Workshop: Converting Your Bike to an E-Bike

On Monday, November 9, 7 pm, a free Zoom workshop will teach you how to convert a regular bike to an e-bike!

Over summer and fall, the 2020 Upper Valley E-bike Library program gave a lot of Upper Valley residents the opportunity to discover how an electric-assist bike can be part of our regular transportation.

One of the least expensive options for obtaining an e-bike is to convert a regular bike, and here’s an online workshop to show us how!

Monday, 11/9, 7 pm

888 475 4499 US Toll-free   877 853 5257 US Toll-free    Meeting ID: 883 6192 9021

The workshop will feature a video of an actual conversion with lots of direct Q/A as we view it. A panel of experienced e-bike converters will share what they’ve learned from their trials and errors, insights on various makes and models of motors and batteries, and recommendations on the right materials and tools to have on hand before you dive in.

This workshop is organized by the Norwich Energy Committee, with funding from the Norwich Women’s Club and technical support from CATV.

Questions? Contact linda.c.gray@gmail.com.

Downtown vs. Out-of-Town: Community Conversations

Which uses of our land provide the best economic returns to our towns? The answers might surprise you.

Developing big parcels of land on the fringes of town as malls, big-box stores, or suburban tracts? No.

Building up existing downtowns with mixed uses – residential, commercial, social services, and more? Yes. Acre for acre, this type of development raises more property tax revenue and requires less new infrastructure for taxpayers to pay for. In addition, mixed-use downtown development can have positive implications for climate change, public health, historic preservation and community architectural “character,” and social equity.

This broad issue is explored in a series of engaging, accessible, virtual presentations featuring renowned planner Joe Minicozzi of the North Carolina-based firm Urban3, The series began with the session From the Outskirts to DowntownTaxes, Land Use & Land Value Analysis of 15 New Hampshire Communities, on Thursday, October 15, 10 am. Watch the video here. The first 20 minutes are a great introduction to why this information should affect our choices.

Minicozzi is following the statewide session with presentations focused on the communities that were studied, including a session focusing on Lebanon, Claremont, and Hanover, on Thursday, October 29, 11 am.  Register for this free LOCAL event.

Urban3 derived its findings by analyzing the property tax revenues of Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Exeter, Hanover, Hudson, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Nashua, Pelham, Peterborough, Portsmouth, and Rochester. Minicozzi, the principal of Urban3, is an urban planner who utilizes new ways to think about and visualize land use, urban design, and economics.

By using these data to create 3D visualizations, Urban3’s analysis reveals the potential for improving the fiscal health of each of these 15 communities. The visuals show what types of development create the greatest tax return for communities, and create a clear and data-driven understanding of the economics of place. Communities can use these findings as a tool to make public policy adjustments, with the goal of creating long-term financial resiliency.

The Lebanon-Claremont-Hanover conversation will drill down from the statewide picture presented on October 15. Analysis, charts, and observations of data for each of the three towns will be presented. A panel with planning officials from each of the towns and the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission will provide local context and answer questions in a facilitated discussion.

The series aims to give participants another way to look at how we use our land, and the implications for local health, prosperity, climate, and social equity. They should be able to use the information to make choices that enable and protect what they value in their local communities. Although the data was derived from studying particular New Hampshire communities, residents and officials of towns of all sizes can gain valuable insight from this discussion.
Questions to be explored include:
  • What are the financial implications of different land uses, and how can this knowledge help us make and implement good decisions for our homes, businesses, schools, and other needs?
  • Who really pays for infrastructure and its continued maintenance?
  • How can we preserve and replicate the homes and buildings we appreciate most, that give our communities character, and offer the greatest benefits to the public as a whole?

 

 

Community Discussion Lists: A Way Out of Partisanship?

In these contentious times, when civility, useful information, and real communication seems to be frequently missing from the big social media platforms, it is pretty wonderful to have a local resource where we can learn what is happening in our local towns.

