CSWD reaches out to communities

ESSEX JUNCTION The Chittenden Solid Waste District, in conjunction with nine regional environmental groups, brought Essex residents like Carl Theodore together to figure out how to live more lightly on the earth through sustainable living practices at the CSWD's fourth sustainability fair in Essex on Thursday night. After picking up one of CSWD's free recycling bins and signing up for the Vermont Earth Institute's "Voluntary Simplicity" discussion group, Mr. Theodore told me that sustainable living, for him, is a "values enhancing thing." With the help of the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren and Efficiency Vermont, a non-profit organization contracted by the Vermont Public Service Board to provide technical advice, financial assistance and design guidance to help make Vermont homes, farms and businesses energy efficient, Mr. Theodore is currently building his own eco-topia in the Ferrisberg/Monkton area. To aid others in their quest for a greener tomorrow, CSWD distributed free recycling bins to promote their recently expanded collection of #1-7 plastics and provided composting tubs for their drop-off composting program, as well as do-it-yourself backyard "soil saver" composting bins at wholesale cost. "The event is all about empowering people to go home and make changes in their lifestyles for the better, in a manner that minimizes their environmental impact," said Marge Keough, Outreach Coordinator for CSWD. Ms. Keough noted that the average citizen could cut their waste by 25% if they would simply stop throwing out food scraps, and instead take them to one of CSWD's drop-off composting stations in Essex, Williston or Burlington, or by starting their own compost pile at home. On Thursday night in Essex, people seemed to catch on. Ms. Keough noted that the composting bins were "going like hotcakes," as she and her team distributed more than 20 buckets by evening's end. After seeing one young boy use his compost bin as a makeshift drum, Ms. Keough noted that everyone who picked up a compost and recycling bin was encouraged to sign CSWD's sustainability pledge, which committed people to using the bins for their intended purpose of reducing waste. Meredith Dowling, Interim Director of Quaker Earthcare Witness, a national Quaker environmental organization headquartered in Charlotte, and former social psychology researcher for D & R International, an environmental consulting firm in Washington D.C. observed that, "The social incentive created by signing a written pledge in conjunction with face-to-face contact is among one of the strongest tools of community-based social marketing. Taken together, they actually make it much more likely that people with follow through with the commitments they have made." Mr. Theodore has taken these pledges to the next level by attempting to live in a manner that is completely "light on the earth," as he said. As he and others recognize, a global sustainability revolution must be have depth all the way down to the community level, but also have the breadth to unite the world's population behind a set of goals. Ms. Keough, the CSWD's Outreach Coordinator, said that these fairs have attempted to bring together a "broad cross-section of the population," by offering free food and a "friendly drop-in atmosphere" at an hour when most people are on their way home from work. As the sustainability fairs move from Essex and Charlotte to poorer neighborhoods in Burlington in March, the CSWD and local organizations will face the new challenge of reaching out to low-income families who may not have the information and resources at their disposal to make significant changes in their lifestyles. "Each community has its own feel, and we're open to change and different formats, such as the front porch forum (an online community discussion board) and possibly smaller, neighborhood fairs," said Ms. Keough. So far the CSWD's sustainability fairs have been successful in bringing communities together to get on course toward a more sustainable future. Mr. Theodore, for one, is on board. "I've been thinking a lot about the quality of the earth and the macro, big picture," he said.

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