By Hope O’Shaughnessy
A number of regional New England organizations formed to address urgent environmental issues are expanding their mission to include access to renewable energy and sustainable communities.
One such organization, the Stop the New York Fracking Gas Pipeline (SNYFGP) has grown from its urgent mission of stopping a proposed fracking project in upstate NY and is sponsoring the 2017 Renewable Energy and Sustainable Fair in Rensselaer, NY. The annual fair grew out of a call to action for long term solutions and changes in response to the constant need to confront government and industry infringements on public health and safety.
SNYFGP’s founders are Robert Connors and Becky Meier. Connors and Meier themselves received the 2016 Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award, honoring leaders of grassroots social change in the Capital District, from Citizen’s Action of New York. Meier was awarded the Good Earthkeeping Award from the Columbia County (NY) Environmental Management Council in 2015.
Meier and Connors also have personally been able to gain access to a more renewable future. Meier shared that she and Connors “just had a geothermal heating and cooling system installed at our home in Canaan, NY.”
Meier is also interested in the option of promoting community solar. “I think our next push will be to educate people about community solar opportunities. This is a good option to use for electricity if you cannot or do not want to install solar panels at your home. You can buy a share from a community farm that offsets your electricity use.”
A seacoast New Hampshire organization is also busy forging a path into the future that will make renewable and sustainable living more accessible. Mike Bellamente, co-owner and managing director of the Green Alliance of Greenland, NH has many events planned to educate consumers “To increase the profits of businesses that are having the least impact on the environment and to encourage more sustainable business practices through ‘business-to-business’ mentoring and strength in partnership.”
“Our core reason for being in business is to help steer consumers toward products and services that will reduce their environmental impact. To that end, I think I’m most proud of the work we do to showcase Green Alliance business partners who are leading the charge toward a sustainable future,” Bellamente said. His outreach reaches far and wide with articles as well as educational events and radio broadcasts that spur conversation around important issues such as water and air quality, organic or locally grown food, climate change and sea level rise.
Bellamente added that the uniqueness of the seacoast organization is “…I think the fact that we’re less advocacy driven and more practical in our strategy to help consumers employ the ‘power of the purse’ to affect change across their communities.”
The Western Massachusetts Green Consortium (WMGC) of Amherst, MA, is paving the way for increased renewable energy and sustainability awareness. Nancy Bair, President of WMGC, leads this group based out of the Pioneer Valley. Their monthly Green Nights typically attract a mix of local residents and legislators as well as industry professionals. Past Green Night presenters have included Dr. Ellen Moyer speaking about her book Our Earth, Our Species, Our Selves: How to Thrive While Creating a Sustainable World (December 2016) and quickly became Amazon’s #1 “Hot New Release” in the categories of Green Business, Nature Conservation, and Environmentalism. WMGC also supports the work of local Climate Action Now (CAN) and build their audience through mutual support for events.
The Vermont Environmental Consortium (VEC) in Rutland, VT led by Miles E. Waite, PhD is another exemplar of energy and environmental awareness in northern New England. One of the VEC’s signature efforts is to increase awareness of green careers. This fall they are sponsoring several career panels, which are free to members and non-members. The panels will be presented by VEC board members.
Like the Western Massachusetts Green Consortium, VEC has mixers which are networking opportunities that include speakers. The VEC works across all strata of citizens involved in environmental awareness and that is what makes VEC so unique. Waite described that the “VEC is not focused on a single interest or sector like many trade groups are. Rather, we have a wide variety of interests represented by a wide range in members, all loosely tied to environmental or “green” industries. Our members include environmental consultants, educators, planning commissions, attorneys, and developers.”
The VEC will continue to infuse a very forward looking approach to its efforts. Waite added that “several years ago, the VEC conducted an important survey of Vermont’s Environmental Business Sector. The project, funded by grants from the Vermont Community Foundation and the Redducs Foundation, established current conditions with respect to environmental business education and training needs, and the opportunities and resources available in Vermont to meet those needs.” He added that “The survey also addressed sustainability practices of businesses and educational institutions and the value to members and potential members of the VEC. Responses were received from 250 firms and 100 educational and training institutions.” Armed with insights from that project, the VEC promises to provide an inspiring look into a greener future.
Hope O’Shaughnessy is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who has written for the Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA) and The Republican (Springfield, MA).