The Community Discussion Lists are just that. Hosted by Vital Communities, they allow members of a community to post and respond to email messages about town events, notices about town government, questions for the school board, recycling announcements, items for sale, questions about lost or found pets, etc. They are a great way to keep up with what’s happening, and to see everyone in the community interacting in this local, non-partisan way that exemplifies small-town New England.

During the pandemic, the lists have also been a lifeline – a resource on how to find assistance and support for those in need as a result of health concerns or economic disruption.

In the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2020, there were over 43,000 subscribers to 42 lists in the Upper Valley. Subscribers posted over 115,000 messages over that period.

The intent is to keep the discussions about each town. A post that concerns more than one town should be posted on the Upper Valley Discussion List. The full guidelines are on the Vital Communities website and at the end of every morning’s “Digest,” but the big ones are: keep it local, keep it civil, and don’t post anonymously. 

The key here is that individual subscribers are responsible for their content. Vital Communities doesn’t control the content distributed through the list. Nor do town governments. The lists are moderated after the fact by community volunteers supported by VC. With the exception of one list, posts are not screened before they go to the digest. Accomplishing this across all lists would be an impossible task, given the number of lists, users and postings daily. We can only moderate after the fact, usually by restricting the offenders’ posting privileges or outright banning a particular party.

Of course, that gets messy sometimes. One person recently anonymously posted some inflammatory political views. The moderators took care of it pretty quickly, as they do. When you see posts like that, it’s best to forward it to the moderator, rather than post about it on the list – especially as one objective of “trolls” is to hijack list discussions.

The Community Discussion Lists are our own, volunteer driven, locally managed, nonprofit social media. They can be a terrific antidote to the impersonal partisan bickering that happens elsewhere on the internet. But they need care and tending by all of us to be the community resource we all want them to be.

Vital Communities is grateful for the many people who help defray the expense of administering the Lists by making an annual or monthly gift (you can restrict the gift to Communities Discussion Lists if you wish). People can support the Lists by contributing here [https://vitalcommunities.org/donate/waystogive/].

Rob Schultz, Coordinator, Community Discussion Lists, Vital Communities

 

Upper Valley Housing, 2010-2019: The Numbers Are In

How many and what kind of homes are we creating in our region? Vital Communities and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Commission partnered with 29 towns to measure the numbers, types, and values of homes created since 2010, with a look ahead at the next few years.

Click these links for the summary of results, and the details by town.

The study will help planners and municipalities size up the kinds of partnerships needed to meet our region’s housing demands, and include more communities and residents in the effort – which encompasses everything from big-dollar multi-unit new development to individual homeowners adding accessory dwelling units.

Some of the chief findings are:

  • The number of new places to live created in 2019 was about the average rate for the last 10 years: 221 units in 2019 compared to an average rate of 248.
  • New places to live over the past 10 years are about evenly split between single-family and multi-family homes.
  • The majority of units added over the past 10 years were assessed at under $300,000.
  • Based on an analysis of building permits issued in some towns, about 6 percent of permits were for replacing or adding an additional dwelling unit to an existing structure.
  • Partnerships of employers, developers, finance, municipalities are making large projects possible.

Contact Mike Kiess Mike@VitalCommunities.org with questions, and learn more at https://vitalcommunities.org/workforce-housing/

The 29 towns that were studied (about three-fourths of Vital Communities’ service area) are:
In New Hampshire:
Charlestown
Claremont
Enfield
Grantham
Hanover
Haverhill
Lebanon
Lempster
Newbury
New London
Newport
Plainfield
Springfield
Sunapee
In Vermont:
Bethel
Bradford
Fairlee
Hartford
Hartland
Newbury
Norwich
Randolph
Rockingham
Royalton
Springfield
Thetford
Weathersfield
West Windsor

Windsor

Hartford Dollars Sell Out in Two Days!

Buyers gobbled up $18,000 worth of Hartford Dollars within just days of the new “currency” going on sale! And organizers hope it’s only the start of more and stronger trends and programs toward keeping dollars local.

