Published Jul 3 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 3 2009

Solutions & sustainability & community - July 3

by Staff

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Economy takes its toll on Amish

Will Higgins and Tim Evans, USA TODAY
SHIPSHEWANA, Ind. — Freeman Wingard is Amish, but he spent the last decade living quite differently than the popular characterization of the Amish as farmers, their plows hitched to enormous draft horses as they eschewed influences of the outside world.

Wingard took his family to restaurants every week, made trips to Chicago and vacationed in Florida. That was when, he says, he was earning $40 per hour working in a Northern Indiana recreational vehicle factory.

But as RV sales slowed in the economic downturn, Wingard and many of his Amish co-workers were laid off from the high-paying jobs.

... The economy has taken some toll on most of the USA's 400 Amish settlements, experts say, but none has seen such a widespread impact as the country's third-largest Amish settlement in Northern Indiana.

"Nowhere in U.S. Amish history has a down economy affected the Amish so much," said Steven Nolt, a professor at Goshen College who has written about the Northern Indiana Amish. "It's a pivotal time for them."

Northern Indiana — home to an estimated 20,000 Amish — is unusual because about half of the adult breadwinners worked "off the farm" in the RV industry, according to Nolt.

... On the consumer side, the Amish — who raise much of their own food and have no need for large-screen TVs, new cars or other expensive "modern conveniences" — are weathering the downturn better than the general population, says Kraybill.

And, the financial pressure in Indiana is triggering a return to Amish core values of church and family as relatives come together in their scramble to make up for lost income.

Wingard and many other Amish in Northern Indiana say their lives are emotionally richer now and more in keeping with the self-reliance they say they relish.

"The factories can make a robot out of you," said Harvey Bontrager, who left the factory grind 20 years ago to go into business for himself. He grows flowers and vegetables and sells them at the huge flea market in Shipshewana. He also makes and sells ice cream.
(30 June 2009)

Greening a mountain community: Estes Park, Colorado

Janice Mason, Green Mountain Journal
Estes Park, Colorado takes steps toward renewable energy

The community of Estes Park, nestled in the Rockies at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, consists of educators, wildlife biologists, park rangers and general nature lovers. Every day, we wake up, step outside and enjoy a deep breath of clean, mountain air and take in the amazing view that surrounds us. In recent years, renewable energy legislation has moved the community to ask one simple question,

“If we can’t save the planet here, what does that say about our community — a community dedicated and literally connected to nature?”

Protecting the environment has been the goal of Estes Park founders since the town’s beginning in 1917. Rocky Mountain National Park had been established two years prior, and forest service and national park personnel took on the task of managing the vast landscape. During the 1960s, Congress passed significant environmental laws to protect public lands. With the current climate crisis looming, the ability to do whatever possible, as soon as possible, rests heavily on the shoulders of those responsible for protecting this patch of the Rockies.

With the dedication of those persons and others, the process of adapting the town’s energy resources to renewables is beginning to gain in momentum. A program established by the town utilities department makes it possible for residents of the Estes Valley to purchase renewable energy credits. For a few more dollars a month, residents can claim that all their electricity (per kilowatt) comes from the Medicine Bow wind farm in Wyoming. Homeowners have received rebates for adding solar and wind energy, thanks to recent legislation handed down from the Governor’s Energy Office to the town of Estes Park. Others went completely off the grid long before any rebate money was available.

The roofs in this mountain valley are not covered with solar panels, but it’s a start. As far as community organization is concerned, the Estes Park League of Women Voters has been working hard on changes in the recycling program. A group formed a couple years ago, which has pushed legislation, the Sustainable Mountain Living group, has leaned on local legislators and utility personnel to make renewable energy a priority in the Estes Valley.

The Platte River Power Authority, which provides energy to the community, and the Estes Park Light & Power department have also been an integral part in moving the town forward.

Protecting wild lands also goes a long way to the preservation of the environment. Congress passed a combined wilderness bill on March 25, 2009, declaring approximately 250,000 of backcountry in Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, signed by President Obama on March 30, 2009, also ensures wilderness protection for seven other national parks.

Some say, “If you have too far to go, why even start?” The community of Estes Park has another view, “You have to start somewhere.” The town has a ways to go, but these small steps taken over the past several years can encourage any size community to get started.

Of course, many local old-timers will tell you, “It’s always been the goal of a community who stands as the stewards to the 'Gem of the Rockies,' Rocky Mountain National Park.” They were the gatekeepers. Now it’s time for this generation to combine efforts with the community of preservationists across the globe, to find a way to stop polluting the earth, one mountain town at a time.

Janice Mason is the community editor for the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (2003-present), a bi-weekly newspaper that has been in publication in Estes Park, Colorado for more than 90 years. Having a voice in the media and the Rocky Mountains, Janice kept her eye on the developing story of renewable energy and environmental preservation active in her community. Her award-winning series, "Balance of Nature," earned her a First Place Public Service Award from the Colorado Press Association 2007 Better Newspaper Contest.
(June 2009)
EB reader Janice Mason writes:
I am seeking a "green job," preferably in public relations, for a cutting edge organization. List of articles at

Why Are Chickens Leading the Sharing Revolution?

Janelle Orsi, The Sharing Solution (blog
...Chicken sharing actually makes a lot of practical sense. Let's say you, like most people, eat eggs, and you are thinking about getting chickens (and by that, I really mean hens; roosters make noise, not eggs, and they are often illegal to keep in high-density residential areas). If you live in an urban or even suburban area, this could meaning devoting a significant portion of your yard to building a coop and giving the chickens a little free range. Many people wouldn't go to all of this effort for just one or two chickens. But what if you get 15 chickens, have a coop building party with seven of your neighbors, and start taking turns caring for the chickens? You could even take down part of a fence so that the chickens can have more space to roam into your neighbor's yard. Each neighbor is assigned one day of the week to feed the chickens and collect eggs.

What do you get? Fifteen hens will produce, on average, around 7 dozen eggs per week. This means that each neighbor will have a dozen fresh and delicious eggs.
30 June 2009)
Janelle Orsi is an attorney living and working in Berkeley, California. Her law and mediation practice is focused on helping individuals and organizations share resources and create more sustainable communities. She specializes in nonprofit, small business, and real estate law, as well as a new field of practice – sharing law. She blogs at The Sharing Solution.