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Sustainable Puget Sound Local Communities Take Initiative

With the increased awareness and concern about the impact on our lives of such things as global warming, peak oil, environmental degradation, and economic uncertainty, many are tempted to resign themselves to the inertia of quiet despair. Yet some of us become motivated to become agents of change. Instead of passively waiting for government or some other agency to come to the rescue, these engaged citizens take responsibility, discovering innovative ideas and pro-active,

community-based solutions. Sustainable Bellingham, Sustainable Seattle, and Sustainable Ballard exemplify this approach, and show us how.

Sustainable Bellingham by Allison Ewoldt

Sustainable Bellingham was born at the November 2004 screening of the provocative documentary The End of Suburbia. In addition to focusing on the challenges of 'Peak Oil' and environmental degradation, this film offers a solution: relocalization, or becoming self-reliant in the areas of food, energy, and economics. At the invitation of the screening host, Attraction Retreat, several viewers of the film met in January 2005 to determine how they might catalyze the development of a relocalized, sustainable infrastructure for their region. Six committed to volunteer as the Vision Team for a new non-profit organization.

Since it's inception, Sustainable Bellingham (SB) has evolved into a growing network of people working together to build an alternative infrastructure for sustainable living in their bioregion. The officially stated purpose of Sustainable Bellingham is "to serve as a catalyst and nexus for the co-creation of sustainable community in Bellingham and the surrounding bioregion," and its mission includes:

Providing resources for community groups that deal with the particulars of creating a sustainable culture and facilitating communication and cooperation among these groups Raising awareness among the citizenry of the Fraser to Skagit watershed about Peak Oil and other developing global crises Contributing to the creation of a sustainable regional infrastructure to replace those aspects of our present system that are out of balance. Teaching skills for sustainable living Embodying a paradigm that honors the values and interdependence of all Life and provides for its ongoing well-being

Strategies to achieve their mission are developing over time. They include:

Virtual Hub - An interactive and constantly evolving website ( that is fast becoming a central place for sustainability-related resource sharing in Whatcom County. It offers a community calendar, an inventory of local sustainability-related resources, on-line forums, a venue for outstanding sustainability-related articles, and more. Community-building events - "Seasonal Simplicity Social", screenings of the locally produced documentary, The Collaborative Edge, followed by discussions about community collaboration, plus a series of Collaboration Potlucks. Community awareness raising/networking events - Quarterly community-wide events to raise awareness about community challenges in transportation, energy, food production, local living economies, education, etc. SB organized the highly successful Sustainable Transportation Fair in November '05, and are in the process of planning several other major events over the coming year. They have hosted regular documentary film screenings, often with experts in the field leading discussions after the films. All of these events also provided information about where and how to 'plug in' to become part of the solution. Community support - An avenue of support for resonant organizations in the region. SB is now being contacted by other community groups working toward sustainability for help in a variety of ways-including co-sponsorship of their events. SB has also helped support the formation of 'affinity groups', such as a car co-op. Announcement e-list - A vehicle for sharing information about news and events (our own and those that SB co-sponsors) for the growing number of subscribers. Community Education - A source of educational opportunities for people who want to learn structures, methods, and technologies. Skills Workshops - Classes in 'skills for sustainable living,' placed in a context of ultimate mutual support and reciprocity in times of crisis as a future goal. More formal collaboration - Support for the formation of cottage industries to meet local needs and to work with local government. Physical Community Center - A dream of Sustainable Bellingham, this space will be used for events, classrooms, affinity group meetings, celebrations, and a library.

Ultimately, Sustainable Bellingham hopes to become a model for other communities working toward relocalization and sustainability.

More information about Sustainable Bellingham is available at Allison Ewoldt is an educator and co-founder of Bellingham non-profits Attraction Retreat and Sustainable Bellingham. She can be reached at 360-756-7998 and

Sustainable Seattle: Making the Greater Seattle a More Livable Place

What does sustainability have to do with it? As Seattle and other urban centers around the world continue to grow, the resource demands and pollution output also continue to grow. If not managed well this can threaten, not only the natural environment, but also the health of current and future generations. A sustainable city has been defined as "being organized so as to enable all its citizens to meet their own needs and to enhance their well-being without damaging the natural world or endangering the living conditions of other people, now or in the future." (Herbert Girardet, 1999) Founded in 1991 by a group of Seattle residents concerned about the city's future, Sustainable Seattle is now recognized worldwide for its accomplishments.

To improve quality of life Sustainable Seattle uses a variety of methods including:

Involving local government, businesses, and residents to talk about what's important for our region; Developing ways to measure progress (indicators) toward building a more sustainable region; Conducting research to better understand what contributes to a healthy human living environment; Partnering with neighborhood groups to share knowledge and work toward improvements; Providing information to local leaders, planners, and developers on urban planning and design. This includes creating public spaces, improving transportation, managing and reducing waste, reducing use of non-renewable energy, and ensuring safe food supplies.