Hartford Dollars give the bearer a 50 percent discount at more than 40 participating businesses throughout Hartford. Offered in $30 and $50 values sold for $15 and $25, respectively, they are a  COVID recovery project jointly coordinated by the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, the Town of Hartford, and Hartford Development Corporation and partially funded with federal funds through the State of Vermont. 

A total value of $18,000 Hartford dollars went on sale on Friday, October 16, and by end of Sunday had been purchased by approximately 200 people. Those buyers have until November 30 to use the dollars at any of the participating businesses. The dollars may not be used to purchase tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, tax, or tips. No change will be given for Hartford Dollars. 

The program’s organizers hope to find funding to extend the program and perhaps help other communities launch similar programs, said Lori Hirschfield, director of planning and development for the Town of Hartford. “I know there are lots of people in the Upper Valley that want to support local businesses so keep doing that even if you don’t have local currency,” said Hirschfield.

We are thrilled at the response and already hearing lots of great stories about people using their Hartford Dollars,” she said. “We started this as novices, thinking it might take a week or so to get the word out.  The sell-out in less than 48 hours shows us how much this is needed and desired by consumers and businesses.”

At Vital Communities, the project is part of a network of initiatives aimed at encouraging Upper Valley residents to buy from locally owned businesses – a practice that contributes money to the local economy at a rate up to 4 times that of chains and online vendors, according to a recent study commissioned by Vital Communities.

“In addition to shining a light on Hartford businesses, we want to underscore the need for people to keep their dollars – Hartford Dollars and regular currency – in the Upper Valley, to support the businesses that we love and help them make it through the pandemic,” said Nancy LaRowe, manager of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy initiative. “They contribute to our unique downtowns, create stable jobs, give expert service, and give back to the community in many ways,  including generous donations of time, money, and products. And they have adapted in so many ways to help the community during the pandemic. This is a chance to help them hang in there.”

Many Upper Valley small businesses have been devastated by the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Vital Communities, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Hartford partners created the program to increase foot traffic and sales for struggling businesses, using a Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

Hartford Dollars can be spent at any of these participating businesses: BE Fit Physical Therapy, Cloverleaf Jewelers, Deirdre Donnelly Jewelry Art, Dynamic Natural Athletes, Elixir Restaurant, Fat Hat Clothing Co, Flourish, Beauty Lab, Jake’s Market & Deli, JUEL Modern Apothecary, Little Istanbul. Living the Dream Alpaca Farm, Long River Gallery, Massage Eminence, Northern Stage, Open Door Integrative Wellness, Piecemeal Pies (shown above), Pizza Chef, POST., Public House at Quechee Gorge., Public House Diner Quechee, Raq-On Dance, LLC, Revolution, Scavenger gallery, Scout Hair Design, Small Batch Design Company, LLC, Stern’s Quality Produce, Steven Thomas, Inc., Strafford Saddlery, Sugarbush Farm, Sunrise Farm, The Collection, The Skinny Pancake – Quechee, The Uncommon Home LLC, Thyme, Trail Break taps + tacos, Tuckerbox, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Upper Valley Yoga, Valley Flower Company, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Wicked Awesome BBQ, and Wolf Tree.

 

Meet Our New Executive Director!

An experienced international development professional who more recently has immersed herself in the Upper Valley will be the new Executive Director at the White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities.

Sarah Jackson, of Randolph Center, VT, has decades of experience in nongovernmental organizations and initiatives in diverse places, including Oman, Egypt, Kenya, China, and the Indian subcontinent. Since 2017, she has worked with Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, where she has worked with country teams in Bangladesh, China, and India to develop and secure funding for programs that advance climate solutions for cities, factories, and communities. Her career also has included directing projects focused on entrepreneurship, workforce development, agriculture, education, youth leadership, and women’s empowerment. She will officially take on her new role on October 26.

