Bennington Meeting Minutes

Bennington County Environmental Literacy Public Dialogue

Manchester Elementary Middle School

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meeting Minutes

Participants responded to the question, “What do you see when you picture an environmentally literate community?  What’s happening?  What are individuals, schools, businesses, organizations, etc. doing in your future vision?” as follows:

Public Institutions

  • Individual travel for business and organization meetings is limited.
  • Communication is fluid, interactive and accessible to all.
  • Every neighborhood has its own transfer station for trash and refuse.
  • Middle school students help to revitalize and run a county store.
  • Infrastructure meets awareness.

Private Sector

  • Our food is grown locally.
  • There is a commitment to healthy employees.

Individuals

  • Consuming is replaced by exchanging.
  • Adults and children explore nature without hesitation, and everyone recognizes his/her place in nature.
  • People are more self-reliant and share resources (food, energy, transportation).
  • Everyone loves the place they live.
  • Towns host one environmental event a season.
  • Home, family and community are important.
  • There’s less fretting about children’s free exploration in nature.
  • Resource-based industries are valued stewards.

Associations

  • Associations and boards represent the whole community.  (This vision was added while the participants answered the third question.)

Additional Visions

  • The earth belongs to ALL.

Participants responded to the request to, “Share some of the environmental projects and initiatives that already are happening in your workplace or community that bring us closer to an environmentally literate Vermont.” as follows:

Public Institutions

  • Keene, NH hospital and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington make commitment to recruit community to move toward best health in their region
  • Blueprint for Health – VT hospitals initiative
  • Initiatives to resolve the rail issue
  • Green initiatives – tour energy committee
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program
  • Walloomsac Farmers’ Market in Bennington
  • Green Mountain Bus is expanding routes.
  • Bike racks on buses in Bennington
  • Mt. Anthony Middle School has a children’s garden and farmers’ market.
  • Windham Conservation Commission is doing invasive species removal.
  • Bennington Conservation Commission is doing storm water management education.
  • Wallingford pedestrian bridge
  • Green-up Day
  • Safe Routes to School
  • Dorset School
  • Stafford Tech
  • Town Wetland Commissions, Conservation Commissions, etc.
  • State invasive coordination
  • Town recycling efforts
  • Bennington Energy Committee
  • Farmers’ markets – Manchester, Dorset, Arlington, etc.
  • Vermont Community Energy Management Program (VCEMP)
  • Bennington Free Medical Clinic has 40 doctors, and is in a Baptist Church.
  • Post Carbon Group in Bennington shows films.
  • Manchester Library has meetings, films, speakers, etc. (resource sharing)

Private Sector

  • Recycling by commercial businesses
  • Products from recycled materials
  • Efficient bulbs are sold.
  • Green roofs, low impact and run-off
  • Organic food is available at markets and farmers’ markets.
  • LEED buildings
  • Berkshire Bank and Orvis fund grants.
  • Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) has Cow Power, Smart Grid, corporate policies, etc.
  • Vermont ski areas
  • JK Adams and Northshire Books sell local products.
  • Vermont Country Store funds community grants.
  • Chittenden Bank funds community grants.
  • Solar power facility in Pownal at the former Green Mountain Race Track
  • Educators book club
  • Yellow Bike Program – Bikes can be signed out for use (South Street Café, Highlander Bicycles, Spice and Nice).
  • Vermont Country Store Right to Drying
  • Renew Brattleboro – recycle and salvage of building materials
  • Friends of Algers (Brattleboro) – community to revive the country store and Guilford school is involved
  • Manchester Chamber of Commerce encourages green initiatives.
  • Hand Motors uses energy saving practices.