Indicators of Sustainable Community

Almost 15 years ago, Sustainable Seattle asked the question: "How do we balance concerns for social equity, ecological integrity and economic vitality, and how do we create a livable community today while ensuring a healthy and fulfilling legacy for our children?" Sustainable Seattle surveyed hundreds of citizens of the region to identify what mattered to them so progress in those areas could be measured. Sets of regional sustainability indicators based on the values and goals of local residents were developed. Over 250 citizens contributed to identifying and researching these indicators. The project was so successful that it gained international recognition and was a model for over 90 sustainability projects around the country.

The 1993, 1995 and 1998 Indicators of Sustainable Community were designed as educational tools for citizens and policy-makers. They provided the inspiration for others to act. More recently, Sustainable Seattle has been exploring how to be a catalyst for action around some of the negative trends highlighted by the indicators.

Local Economy Initiative

Sustainable Seattle is conducting a research project that examines what contributes to a healthy local economy and how local spending contributes to regional prosperity, seeking to make the economic case for investing in the development of sustainable local economies. The project is designed to measure the impact of local spending by understanding the relationships between a community's economic, social and ecological systems. When people buy products that are manufactured locally, the benefit of that purchase is multiplied - even more so when the manufacturer purchases supplies or services from another local company. Purchasing locally produced products and services keeps the money circulating within our region, resulting in a stronger local economy . The Local Food Economy Study, one of the components of the research, focuses on the connections between local food-related businesses such as farms, food manufactures, distributors, grocers, and restaurants. The study measures the benefits of dollars spent locally through subsequent local purchases. More linkages between local businesses suggest a healthier, more robust, and resilient economy as more money is retained in the local economy and more local jobs are supported.

Sustainable farming practices result in healthy rural areas that support wildlife habitat and provide great benefits in terms of water and air quality. In a world where a large percentage of oil consumption is used to support trade, and the average tomato travels 1,500 miles from the field to the consumer plate, developing an economic argument for policies in favor of a local economy has important environmental benefits.

Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods

While the sustainability indicators project addresses regional concerns, the Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods Initiative (SUNI) focuses on the neighborhood level. Sustainable Seattle believes that neighborhood health and quality of life are important building blocks for sustainable development.

The program assists Seattle residents in collecting information about their neighborhoods and developing action plans to improve local conditions. Using cameras, voice recorders, and hand-held computers, citizens document and track street-level conditions, such as graffiti, litter, sidewalk conditions, and accessibility to public areas including parks. The information is then communicated to city agencies or used by the community to prioritize concerns to help create solutions.

Seattle's neighborhoods must be desirable places to live and work in order to effectively address larger issues such as sprawl and automobile dependency. Central to the idea of promoting healthy neighborhoods is fostering democracy through engaged citizens and a responsive city government. Therefore, SUNI work involves partnering with citizens and city government to improve the flow of information from neighborhoods to the city, and back to the neighborhoods. Understanding neighborhood priorities can help limited resources go toward issues of greatest concern. At the same time, solutions are more likely to be sustained over time through a committed and engaged community.

Education Sustainable Seattle provides education on sustainability to adults and school children, through workshops and other programs. Programs cover topics including reducing waste, recycling, and learning smart consumption behavior.

By involving young people in democratic action and community activities we build on intergenerational successes. Sustainable Seattle connects youth with community leaders. We offer workshops, small grants, and opportunities for involvement to Middle- and High-school students.

What can you do to get involved?

Sustainable Seattle is a non-profit 501c3 organization. To donate money, equipment, or to volunteer your time, please go to and click on the Volunteer or Donate tab. You may also contact them at (206) 622-3522 or

Sustainable Ballard: A Blueprint for EveryTown USA by David Wright, Erica Jones and Vicky Opperman

Mission Statement Sustainable Ballard fosters new awareness of the importance of community connections and meaningful sustainability due to excess energy dependence and consumption, and the depletion of key resources. Sustainable Ballard conducts workshops, public events, writes reports and research articles, and provides design andplanning services, for community education. Sustainable Ballard seeks to empower local citizens to become leaders in collective community self-reliance and autonomy.

Sustainable Ballard is now celebrating both its second year as a successful non-profit and its growing leadership role. Started by three Ballardians in 2004, Sustainable Ballard embraces the idea that we are all founders of a sustainable Ballard, where community self-reliance and sustainability is good foreign policy implemented locally.

