March 18, 2009

Pioneer Valley Sustainabitlity Meeting #10 3/18/09 Notes

Meeting at El Mercado in Holyoke

Present: Bill Baue-Executive Producer and co-host Sea Change Radio, Suzanne Bowles-Dev Dir Remineralize the Earth and Real Food, Colin Reid, Bill Bickley-Sustainability Coordinator Westfield State College, Eric Weiss-Hilltown Resource Management Collaborative and Chair of PVSN, Patrick Dufour, Catherine Miller-Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Rick Taupier-University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Kirsten Bonanza-Earththrives, Tony Dover-PVPC, Ben Ewing-ISO New England, Rose-UMASS, Aron Goldman-Springfield Institute and Policy Development Inc., Lynn Benander-Co op Power, Erin Baker-UMASS Industrial Engineering

Member Briefings:

  • Aron Goldman presented a brief overview of The Springfield Institute:  The Springfield Institute exists to bring fresh perspectives, raise the level of debate, broaden participation in the debate, support community groups, and contribute to urban transformation. We are a think tank with a twist: a central commitment to outreach, inclusion, and community organizing—for more go to: Dr. Manual Pastor speaking on regional equity and social movements-12:30 3/30 at Urban League in Springfield.
  • Lynn Benander discussed the upcoming Co op Power Sustainable Energy Summit, May 1-2 at UMASS-Amherst. Lynn asked members to participate by spreading the word and running sessions.
  • Transition Towns—Pvsustain is collaborating with the US Transition Towns network to host a Transition Training in Amherst on April 25-26.
  • Bill Bickley-Westfield State College is holding their annual Sustainability Fair on April 22-Earth Day
  • Bill Baue-Solidarity economy conference April 7th at the UMASS Eisenberg School
  • 3/22 7 pm First Churches in Northampton—“From oil dependency to local resilience”

Sustainability Network Internal Update:

Tony Dover gave an update on the new pvsustain website—now at

Eric Weiss presented an update on the efforts of the Coordinating Committee to plan for sustainability of the PVSN. Committee is working on a framework for and fee structure for membership and developing an organizing document to explain the PVSN. PVSN will also produce an annual report on each years’ activities. Goal is for $30,000 annual operating budget (increased to $50,000 based on costs to date). There will be a sliding scale of membership dues. Corporate sponsors will be considered. PVSN will NOT incorporate, so as to not compete with members for funding. Fees will be based on size of organization (annual operating budget? Gross income? Net profit? Number of employees?… )not sure yet).

EPA-funded Deliverables Update:

Green Building Decision Support Tool: Erin Baker, Ben Ewing and Rose provided an update on the Decision Support tool—it is targeted at homeowners and small businesses to help people make decisions about energy efficiency and clean energy additions to buildings. The tool will help people better evaluate the impact of potential investments in green energy and energy efficiency and conservation on buildings. The tool not only factors in the costs of improvements, but also consider the health and environmental benefits of possible improvements. The tool will be posted on the website and Erin, Ben and Rose would like members’ feedback.

Sustainability Indicators: Rick Taupier presented results of the working group on the sustainability indicators. Goal is to make the indicators interesting and relevant to the work of the members of the PVSN and to the Pioneer Valley in general. Staff looked at 17 other sustainability indicator projects in the country-learned from the lessons of other projects to keep the list small (12-18 indicators) and to make sure to select indicators for which data is readily available. The final proposal was presented (see website under indicators for list) and enthusiastically endorsed by the members. Additional indicators may be added over time, including a happiness index. This may require additional funding.

Other sustainability indicator projects to learn from:  Hazel Henderson and Calvert Quality of Life; Mark Nielski—BC indicators that supplant GDP; Human Development Index—original alternative to GDP.

It was agreed that Network members and staff should apply for funds over time to develop data sets to add to the current list of indicators.

Indicators left off proposed “final”initial list:

Carrying capacity—overlaps with biodiversity
Carbon footprint
Toxics in newborns
Leadership accountability—don’t know how to measure so voter participation is a proxy
Homelessness—put it back in final list!
Neighbors you know—how to measure??
Land Use change—only measured from time to time and inconsistently
Libraries and other cultural activities—little support in voting
Triple bottom line companies—no good data at this time
Volunteers and giving—don’t know how to collect

Additions (other than happiness mentioned above) may include energy efficiency—comparing energy use to income—if income is going up but energy use stays flat, that suggests energy efficiency. Toxic Release Inventory data—eminently available. PERI at UMASS has air quality data. Local food v. ag land available. Water quality. Occupational safety—OSHA injuries. Triple bottom line companies. Labor union membership data is easily available.

On the website once we post the indicators we must explain EVERYTHING-and make it clear that we would like to add indicators as time and funding allow. Also—don’t just post numbers—have stories with pictures to illustrate what the indicators mean.

Rick will see what he can collect and present preliminary baseline at May 13 meeting

Comments/Questions about presentation of indicators on website:

How will we get at income distribution? And differences between rich and poor—will it be a statistic or comparisons?
Will information be presented community by community and/or the region as a whole?
What is our goal with these indicators? Research shows that flat income distribution makes a healthier community.
Locally owned businesses v. sustainable business models—perhaps look at % of income in the business.
B-corp membership-set of hard indicators, but had to qualify.
BALLE membership v. or in addition to labor union membership?

Rick will send what he has by 5/1/09 so members can review and prepare for discussion at 5/13 meeting.

Members agreed to think about how they can help with data collection for indicators.

Conclusion of Indicator discussion:

Members want the indicators to move the region toward sustainability. Indicators will fit into a story of who we are as a region, where we are now, and where we are going and most importantly-how people and organizations in the Pioneer Valley can plug in to our work and DO something to enhance sustainability in the region.

Members would like to have this conversation in a bigger way with a larger group. Bill Baue is in conversations with WGBY about facilitating this conversation regionally via tv and radio.

Next Meeting—Wednesday, May 13 in Greenfield or Amherst
8-8:30    breakfast and informal networking
8:30-9    formal networking
9-10    PVSN updates
10-11    EPA funded deliverables updates

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