by Julie Hudson
The Transition Town movement encourages communities to envision a future beyond fossil fuel dependence. What’s your vision for our region’s future? Would we strengthen community ties and our local economy? Where would we get our power and our food, and what would that look like? How would we get around? What would we do with our waste? At Transition Honesdale’s community potluck last fall, we asked these questions about the future of energy, transportation, economy, food, and waste. We encouraged folks to think five, ten, or even twenty years into the future and share their vision and hopes for what our community can achieve. Food Folks had many great ideas for what our local food system could look like in the future. Some said we should work toward having local foods in our schools, restaurants, hospitals, and at food banks. Other ideas included expanding our local farmers’ markets and encouraging farmers to produce more meats and dairy products, including value-added products like cheese. Another idea was to start Victory Gardens all over town and to grow more school gardens to teach kids about fresh foods and tending for the earth. Others want to see more Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSAs), where people can subscribe to a farm and receive weekly shares of the harvest throughout the growing season. There were even ideas for how to make this happen, like more support for the farmers and more infrastructure such as a local creamery, slaughterhouse, and/or a community kitchen where people or producers could can their own foods. It was also mentioned that we need more farmers and more farmer training to help farmers expand and thrive. Sounds like there’s lots of support for local food, so if you want to help make these things happen, all are welcome to join local members of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) to start turning these visions into reality (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Energy People had no trouble envisioning a bright future without fossil fuels. Many mentioned more solar panels and wind turbines, including at least three wind turbines on the cliff above Honesdale. Someone also said “lots of electric cars, but we better make sure they are not run on electricity from coal-fired power plants.” Another person suggested a biomass electric generation plant that uses local hay, grasses, wood, and other renewables – and the waste heat could be used to heat homes and businesses in town. This is similar to another suggestion of creating micro-grids for towns, campuses, or large businesses that are powered by renewable energy. Someone even suggested that since Marcellus shale gas is being developed here, why not use it to power local cars and trucks and even create a free, public bus service that runs on natural gas. Transportation These ideas had a bit of overlap with energy above, including public transportation (like the local bus idea). A bus could run in a big loop from Hamlin to Hawley, then Honesdale, Waymart, and Carbondale where people could transfer to County of Lackawanna Transit System and go express to Scranton. Speaking of buses, it was mentioned that biodiesel school buses would not only be better for the environment, it would be healthier for the kids who are exposed to the fumes. Many people noted that more bike lanes and bike racks would encourage people to ride bikes. Hey, and what about carpooling? Not a new idea, but certainly with new potential given all the online tools available to coordinate rides. Starting with businesses, hospitals, churches, or schools, why not coordinate rides with your coworkers or fellow parishioners or students? The funniest idea was to install zip lines for travel – use gravity. Now that’s thinking outside the box! Economy People recognized the importance of supporting local businesses and creating local jobs to strengthen our local economy. So people’s visions included statements about not shopping at big box stores and instead buying from locally-owned businesses. Others focused more on jobs and suggested that we need to redefine a living wage and better educate our local workforce by convincing Penn State to open a campus nearby. Models that have worked in other regions were also mentioned. These included the suggestion to create a local currency that would keep our wealth circulating in our region. Another idea was to start “time banking,” which is a way to exchange services by tracking time instead of exchanging money. For example, I could earn an hour by cleaning out your gutters then spend that hour on a massage with another time banking participant. There are great ideas and models through the Business Alliance for a Local Living Economy. Transition Honesdale will be exploring some of these ideas in the future and we will be showing a movie entitled the Economics of Happiness. WasteMost people just want to throw it away and not think about it, but these brave souls shared their visions of a cleaner future that includes things like easier access to single-stream recycling and municipal composting. Others noted that we need to think about it at the source by reducing packaging and stop purchasing of things we don’t need that just end up in the trash. Along those lines, it was mentioned that requiring restaurants and other businesses to use compostable take-out containers would make a huge difference. Another suggestion was to follow successful models of other regions where they have banned plastic bags and Styrofoam.
Throughout the whole exercise people mentioned the need for education and community support. Transition Honesdale is working to help foster that sense of community through its events and to encourage our community to educate itself through our SkillShare project. Everyone has something to teach and something they’d like to learn, so we hope you will get involved to share your genius and talents. It’s clear that there are many good ideas for how we not only can survive, but also thrive in a future without fossil fuel. Our community can come together to make these ideas a reality. These are only a sampling of what our community can brainstorm and create. Share your ideas by commenting below.