Comprised of local neighbors, Sustainable Ballard originally organized around the idea of Ballard becoming the first US town to be energy efficient… dare we say, energy independent! Formed out of the momentum to oppose the US war on Iraq, founding members decided to help their municipality by working toward a sustainable township unreliant on foreign oil. Deeply concerned about the effects global energy descent (Peak Oil) and global warming will have on our future generations, we decided it was critical to start a discussion with our community of Ballard.

In the last 3 years, the Ballard community has been very receptive. Our recent application to join the Ballard District Council is an effort toward reaching every organization, business and residence we can, in an effort to put the word "sustainability" in front of every choice we each make every day (transportation choices, supporting our local economies, conserving energy, eating locally grown food, educating this next generation, and really, ALL people).

In an on-going effort to educate others about issues of environmental and economic sustainability, it has been imperative for Sustainable Ballard to collaborate with many like-minded - and importantly - not so like-minded, organizations on community events and projects.We currently work with over 25 organizations, and have learned that collaboration has greatly increased the transfer of skills and knowledge. It has even emboldened our commitment. Simply put, we need to know our available choices to better change our behavior.

As well, we are encouraged that our Seattle Mayor has started the Green Ribbon Commission to help guide our city, and as many as 240 other cities nationwide toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions. An example of Sustainable Ballard's efforts toward this goal include organizing the first forum in the nation on electric-vehicle-to-grid technology held at Seattle City Hall (June 2005). Focused on bringing new thinking and two major infrastructures together (electrical grid of Seattle City Light and the automobile industry), the forum brought experts of innovative vehicle-to-grid technology together to discuss the transference and storage of energy produced from renewables (hydropower, wind, solar, tidal) to a second automobile battery, with the ability to feed the grid during peak usage times (most cars are not used 90% of the time).

How does Sustainable Ballard accomplish so much so quickly, while even having some fun in the process? What makes our group functional and adaptable is that the Sustainable Ballard structure is modeled on the Seastar. The Seastar is an organism that moves with multiple arms, like our Guilds, and each of those arms is moved by many tube feet (pedicellaria), or individuals in the Guilds.

Our general meetings are held every fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 pm at Sunset Hill Community Center. General Meetings begin with a short program, often with an guest, followed by a potluck and networking/mingling time, and then we break into guilds to brainstorm or work on projects. This is a really great way for new people to get acquainted with Sustainable Ballard and to see what the Guilds are up to, and encounter some new ideas. You will be surprised by just how many interesting projects we have going on. We welcome you to join us and work on any of these projects, or bring your own projects and ideas! Please join us. We need each other. Cheers!

Community Guild Buy Local First Initiative: SB, Ballard Chamber of Commerce and BALLE, working with Ballard merchants to create an incentive program, to keep residents and businesses buying locally.Environment Waste & Water Guild Planting Trees for the Urban Tree Replacement Program (with Seattle City Light and Seattle Conservation Corps.)

Ballard Environment Walks. Tours of trees and/or native plantsFood, Health and Medicine Guild Herbal Workshops. Exploring Cultivation, Medicinal Uses, Culinary Demo and Healthful Preparation

Garden Matchmaker Program. Matching people with garden resources to people with time and ability to use them.

Community Food Security, With Lettuce Link's Fruit Tree Harvest Program, Northwest Harvest and the Ballard Food Bank.

100 Mile Diet. Eating foods from within the 100 mile radius to show that we can thrive on local food, thereby reducing our comsumption of fossil fuels wasted in shipping. In collaboration with Ballard Market and the Ballard Farmers Market, we will tag foods that fit within the 100 Mile Diet.Home Energy & Conservation Guild Clean Energy Initiative. Gathering signatures for the Washington Energy Security initiative; that by 2020 15% of the electricity from Washington's largest utilities comes from local renewable energy sources Website: energysecuritynow.orgTransportation Guild King County Metro's In-Motion Project in Ballard: With Ballard Chamber of Commerce, and Groundswell NW. Getting people out of their cars and into other forms of transit

NW Biodiesel and SB joint projects: Make your own BioDiesel and an Advanced Transportation Choices Fair.

Electric Car Projects: Electric Flex Car Initiative, Ballard Electric Transportation Initiative, Do-It-Yourself Electric Car kit.Urban Design Guild Earth Day Mural. With ReStore and students from Ballard High School, SB helped to design and paint a mural depicting "Sustainability" for 15th Ave.

14th Ave Rejuvenation Project. Creating sustainable community development.

Disaster Relief. Neighborhood meetings to get neighbors prepared for emergencies.

Pocket Park 63rd and 17th.NEW!!! Arts and Design Guild o Creating sustainable art, and art that communicates sustainability.

For more information about Sustainable Ballard, please visit their website at, or call them at 206-789-7646.


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