Monday, May 18, 2009

4th Green Evening Cafe

As reported in the Lewis County Herald by Jennifer Dauksha English:

On Tuesday, April 28, 2009, the Sonnenschein Green Initiative hosted the 4th Green Evening Cafe. The public event was held from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Emporium. Transition Town Hohenwald was the theme for the April Green Evening.

To start the evening, former Sonnenschein Chair, Becky Newbold, gave an overview of how Sonnenschein started in 2006 and how the group felt that the green portion of the Sonnenschein festival was the most successful and beneficial to the community. Just after the June 2008 Sonnenschein Festival, the group had organized a Green Chamber Mini Conference. It was at this conference, Newbold pointed out, that the Sonnenschein group decided to move forward with its current green initiative. Newbold expressed that the group had been discussing giving out Green Awards for several years and that she was happy to finally be moving forward on the project. Newbold presented the McDonald Farm with the first Sonnenschein Award. The award was signed by City Mayor Don Jones, Chamber President Mark Graves and Newbold. The McDonald Farm, a free range chicken farm located just outside Honewald, noted in a previous interview that they were implementing many green strategies on their farm.

After the award, Graves gave his support and encouragement for the local Government and Chamber to partner with the Sonnenschein Green initiative in developing a local green economy. Graves, as Chamber President, recently formed a Green Business Development Committee for the Chamber, as a result of a recent Chamber retreat and strategic planning with the state of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The goal of this new Development Committee is to educate current businesses to capitalize on green energy and efficiency. Graves stated, “Our current environmental situation can become our greatest economic opportunity, if we seize the moment.” He shared that his definition of Green equaled efficiency, hope, invention, ingenuity, entrepreneurialism, capital markets, commerce and profit. “There is a global investment to reinvent most of the things we do to become more efficient,” Graves said. He ended with words of encouragement: “ My hope is that the Chamber of Commerce become a key force in inspiring Lewis County to embrace a new, exciting and prosperous economic environment and not be afraid of it.”

Vice Mayor Dustin Flowers spoke next. Flowers also shared his excitement to be part of the green initiative. “In the past, green tended to cause fear. Green meant taking away our toys and telling us what to do. “Now,” he said, “Green equals gold.” Flowers shared a number of opportunities for economic development, concluding, “strategies for municipal and ultimately global sustainablity require addressing our current unsustainable forms of energy and industrial processes by technical innovations that shifts us to renewable energy - in short, now environmental sustainability also equals economic sustainability - go green to make green.” Auto-makers, Ben and Jerry’s, GE, McDonalds, Sony, Phillips, Sanyo and Wal-Mart are all benefiting from green opportunities. Flowers stated, “We are not the first to realize the beauty of a marriage of a sustained environment with the boost of opportunities from a green economy. We as a city realize these opportunities and those are a few reasons why the City supports becoming a Transition Town. Our first true step is renaming the industrial park on Swan Avenue the Hohenwald Eco-Industrial Park . . . In a green economy we’re all doing the right thing.”

Next, Debbie Landers gave an update on the Transition Initiative. Landers said that she liked to break things down so they were simple. To her, transitioning meant identifying local business: the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Landers explained that the Transition Initiative, a world-wide initiative, started in Ireland and England in 2005. There are hundreds of Transition Initiatives in Europe. It has since spread to the USA, where there are now 24 transition towns: Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Berea Kentucky, Portland and Ashland Oregon and Sandpoint Idaho, to name some. On June 6, 2009, Hohenwald will become the 25th Transition Town in the USA. The Emporium will host a Transition Celebration from 6-8:30 p.m. Saturday June 6.

Jennifer English, chair of the Sonnenschein Green Initiative, shared in a recent report that transitioning supports local economic and community development. The initiative strives to support the following areas: local business owners, farmers, artisans and service providers; the creation of quality and long-term local employment opportunities; community networking opportunities and social events; creating an economy that has a total and sustainable economic return; and increasing our goods and services exported rather than imported. English states, “We also focus on ‘green’ development, as we see that creating a ‘green’ economy and ‘greening up’ our production and consumption will be the quickest and most effective way to achieve sustainable economic and community development. To us the word ‘green’ equals efficiency and less waste. We appreciate a wide difference in our shades of green among the group and within the community. “The Initiative aims to collaborate with as many types of people as possible. We also seek to bring as many conversations to the table as needed to move forward with our own unique transition efforts. This said, we often look at tools and models used by other successful communities. Our goal is not to mimic other communities, but to learn about working solutions and adapt our findings to our own unique circumstances.”

During the Green Evening Cafe, Connie Sharp also gave a brief overview on the current projects on which the Sonnenschein Initiative is working. She gave a report on the Community Garden, the recently printed Lewis County Green Guide, the Summer Permaculture Series that begins June 13, 2009 and the June 5-7 Sustainability Forum. Sharp explained that the June Forum will consist of tours of sustainable homes and businesses in Lewis County Friday and Sunday, and that Saturday’s event will be held at the Lewis County Middle School. Saturday will contain speakers on food, farming, energy, fuel, green building, green business, solid waste and faith. The day will also have music, arts, crafts, a green business exhibition, auction and kids craft session. John Risner of Buffalo Valley Inc., sponsor of the Green Evening Cafe, gave a presentation to the group on a new green home that Buffalo Valley is building on the corner of Walnut and Second Street. Construction may begin as early as this month. The building will incorporate energy efficient materials, solar hot water, water catchment and a permaculture designed landscape.

At 7:30, there was a showing of the 30-minute Hohenwald Financial Permaculture documentary. English and Landers announced that the next Green Evening Cafe will be held May 26, 2009 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Emporium Cafe. The topic has been changed from Complimentary Currency to Green Business Development. English stated, “Since the Chamber of Commerce started the Chamber Bucks program in 2007, there are a number of people excited about having conversations on Complimentary Currencies. There are also a few people in the community who feel as though that is not where our group should be placing its attention. As we are so proactive, we want to put our energy where it is most needed and effective. Thus we changed the topic, also because our priority is to gear up for the September Green Business Summit. ‘We hope that the community will help guide us in preparing for the Summit. The next Green Evening Cafe will partially focus on what green businesses Hohenwald and Lewis County could most benefit from.”

The public is encouraged to attend these planned series of free, once-a-month evening events building on Hohenwald’s efforts to make Lewis County greener, safer, and more economically viable. The Green Evening Cafe series will be the last Tuesday of every month. Call 931-796-4874 or e-mail for more details. The community is also welcome to attend the Sonnenschein Green Initiative public meetings, held every other Wednesday. The next public meeting will be May 27, 2009 at the Career Center, located on Smith Street, from 11:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m.