Individuals

  • Jim Hand’s micro-hydro water power (renewable energy)
  • Paul Meyer – info/resource guy in Peru, also an artist
  • CFL purchasers and replacers
  • Folks taking “stuff” to ERC to exchange material
  • Bennington area website that allows people to exchange things
  • Book club reads environmental titles.
  • In Richmond, VA there is a college free swap meet, where people swap/exchange books and other goods (similar to a ski swap).
  • Vegetable gardening, gleaning, canning and putting up food
  • Seasonal and local eating
  • Selling Vermont products
  • Taylor Farm in Londonderry has an educational component.
  • Keyline plowing is good for the soil.
  • There’s an increased use of nature trails by the Bennington public.
  • Interest in outdoor-based education is increasing.
  • Awareness of personal environmental impact is increasing.
  • People are buying local food year-round from farmers’ markets and friends.
  • Fuel-efficient vehicles
  • Bruce Bentley’s heat pumps
  • Jesse Herbert’s course on renewables and sustainability at Bennington High School
  • Greening Rosie’s Girls

Associations

  • Merck Forest – organic farming, field gleaning, education and outreach, maple sugaring, renewable energy, land management
  • Vermont town libraries share books and computers.
  • Food cupboards
  • Churches have tag sales, thrift shops, community meals, food pantries, etc.
  • Farmers’ markets in Londonderry, Dorset, Manchester and Bennington
  • 350.org – local effort to plant 350 trees in Dorset and Manchester
  • UVM extension programs
  • Equinox Preservation Trust
  • Farm to School programs
  • Vermont Arts Council grant to get kids in nature – “Happy Days” in Arlington
  • Local train/rail group – Southwestern Vermont Rail Committee
  • Local, sustainable food – Bennington Transition Team
  • Wood heating with a mostly local wood shed at Hildene
  • Solar electricity in goat dairy production at Hildene
  • Storm water demonstration site, nature walk, adult/youth environmental education at New England Tropical Conservatory (NETC)
  • Collaboration among organizations
  • Battenkill Watershed Alliance conserves habitat
  • Four Winds Nature Institute and SWEEP – environmental education
  • Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS)
  • Farm and Wilderness
  • Smokey House
  • Green Mountain Club
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Vermont Coverts
  • Vermont Land Trust
  • Bennington Energy Committee is included in town plan and has an organized CFL exchange.
  • Vermont Community Energy Management Program (VCEMP) – volunteers do energy visit, education and connect folks to resources and contractors
  • Safe Routes to Schools in North Bennington – Parents and community members get kids to school safely.
  • Rosie’s Program – for girls ages 10-13 to learn non-traditional trades like alternative energy
  • Transition Towns – Bennington and Manchester

Participants responded to the question, “In order to get from where we are today to your future vision of environmental literacy, what more needs to happen?” as follows:

Public Institutions

  • Spend stimulus money.
  • There could be more partnerships between schools, environmental organizations and communities so that curriculum is related to the needs of the communities.  Also, more and better communication sharing.
  • UNH Cooperative Extension has developed a community asset map for organizations to collaborate and form partnerships.  Vermont could do something similar.
  • Human services system in Vermont could be expanded to include environmental services.
  • Projects could be required to meet basic environmental standards for efficiency, local materials, sustainability, etc. (especially municipal projects)
  • It could be a requirement for new construction to have solar panels, etc.
  • Health Care could promote healthier populations better by advocating for more bike paths, pedestrian incentives, etc.
  • Tax credits could be given for in-fill development.  Downtowns could be made denser.
  • New businesses could be required to analyze the true costs of doing business (carbon footprints, etc.).
  • Infrastructures could be retooled to meet the needs of smaller and more diversified farms.
  • More recycling laws and requirements could be put into place.

Private Sector and Individuals (two groups combined)

  • We could think of new ways to get food to homes (more delivery of foods to local homes).
  • We could do more farm sharing.
  • People without garden space could use fallow garden sites.
  • We could teach the old methods for preserving food (canning, drying, etc.).  These could be community events.
  • We could co-locate food, arts, community spaces, etc.  This could be co-op driven.
  • The private sector could partner with clubs and associations.
  • We could design private markets to support community activities and projects.
  • A private market could host booths/kiosks for individuals and organizations.
  • Private sector (Chamber of Commerce, newspapers, etc.) could support environmental literacy and local food.
  • Employees could be empowered by goals to conserve energy and not just by following policy.
  • The entrepreneurial model could be used for youth to implement environmental improvements.

Associations

  • Representation could be sought from across communities
  • Associations could help to fill the resource gap in public institutions.
  • Activities could be better publicized.
  • Organizations with different interests could partner.
  • Associations could provide more opportunities for diverse groups of people.
  • Associations could help to articulate local culture/sense of place.
  • Find diverse groups of decision-makers.
  • Re-awaken the historic knowledge of environmental issues.

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