Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kinnelon Conserves - A Vital Kinnelon Resource

Are you familiar with Kinnelon Conserves? It's a grassroots, environmental awareness group created by Avery Hart, with the tagline "A Community Energy Reduction Initiative." If you took part in any of the 2009 Kinnelon Earth Day celebrations and activities, Kinnelon Conserves actively participated.

In 2008, Kinnelon Conserves hosted a Junk Mail Jamboree to help alleviate and eliminate junk mail.

In other words, Kinnelon Conserves represents a Vital Kinnelon Resource!

I recently contacted Avery and asked her a few questions about Kinnelon Conserves.

C.B.: Avery, how did Kinnelon Conserves get started?

The concept for Kinnelon Conserves came to me after watching a science program about rising atmospheric pollution and the resulting acidification of the world’s oceans. I remember feeling thoroughly depressed and utterly powerless about these huge environmental problems. And I began to realize that I wasn’t alone in my sad feelings –many people were “bummed out” about the loss of essentials like clean water and air. As a therapist who often sees children, I am also keenly sensitive to the impact of negative news on children and young people. At that time I was newly retired – though now I am back at work. But in late 2006 I decided to devote one year to create a local social entity that would focus on finding local solutions to planetary problems as a way to cheer people up: The idea was to get the faith community, school officials, local government and anyone else who was interested to learning, and taking action together to solve environmental problems and boost environmental awareness.

I took the idea to my pal, Jo Sippie-Gora, and a couple of other friends, and we approached the borough council to endorse the idea. The council was unable to formally endorse the idea, but each of them endorsed it personally, which allowed us the chance to contact local leaders on their recommendation. In Feb. 2007, Kinnelon Conserves held its first public event: an Energy Vision Summit to which borough, school and faith leaders were invited to explore climate change and environmental education. In April that year we organized our first community wide Earth Day celebration in Kinnelon.

We tried to show up at other events – ex. we had kids collect plastic spoons for reuse at the Library Ice Cream Social. We got 82 families to take a pledge to use energy more prudently by doing things like washing clothes in cold, not hot water. We arranged for Kinnelon families to get a 10% discount off a home energy audit.

By now, we had a core group of about a dozen people, and 82 families who signed on to our mission. We put up the website Kinnelon Conserves and tried to put useful stuff on it for all age groups.

C.B.: How did this past Earth Day go from your perspective?

Avery: This year’s fair was our third and best with 50 terrific green exhibitors. Pearl Miller School was jammed with displays of information and creativity from Kinnelon Public School and OLM students. Smoke Rise resident and Pearl Miller School teacher Noreen LaFergula deserves the credit for that part: she is a petite powerhouse and all around wonderful human being.

C.B.: How might Kinnelon residents make every day Earth Day?

Avery: I have learned that people are made happier by facing issues than by running away from them. Out of ignorance, many of us shopped til we dropped and used Earth's resources carelessly. Today we face the reality of poisoned waters, and limited resources on a finite Earth, and we know we have to become more wise and less wasteful. Kinnelon Conserves volunteers come together in the spirit of fun, non-judgment, and patience. Our goal is to start with ourselves, by boosting our awareness, so that we can discover alternatives to any of our actions that harm the earth. Since changing habits doesn’t come easily, it’s nice to know the people of Kinnelon Conserves – which is open to all – are also out there trying, day by day, to find a high quality sustainable way of living. I know it took me 3 years to remember to bring reusable bags to the store every time I shopped. Now I no longer have a billowing jumble of plastic bags taking up space in my kitchen: Plus, I can be happy that at least no turtle or bird will choke on a bag that I put into the waste stream. That makes me feel good. That’s the kind of thing that kids and all of us have to learn so we can all feel happier about the way we are living on this beautiful Earth.

Thank you, Avery, and congratulations on making a difference in our community with Kinnelon Conserves!

Do check out the Kinnelon Conserves site and explore how you can start taking the kinds of steps that Avery suggests, thereby making every day Earth Day in and around Kinnelon!

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