What Does Sustainable Woodstock Do, Anyway?

In the last couple weeks, a few people have told me that they’re not really sure what Sustainable Woodstock actually does. This surprised me, since we feature our work weekly in this column, in monthly e-newsletters that go to hundreds of readers, and on our website and Facebook page. But maybe there’s a need for a concise overview of our activities. So here it is.

In 2009 about eighty area residents held a daylong conference and agreed that the community should make a deliberate effort to encourage more “sustainable” practices—i.e. to use resources more carefully, reduce carbon emissions and trash, and develop a stronger, more self-reliant community. They formed an organization whose mission would be “to inspire, educate and empower everyone to live environmentally, economically and socially responsible lives.” That’s us.
You can think of our work as pursuing these strategies:

We help homeowners and businesses adopt specific practices to conserve resources and reduce waste. These have included programs to install solar panels and weatherize homes, and to set up effective recycling systems. These practices are not only environmentally sensible, but also save people money, sometimes quite a lot. We also help people find contractors, vendors or consultants who can help them achieve these goals individually. We’re looking at other areas, such as transportation, where we can expand on these endeavors.

We build community resilience. Sustainability requires that we achieve some measure of self-reliance and independence from globalized systems—a vibrant local/regional economy and an ability to work together harmoniously as a community. Sustainable Woodstock collaborates with other organizations and businesses to produce community-building events (Trek to Taste, Naked Table, Bookstock, etc.) and we are looking for ways to promote local economic development. We manage community gardens, and we see our East End park project as an important contribution to community identity.

We keep environmental issues on people’s radar. In our busy lives, and in a media culture crammed with entertainment, sports, and sensational news events, it can be difficult to keep the bigger picture in mind. The plain fact is that the global economic system is consuming more resources than the planet can replenish and producing more wastes, including greenhouse gases, than the planet can process. We are thus living in a condition of ecological overshoot, which, biology and history both tell us, inevitably leads to the collapse of both populations and civilizations. Part of Sustainable Woodstock’s mission is educational—to gently but persistently remind everyone to keep these realities in mind while making choices about lifestyle and consumption.

So there, in a nutshell, is what we do. We believe that our approach reflects the interests and concerns of the community as a whole, and so we invite all area residents, no matter what your income level, lifestyle, or political persuasion, to learn more about this work and find ways to become engaged. Find ideas and resources on this website. Connect with others on our Facebook page. And contact our Executive Director, Sally Miller, at sally@sustainablewoodstock.org, to start receiving our monthly e-newsletter, filled with timely and sometimes inspiring news and ideas.

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