A Sustainable Future

by Amanda Kuhnert

In Vermont, nature is an integral part of our everyday lives. Much more than a beautiful backdrop, the natural world supports us in all we do. We chop wood to heat our homes. We hay the fields to feed our animals. In summer we fish and swim in lakes and rivers and explore woodland trails. And when the snow comes, we head back into the forest on skis and snowshoes.

Vermont’s bucolic landscape draws many of us here. At first the attraction may be self-serving: “What will I do in the great outdoors today?” But the more time we spend in this unique corner of the world, the more responsibility we feel to preserve it.

Woodstock has a long history of people who, after some time here, became so enamored with its natural beauty that they committed their lives (and fortunes) to conserving it for future generations.

What we’ve inherited

Thanks to past community leaders like George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Mary and Laurance Rockefeller—some of the nation’s iconic conservationists and environmentalists whose work spanned nearly two centuries—we have access to over 30 miles of well-kept paths and an operating farm in the center of our town. Through its education programs, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park helps us appreciate our connection to the environment.

Perhaps most importantly, Woodstock’s early conservationists taught us of the necessity for thinking ahead. Of understanding, and not taking for granted, the impact of each generation on the future health of our community. What we do today matters.

We know this because we’ve learned from example. The actions of past generations continue to reverberate in our community:

  • In the mid 19th century, Woodstock resident George Perkins Marsh urged farmers to stop clearing the land of trees and adopt responsible forest management practices. At the time nearly 70 percent of Vermont’s forests had been cleared. Today, 76 percent of our land is forested.
  • Frederick Billings, who purchased the Marsh family farm in 1869, continued Marsh’s legacy. He planted over 10,000 trees in the Woodstock area and turned his 240-acre estate into a model dairy farm.
  • Three generations later, Mary and Laurance Rockefeller preserved and conserved land and waterways throughout the region, and formerly established Billings Farm & Museum and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park.

The next 100 years

For over a century, the Woodstock area has been at the center of the environmental movement. What will we do next? Can we sustain what generations before us conserved?

This is the focus of Sustainable Woodstock, a nonprofit formed nearly a decade ago to continue the work of our predecessors: “to inspire, educated, and empower everyone to live environmentally, economically and socially responsible lives.”

As we move into 2019, we are inspired by the environmentally-minded men and women who came before us. We recognize that in each of their times, their passion and dedication was likely met with apathy, skepticism, and even resistance. But they pushed on anyway. And every time we walk the trails on Mt. Tom or Mt. Peg or dip our feet in the Ottauquechee River, we can be thankful for their perseverance.

Together we can make a real difference in our community’s future. We hope you’ll find a way to get involved in Sustainable Woodstock’s ongoing programs and initiatives:

  • Reserve a garden plot or volunteer in our community gardens.
  • Join our Carbon Work-Study Discussion Series to learn about how we can manage our forests for carbon.
  • Attend our monthly climate change and sustainability film series.
  • Come to Green Drinks, a monthly gathering of community members who care about sustainability.
  • Get involved in the Energy Action Group, which works to promote energy efficiency, conservation, and the development and use of renewable resources.
  • Participate in our recycling events.

Check out our website to learn more about what we’re doing and how you can get involved: sustainablewoodstock.org.

Amanda Kuhnert is a member of the board of Sustainable Woodstock and writes regularly on her website ourmerryway.com.

DO JUST ONE THING: Get involved in Sustainable Woodstock this year.




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