Since moving to Vermont to work for the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), Jackson has complemented her international career with volunteer work dealing with some of the challenges and opportunities of the Upper Valley. Since 2018 she has volunteered for the Randolph Region Re-Energized Program, working on issues including economic development, affordable housing, and childcare. In May she completed Vital Communities’ 10-month Leadership Upper Valley program, which takes participants through a wide-ranging introduction to the region. Other local involvements include serving on the Capital Campaign and Grants Committees of the East Valley Community Group, East Randolph; and Randolph’s Climate Emergency Group. She belongs to the Montpelier-based ElevateHer Professional Networking Platform and Central Vermont Development Professionals Network.

“Fundamentally, the job of Executive Director of one of the Upper Valley’s leading nonprofits is a tough proposition,” said Ron Shaiko, chair of the Vital Communities Board. “The successful candidate needed to show us that he or she has a clear understanding of the full scope of programs Vital Communities leads and the vision that the organization has cultivated so far, and be able to offer us a personal vision that can take us forward. Sarah has the quiet confidence to lead us in those next steps and the deep listening that is required to form lasting partnerships.”

In Oman, for example, where Jackson worked from 2001 to 2017, she created and ran the Oman arm of AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organization engaged in workforce development and education in the Middle East. “The fact that she took an organization from an idea to a staff of 30, in a foreign country, says a lot about her and indicates more than enough experience to lead an Upper Valley NGO,” said Shaiko. “I’m thrilled and so is the rest of the board.”

“I am truly honored and excited to be joining Vital Communities and to work with the talented and dedicated Board and staff to advance its important mission,” said Jackson. “My participation in the Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2020 offered glimpses into the organization throughout the year, highlighting its clear commitment to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of the region, its tight connections with and strong reputation among a wide range of stakeholders, and its deep knowledge about the challenges and opportunities characterizing the Upper Valley. It was exactly the kind of organization that I sought as I envisioned shifting my career focus from international development to local issues, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with the Vital Communities team and with stakeholders throughout the region in shaping the organization’s next chapter.” 

A native of New Hampshire, Jackson grew up in Laconia and Merrimack. She holds a masters degree from Princeton and began her career with NGOs in Kenya and Egypt. She spent six years with the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman, as director of initiatives that included the launch of a women’s leadership program and the first professional women’s networking organization in Oman. She moved on to the Muscat office of AMIDEAST, serving as the Country Director for Oman. There she built the operation from the ground up, establishing a physical field office, recruiting and managing a team of more than 30 employees and trainers, and developing a $2.3 million portfolio of education, entrepreneurship, and workforce development initiatives. 

After serving as the Executive Director of the Oman American Business Center, where she worked with a multicultural board of directors to promote Oman’s economic development, she joined ISC. There she has focused on international climate solutions—a challenge that required her to quickly gain command of environmental sustainability issues. This ability to pivot into new sectors will serve her well in overseeing the range of areas in which Vital Communities works. 

She and husband Robert Jackson (a writer and former high school history teacher) have two children, Daniel, 25, and Nora, 21. Beyond work, her hobbies include hiking, snowshoeing, gardening, cooking, playing the piano, reading, andmore recentlyplaying with their golden retriever puppy.

Upper Valley Everyone Eats

We are launching Upper Valley Everyone Eats! Between September 8 and December 18, approximately 2,500 meals from local restaurants will be available weekly across the Upper Valley’s Vermont community meal programs and food pantries. These nutritionally balanced meals, made in part with ingredients from local farms and food businesses, are being  offered through a new Vermont state program which pays hard-hit Vermont restaurants $10 per meal to create nutritious meals for Vermont residents in need of food assistance at this difficult time. Get the details!

2CLA Graduate Spotlight: Climate Change Hike at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

 

The Climate Change Leadership Academy Class (2CLA) of 2020 graduated in May amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to highlight the inspiring climate leaders who attended the leadership academy meetings. In addition, we want to share the projects that leaders designed and plan to launch in order to take meaningful action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Upper Valley. Read the first profile, of Tunbridge, VT, artist Cecily Anderson and her Climate Farmer Project.

The next 2CLA graduate we would like to spotlight is Leah Marshall. When asked about her favorite part of 2CLA, Leah mentioned how much she appreciated the first session where participants learned about ways climate change is impacting the Upper Valley, as well as ways to communicate climate science clearly.

