By Michael Caduto and Jenevra Wetmore
Over 4,000 people have attended monthly films in the Upper Valley Climate Change and Sustainability Film Series, which is offered by Sustainable Woodstock in partnership with Pentangle Arts. Screening on May 24-25, 2022: Motherload—a crowdsourced documentary in which the cargo bicycle becomes a vehicle for exploring motherhood in this digital age of climate change. (Motherload is also cohosted with the Upper Valley Sierra Club.)
In this column we normally share information about important environmental, social and economic issues affecting Woodstock, neighboring communities, the Upper Valley region and beyond, including suggestions for what we can all do to help. Yet one of the most common questions we hear is: “What does Sustainable Woodstock do?” So here are some highlights and recent news.
As of May 1st 2022, Sustainable Woodstock (SW) has our first full-time employee! Jenevra Wetmore has been our Program Coordinator for nearly two years, and recently accepted the position of full-time Program Director. This new role will allow the organization to focus more time and energy on the initiatives we are committed to, including an expansion of our income-sensitive outreach on weatherization and other energy-efficiency projects, as well as other regular programs such as our Upper Valley Green Drinks series and Climate Change and Sustainability Film Series (with Pentangle Arts).
Energy policy action and advocacy to mitigate climate change: For several years, Sustainable Woodstock has been working toward progress with energy policy and actions in Woodstock, These initiatives include planning and advocacy for hiring a Regional Energy Coordinator (passed at Town Meeting in 2020), as well as adopting the Climate Emergency Action & Resolution (in partnership with Change the World Kids), which was passed by the Select Board and Village Trustees in December 2019. In the ensuing 2 years, we have worked closely with the Intermunicipal Regional Energy Coordinator (IREC) at Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (Geoff Martin), as well as town officials, in order to move several major energy projects along to mitigate carbon emissions, including the net-zero-ready design of the new EMS building.
A more recent IREC initiative (with SW’s input, support and advocacy) was a major proposal for energy-saving projects that will reduce Woodstock’s carbon emissions by 12.5%. This proposal was passed by voters on 1 March 2022. (Thank you to everyone who supported this effort!) The primary focus of the proposal is installing heat pumps in municipal buildings to substantially offset, and in some cases eliminate, the use of propane for heating. These heat pumps will reduce the town’s propane use by up to 10,000 gallons per year. (This will save Woodstock $20,000/year, even when factoring in the use of electricity by the new heat pumps.) The proposal also includes adding direct digital controls for managing the HVAC systems throughout Woodstock buildings. The controls will allow the buildings to be managed through a centralized, online platform, and will ensure that the buildings’ systems are running optimally. Finally, the project includes LED lighting upgrades wherever needed, and some minor weatherization and weather stripping.
Forest Carbon Management: Sustainable Woodstock’s Forest Carbon Action Group recently completed a 2-year effort to create a 24×36-inch full-color educational forest carbon management poster for landowners. The poster will assist and inform landowners on how to manage their forests so as to mitigate climate change by storing and sequestering more carbon. Posters are currently on display throughout the Upper Valley, Vermont and New England. You can access an online version of the poster on our website.
Weatherization and energy-saving projects for low-income households:
- One of Sustainable Woodstock’s biggest initiatives over the next two years is a project called: EQUAL ENERGY OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL: Nurturing Resilient Households for Future Generations Through Income-Sensitive Energy Savings & Efficiencies. As part of this effort, SW is working with the Woodstock Area Relief Fund and other regional community partners to provide small grants for low-income weatherization and energy-efficiency improvement projects. To date, fifty households have signed up to receive this assistance. Sustainable Woodstock is conducting outreach to these households to register them for free weatherization, if income qualifying, and to address their home energy concerns. The following community organizations have also donated and partnered by enrolling low-income households in their own communities: King’s Daughters, Plymouth Memory Tree, Barnard Helping Hands, Faulkner Fund, Aging in Place and Senior Solutions (southeastern Vermont).
- SW has been working for two years now on a weatherization program conducting outreach to mobile homeowners in partnership with Vital Communities. This year, all mobile home residents in Hartland and Woodstock received an energy survey, along with materials on free weatherization and energy assistance services.
- This fall, Sustainable Woodstock will be collaborating with WindowDressers (WD), a nonprofit organization, to make custom-built, interior storm window inserts for income-qualifying Woodstock area residents. The inserts are easy to install, removable and reusable. They let light in, keep drafts out and reduce heating costs. We will build 200 inserts at no cost for local residents.
Watershed United Block Grant: Sustainable Woodstock applied for and received a Design and Implementation Block Grant through Watersheds United Vermont (WUV), in conjunction with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. This grant will address an eroding bank on Barnard Brook where it flows alongside SW’s Billings Farm Community Garden. The subsiding riverbank is undermining a corner of the garden, which will need to be moved somewhat to the west once the bank stabilization work gets underway during the off-season. Work will begin this summer to create an initial design and alternatives assessment for the project.
Community Gardens & Food Security: SW has greatly increased our focus on addressing the critical need for sustenance as the root of sustainability for individuals, families and communities by coordinating such activities in our gardens at Billings Farm and King Farm (VT Land Trust). We have increased staff time to accommodate a 30% rise in community gardeners in recent years, and to grow food for the Woodstock Community Food Shelf and Upper Valley Haven (in partnership with Zack’s Place and Woodstock Terrace). We collaborate with and support the efforts of other organizations addressing critical needs for food and nutrition, including the Woodstock Community Food Shelf, Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, Hartland Food Shelf and Upper Valley Haven. SW’s GROW YOUR OWN GARDEN project has enabled and empowered some 600 people of all ages to establish new gardens and grow their own nutritious vegetables.
Our sincere gratitude to all of our dedicated volunteers and generous supporters for making it all possible!