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MWV Green Team encourages Valley residents to adopt eco-friendly practices

Mountain EARth Sustainability Series

November 25, 2009
Burbank should know; not only is he involved with the AMC's Highland Center — perhaps the most eco-friendly building achievement around — Burbank is also the chairman of the newly formed Mt. Washington Valley Green Team.

In May of 2008 the Green Team was introduced to the Valley at the Business to Business Expo held at the Mount Washington Resort.

"Janice Crawford [executive director of the Chamber] got this started through the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce — she really got it going," says Burbank. The Green Team enjoys non-profit status through its parent organization, the Mt. Washington Valley Preservation Association, and is supported and sponsored by Cormack Construction, the charter sponsor, along with help from Flatbreads, Eastern Slope Inn, Salvatore Michaels Framed Art Superstore and the Front Side Grind.

The team is fully charged. "There is a lot of energy from the Green Team, members are so energized, so committed," says Burbank. Just last Wednesday (Nov. 18), the team met at the Eastern Slope Inn to celebrate its second anniversary and to make plans for the future. Burbank explains that the team has a steering committee and subcommittees for recycling, sustainable food or Valley community gardens, communications, legislative and policy, fundraising and education issues.

Big plans for Green Team

Burbank says a small but attentive group attended the meeting and here's what they are planning.

The Green Team will play a larger role in the Fields on the Saco Event — a culinary experience involving local farms and local chefs who prepare a feast using the bounty of the land, which is enjoyed on Weston Farm's land in Maine, now for its second year in a row. The proceeds have benefited non-profits.

"We are one of the beneficiaries and in recognition we will play a larger role this year," he says.

The event supports the Green Team to encourage Valley residents to adopt eco-friendly practices. The Green Team will work with the local farms who provide the food, give farm tours and show the guests how the food is grown. "When people tour the farms they make a deeper connection with the food they enjoy," says Burbank.

Valley Community Garden

Speaking of food, the Green Team's other big project is the Valley Community Garden.

The community garden, located on Tasker Hill Road, has been made possible by the generous donation of land by Russ and Joan Lanoie, and the enthusiasm, energy and leadership of Jenn Andrews, the sub-committee chair who is also with Cool Air Clean Planet, the organization devoted to finding solutions to global warming. Andrews works with campuses and communities to help them reduce carbon footprints. "Jenn's energy has helped to make the community gardens a success," says Burbank.

The garden is made up of 28 beds, 4 feet by 12 feet, and includes a Giving Garden. Burbank explains that the Giving Garden is cared for by volunteers — the bounty is donated to local food pantries and the Saco event.

"This year, all the plots were spoken for — some people purchased two. There is a great desire for folks to have a community garden and it makes sense to have more gardens in the Valley, in the north, south and on the west side," says Burbank. The Green Team is looking for more land for more gardens in the Valley. "Small parcels work well, too; it doesn't take a great bunch of land," he adds.

And…you can garden anywhere. That's what Russ Lanoie says. "You can garden on asphalt if you had to," says Lanoie. The key to success is raised beds, he explains. "With a raised bed, you can go anywhere. You just need six to eight inches of compost above ground," says Lanoie. It is the same principle as growing tomatoes in a five-gallon bucket. "You don't have to have wonderful soil, but you do need sun," he adds.

The secret to the best compost is found is most everyone's backyard. Lanoie uses strictly leaves in his compost mixture. Burbank pays tribute to Lanoie's compost and says, "Russ has the most amazing compost."

To make this amazing compost, Lanoie uses fallen leaves that various contractors and landscapers bring to him. Lanoie lets the leaves decompose and sometimes adds finished compost to speed up the process and help inocolate the pile to help the leaves rot.

"If you work the pile, you can turn the leaves in two weeks and it will turn into a gorgeous resource," says Lanoie. He gives a gardening tip, saying this is a great time of year to be collecting leaves for composting for next spring and suggests that locals check with their town transfer stations, which may be recycling leaves, too.

The ideal land for additional community gardens would be a parcel where leaves could be brought and composted. Though this would require some monitoring — it is important that the leaves do not contain brush — Lanoie says this helps bring us closer and closer to sustainability.

Local recycling is crucial

Reducing environmental impact is a year-round process.

"We are continuing to work with recycling in the local schools and with businesses. Great work has been done in the local schools to get kids involved," says Burbank. Businesses are involved, too. "We have done a lot to make local businesses aware that they can save green while being green," he continues. "People can do small changes and have a positive impact."

The Green Team partnered with the New England Carbon Challenge, a joint initiative with University of New Hampshire and Clean Air Cool Planet. NECC has developed a Carbon Estimator, which helps households identify ways to reduce energy consumption. Burbank suggests that anyone interested visit the Green Team's website, www.mwvgreenteam.org, click on the link — carbon estimator — to take the Climate Challenge. The results will be counted in the Mt. Washington Valley's pledge.

So far, since the inception of the Green Team, the Valley has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 610,782 pounds and has collectively saved $82,860. Conway and Bartlett have consistently been in the top 10 towns participating in the challenge and Freedom and Madison join the ranks from time to time.

Community interest has been strong. Burbank says the team is encouraged by the community interest and the pledges already made.

"We are encouraged by the interest in the community and we are grateful to our charter sponsor and other sponsors. We have an energetic, talented wonderful group of people who are committed to sustainable practices," says Burbank. "We are looking forward to growing the group, doing more to keep the Valley green."

For more information, interest in taking the challenge or working with a subcommittee, contact Rob Burbank at: rburbank@outdoors.org.

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