For her climate action project, Leah recognized the opportunity to integrate her project with her position working as the Natural Resource Intern at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP practices adaptive management using ecologically-minded forestry techniques, it is the only National Historical Park that is actively forested. She wanted to tie in the audience at the Park, which includes local Upper Valley residents and visitors or tourists who come to explore Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP. Park visitors are an ideal audience so Leah decided to create a guided hike that explores climate change at the Park. Another goal of Leah’s was to encourage visitors to adventure out on the beautiful carriage roads and trails in Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP.

Leah researched and wrote about how climate change is projected to impact forest diversity and resilience. She believes it is important to highlight forest vulnerability because sometimes the impacts of climate change are not so evident. Indeed, there are no glaciers in the Upper Valley melting. Leah said, “People don’t necessarily think about the whole ecosystem impacts of climate change.” She set out to share specific examples of how climate change has impacted forest health, specifically in Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP forests. For example, the range of the white oaks may shift because changing conditions are less favorable as well as sugar maple which then impact animal habitat, food sources, and local economies.

In addition to her research about forest health, Leah interviewed the superintendent of the Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP to gain more information. The booklet she designed is similar to a junior ranger booklet that includes a hiking map and readings for each of the stops. There are 10 stops along the route. Leah planned the Climate Change Hike to be a self-guided experience, so her project was not dramatically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hike is designed for a junior ranger education level and can be done while socially distancing, but all are welcome to take part in the self-guided climate change hike. Booklets are available in the map boxes in the front of the Carriage Barn Visitor Center.

Leah is now pursuing a graduate degree at Northern Arizona University studying environmental science and conducting paleoclimate research.

 

 

2CLA Graduate Spotlight: Digging in on the Climate Crisis

The Climate Change Leadership Academy Class (2CLA) of 2020 graduated in May amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to highlight the inspiring climate leaders who attended the leadership academy meetings. In addition, we want to share the projects that leaders designed and plan to launch in order to take meaningful action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Upper Valley.

The first 2CLA graduate in the spotlight is Cecily Anderson. During her 2CLA experience, Cecily appreciated the smart and articulate facilitators who presented at the meetings. Cecily, who is an illustrator and artist, is passionate about sustainable agriculture and aware of the potential for farming practices to mitigate climate change. She decided to pursue an art-centered, self-driven project she calls The Climate Farmer Project, to celebrate farmers who are leading the way in land-based climate change techniques in the Upper Valley. The main goals of the Climate Farmer Project are to support farmers who are fighting climate change; help local consumers understand the connection between local food choices and climate; and encourage people to implement practices themselves.

Cecily sees value in promoting farmers who are investing in practices such as improving soil fertility and water retention, rotational grazing, cutting farm emissions, and sequestering carbon. In the Upper Valley, many farmers are using their land to draw down carbon. Cecily has a handful of farmers in mind and wants to highlight a diversity of growers from across the board. Her plan is to interview farmers and create portraits that include a description of their farms and how they are working to combat the climate crisis. These portraits would be displayed in public spaces like schools, libraries, co-ops, and farmers markets.

Another goal of the project is to emphasize the growing value that climate-conscious food has for consumers. This may incentivize food retailers to create a system in which farmers are rewarded, through the marketplace, for their climate mitigation and adaptation techniques.

One aspect of The Climate Farmer Project that aligns well with 2CLA’s mission is to inspire home growers and farmers to adopt practices that combat climate change, however big or small. As climate leaders, it is important to call attention to how our food choices support climate action and educate others on how they can take action through land management.

Giving recognition to farmers who are installing mitigation and adaptation practices in the local Upper Valley foodshed is valuable work. COVID-19 threw a wrench in the works, prompting Cecily to pause her project. Moving forward, Cecily hopes to find a funding source and set aside time to launch the thoughtful project she designed.

The COVID Challenge: Making Our Food Go the Distance

Reprinted from the Summer 2020 Sustainable Hanover newsletter, this article addresses how to reduce food waste and its considerable climate impact. Author Nancy Serrell is a graduate of Vital Communities’ 2019-20 Climate Change Leadership Academy (2CLA).

