and choices such as conserving energy, minimizing waste, purchasing clean energy, installing solar electric systems, and sourcing their materials and goods from other local businesses.

Together a number of local groups are making building a sustainable, local economy a priority. With help from organizations like the Center for Ecological Technology (CET) and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, western Massachusetts communities have become innovators in energy efficiency, waste reduction, and environmental stewardship. And leaders like CISA - with their now nationally famous "Be A Local Hero" campaign - and Pioneer Valley Local First inspire shoppers to make "local" one of their highest criteria for choosing products and services. 

We are truly inspired by the practical and far-reaching steps a number of Valley businesses have taken towards being greener and by their sincere desire to reduce their impact on the planet rather than employing ‘Greenwashing' techniques as many other businesses do. For instance, you can buy toys AND have an eco-adventure over at A-2-Z Science & Learning Store by viewing their exhibit showing the solar energy being produced right on their own roof. Shop at River Valley Market and you can also see a screen showing the electricity being made by their huge 165 solar panel array. Green Fields Market is also very proud of their solar roof, as is Paradise Copies and numerous other PV Local First members that have invested in clean energy technology. Located both in Hampden and Hampshire Counties, PeoplesBank has financed over $20 million in wind and hydroelectric power generation in recent years and will build three new green branches of their community bank. Another great example is Gaia Host Collective and how they off-set their electricity use by making renewable energy grants to local projects here in Western Mass.

On the deck or under the roof, a beverage never tasted better at the Northampton Brewery than now, after owner Janet Egelston poured her passion for sustainability into a "deep energy retrofit" by Beyond Green Construction. Patrons at The People's Pint can truly enjoy the efforts of owner Alden Booth to lower the Pint's carbon footprint by featuring fresh local foods, composting and recycling, and biking to work daily. Like the Pint, Collective Copies features local products, and you can have your projects completed by eco-conscious worker owners at their three stores. And seeing the Pedal People emptying Northampton's trash and recycling bins, I'm sure, brings a smile to hundreds of faces as they see the concept of "zero carbon footprint" in practice. 

The examples above are just a small sample of the many local enterprises doing wonderful things for our community and our environment. Circulating our hard earned money right in the local economy not only makes for a healthier planet but it enhances our prosperity as well. A study found that for every dollar you spend at a big box store, 86 cents left the state.

As more businesses and people begin to understand that the words ‘economy' and ‘ecology' have the same root word -eco- meaning "home," our beautiful Western Massachusetts and the world will be much better off. Let's all come together to build a thriving local economy and higher quality of life by continuing to value those enterprises that adopt sustainable business practices!

-Peggy MacLeod of the Center for Ecological Technology (CET), David Mager author of the upcoming handbook "The Roadmap To Sustainability" and Daniel Finn