Brattleboro group adopts energy saving lifestyle

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(Host) As we continue the VPR series on the Changing Climate, we meet some people who are changing the way they live.

They’re members of a Brattleboro group called Post-Oil Solutions.

And they say like-minded groups and individuals are emerging everywhere.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports:

(Sounds of a potluck supper)

(Keese) We’re at a potluck supper in a home in Brattleboro, celebrating the final day of a week-long localvore challenge. For the past seven days, most of the people here have eaten only locally-produced foods.

Members of the group Post-Oil Solutions say that eating locally has lots of benefits. Lessening dependence on polluting fossil fuels is a big one.

(Janet Schwartz) “We eat local food and it doesn’t have to be transported from California.”

(Keese) Janet and Walter Schwartz of Brattleboro are here with an apple crisp made of local apples, maple sugar and Addison county flour.

Sarah Lavigne has brought a shepherd’s pie.

(Lavigne) “With hamburger beef from Mile Hill farm, which is in Springfield. And the butter and cream is from Dummerston and all the vegetables are either from our garden or from Brattleboro. (Man) That’s local squash from across the river.”

(Keese) There’s a dish made with wild turkey, and venison with cider jelly barbecue. There’s even

(Cork pops, pours)

(Keese) Vermont apple wine.

Post-Oil Solutions started meeting in 2005, out of concern about global warming and dwindling oil supplies. Retired teacher Tim Stevenson was an early organizer.

(Stevenson) “The way I look at it is that fossil fuels are really unacceptable when you understand global warming, and are going to become increasingly unavailable and expensive because of peak oil. We’re going to have to give up the petroleum way of life that we currently live if we’re to survive as a people and as a planet.”

(Keese) In the kitchen, people are discussing the possibility of a wood-chip generator that could power much of downtown Brattleboro.

(Man) “And these will run on woodchips?”
(Woman) “Like a biomass plant.”
(Another man) “Yes, it’ll be biomass.”

(Keese) Walt Schwartz explains that in Vermont the forest is growing faster than it’s being cut down. So the CO2 from a wood fire doesn’t add to the net amount that’s already circulating.

(Schwartz) “Wood – biomass – when it’s burned adds CO2, but also that CO2 is reabsorbed by new wood growing. It’s sustainable. But we only alter the balance when we burn fossil fuel.”

(Keese) Members of Post-Oil Solutions say they wish the government and industry would respond more aggressively to the crisis.

But they’re not waiting for that. Over dessert at the potluck, they talk about what they’re doing.

(Woman) “We have the heat way down in our house. This year we’ve hardly had it on at all. We live close to town and drive a car that gets high mileage.”
(Man) “For many years we’ve had fluorescent light bulbs. But when they just went on sale here for a dollar a piece we bought several cases of them for our parents’ houses.”
(Woman) “We took a pledge about two years ago to reduce our use of fossil fuels by 30 percent over a three year period. We saved up money and bought a hybrid car. Now what we do is every month, we look at how much mileage we’ve used in our vehicles and we try to lower that mileage every month.”

(Keese) Alice Charkes, who’s at the party, reduces her greenhouse gas emissions by using her bicycle as much as possible. Charkes teaches French at Brattleboro Union high school. For years she’s ridden her bike to work, no matter what the weather is.

(Sounds of husband, daughter, bell on door,)

(Alice) “All right, off we go.”

(Keese) On this morning it’s cold – hovering around zero. Still, Charkes walks her bike with her daughter, Olivia to the neighborhood elementary school. Then she pedals the two miles to the high school from there.

Charkes says many people who could walk or bike to work get overwhelmed by the logistics of transporting children. It’s just so easy to drive a little out of the way and drop the kids off on the way to work.

(Car sounds, school sounds)

(Charkes) “But what that means is that every parent that does that, that’s one more car that goes down green street, stops and parks, or idles and goes in — it’s this whole cycle of using your car to do something that doesn’t have to happen.”

(Keese) Charkes is the local coordinator for a federally funded program that uses little prizes to encourage kids to walk or bike to school.

But she says for her, the trip is its own reward.

(Charkes) “I mean I really am connected to the outside world several times a day – and I love it!”

(Sound of bike getting ready to leave)

(Charkes) “All right.”

(Sound of bell dings, as she rides away and is swallowed in the traffic sound.)

(Keese) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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