By Nancy Serrell

Food is always on my mind. And now that we’re in throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I have plenty of company. Most of us these days are thinking about food – how to get it, how to prepare it, and how to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 while we’re trying to feed ourselves. 

The virus also has changed our behaviors around food. We’re at home more, cooking most of our meals at home, trying to space out trips to the grocery store, and too many of us are struggling to accommodate household budgets decimated by furloughs and layoffs. While those inclined toward culinary pursuits are baking sourdough bread and re-growing scallions, the rest of us just wish it were easier, faster, and less expensive to put all those meals on the table.

The good news: by making small changes in the way we plan, shop, store and prepare food we can stretch our food budget, save time, and extend the life of the food we buy. A step-by-step strategy for making those changes, along with tips and tools, has been developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a campaign designed to cut down on the amount of food we bring home from the market but never eat. When food scraps go to the landfill, they create methane, a potent greenhouse gas. That wasted food is a vastly overlooked driver of climate change, contributing an estimated 8 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. We throw out more edible food than you think: each year, one third of the food purchased by U.S consumers is tossed out. But food waste is about more than what goes into the trash. Getting food from farm to fork takes an enormous amount of resources—energy, land, and water — and conserving those resources for future generations will require collective action. But right now, during lockdown, there are things each of us can do.

The EPA’s Food Too Good to Waste campaign presents a “wasted food challenge” along with steps we can take to better manage the food in our kitchens. The program has been implemented in dozens of states, and people who have participated have been able to cut the amount of food they toss as much as 50 percent. They also reported saving both money and time, and most found the steps rather easy.

The strategies for the challenge lend themselves well to managing food during COVID, and you may already be doing some of them (or know you should). First: to cut down on how often you shop, make a shopping list with weekly meals in mind. Even more important: do a household inventory before you head to the store. Research has shown that you can save money and reduce food waste by taking stock of what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, then planning meals around what you have on hand. This is the way our grandmothers cooked, and the food cultures of the world have always featured well-loved dishes use repurposed foods — leftover rice became fried rice; hard, stale bread became pappa al pomodoro

As we try to shop less often, we are bringing home more food than we’re used to. To make our food will last until the next shopping trip, it helps to pick up a few tips about food storage, and the EPA campaign has plenty to offer. For example, the fridge door is warmer than interior shelves, so milk shouldn’t go there. Apples and bananas naturally emit the fruit-ripening hormone ethylene, so don’t store them together unless you want them to ripen rapidly. Nor should apples or bananas be stored near ethylene-sensitive veggies or fruits like avocados, grapes, lemons, or limes. Another storage tip: Befriend your freezer. Parsley stems, the ends of the onion you’re slicing, peels and trimmings from carrots can be tossed into a freezer container to be used for soup stock. There are cooking tips too: Chopping half an onion for a recipe? Chop the whole thing, and store the prepped remainder in the fridge or freezer, ready for a stir fry or sauce. 

More tips, tools, and strategies to help you toss less, eat well, and save money are available in a simple online toolkit, the 10-Minute Fridge Reality Check, produced by StopFoodWaste.org.  It includes a downloadable Shopping List with Meals in Mind, a Fruit and Veggie Storage Guide, and an Eat This First sign to designate an area in your fridge for food that is likely to spoil first. 

When it comes to food, the pandemic has in many ways created this generation’s Depression moment. A recent survey found that 56 percent of consumers say they are avoiding food waste and saving leftovers for future use. One of the drivers of this food planning strategy is COVID-19 unemployment. But the specter of dairy farmers dumping milk and plowing crops back into the soil, eggs being destroyed, and chickens being euthanized as the loss of retail markets forced producers to discard tons of food worldwide has made us reassess the value of food. Like our grandparents, we may well come out of COVID with a new culture of responsibility around food. It’s some comfort to know there’s a lot we can do from our own kitchens.

 

 

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