Igniting a sustainable home & yard makeover movement through the spirit of barn-raising!
Sustain-A-Raisers is an action-oriented program designed to ignite a global movement of sustainable home and yard makeovers, effectively turning the needle on today’s most pressing environmental challenges. It is based on the Amish tradition of barn-raising, a neighbor-helping-neighbor model that stimulated community building in the United States during the early 19th century. We are using this model to mobilize an unstoppable network of volunteers trained to install appropriate technologies far and wide, including compost bins, solar thermal applications, backyard and urban gardens, rain catchment systems, and more. These actions are defined by their simplicity and impressive environmental benefits, which speak for themselves . .
One clothesline can prevent 1,800 lbs of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year. One rain barrel can conserve 1,300 gal of water each year. One compost bin can divert 350 lbs of food waste from the landfill each year. Even if we were able to get only 250,000 households to adopt these actions, we would be preventing 45 million lbs of carbon from entering the atmosphere, save 325 million gallons of water, and divert 87.5 million lbs. of food from the landfill – annually!
The promise in this program lies in its simplicity and attention to momentum. With an emphasis on a "pay it forward" strategy, the program build a culture of reciprocity among participants, effectively growing the program exponentially and indefinitely.
As our environmental crises continue to mount - climate chaos, deforestation, desertification, drought, erosion, loss of biodiversity, smog saturated cities, contaminated watersheds, etc. - our window of time to solve these challenges quickly closes. We cannot afford to wait for experts or governments to solve our amassing environmental challenges. While the technology to tackle these challenges exists, a lack of political will to create incentives that unleash these solutions continues to impede our progress.
Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of people are adopting small-scale, backyard solutions that help conserve resources, leverage renewable energy, and contribute to the restoration of surrounding ecosystems rather than their destruction. Many of these small scale solutions embody the principles of permaculture and eco-design.
The beauty (and challenge) is that these solutions look different everywhere depending on the location's unique cultural, economic, and ecological characteristics. While many of the same principles apply, THERE IS NO BLANKET PLAN. Our success in moving the needle on some of today's most pressing environmental challenges is largely dependent on building a movement of many thousands, even millions, of decentralized, local actions. But there are no shortcuts. These action require on-the-ground elbow grease, digging holes, hammering nails, and soldering pipes. No stroke of the pen will replace the needed swinging of a hammer in this case
So how do we build this movement? Well, we believe that the greatest untapped renewable resource is not wind or geothermal - it's people power! Echoing the words of Hopi Elders, "We are the ones we've been waiting for." As much as we focus on ways to leverage solar energy from the sun, we must also focus on ways to leverage the creativity and skills of our neighbors.
One of the greatest examples of this is the Amish tradition of "barn raising". There is nothing new about the concept that "many hands make light work." It seems, however, that access to cheap oil afforded scoiety the ability to replace community "work parties" with heavy machinery that could get the same job done with only one or two people instead of 10 or 20. That industrial and individualized model no longer serves us.
The solution is Sustain-A-Raisers. This program applies the "barn-raising" model to leverage teams of volunteers to install compost bins, rain barrels, clotheslines, raised garden beds, solar hot water systems, and other means of simple, appropriate technology. Again, the technology already exists and the people are there, but this solution focuses on getting people to work in installing these "eco-amenities" one household at a time.
Sustain-A-Raiser is about building a movement. With this in mind, the program is designed to cultivate a culture of reciprocity among volunteers through a unique pay-it-forward strategy so that the work parties grow exponentially.
Impact on economy
Sustain-A-Raisers naturally stimulates the economy by creating a space where emerging "green collar" job skills can be exchanged and developed. These skills include rain water harvesting, renewable energy installation, backyard and urban gardening, and other conservation measures. Additionally, each of these "appropriate technologies" are produced using locally sourced materials and manufacturing labor, whether they are rain barrels, clotheslines, greenhouses, or compost bins.
As the movement builds there will also be a need for full-time Sustain-A-Raiser community organizers throughout participating cities who coordinate volunteers, empower community leaders, and measure impact. Small Sustain-A-Raiser satellites will emerge throughout the world and share best practices and resources through open-source technology. As they mature, these satellites will requires offices and personell to continue building the movement and adding new and innovative iterations to the program, such as chicken tractors, methane digesters, small-scale hydro, and other appropriate technology applications, all the while contributing to the local economy and job creation.
Impact on culture
Sustain-A-Raisers is as much about community building as it is about revitalizing the local economy and restoring the environment. The essence of the "barn-raising" model was to build a cultural of reciprocity by tapping into the spirit that together we are greater and more powerful than the sum of our individual parts.
Each Sustain-A-Raiser volunteer "work party" is designed to be as much of a community builder as it is a way to achieve positive environmental outcomes. For instance, the "hosts" of a Sustain-A--Raiser, who are receiving the benefit of a volunteer labor force installing their respective eco-amenities, are required to provide lunch for the entire group. This shared lunch becomes one of the most meaningful aspects of the program because it is when people network, share a laugh, and strengthen relationships.
It is this culture of reciprocity and volunteerism that by default builds community resilience.
Impact on ecology
The mounting environmental challenges we face as a human population continues to be the driving force and motivation behind the Sustain--A-Raiser program. The appropriate technologies that are deployed conserve resources, build ecological integrity, and reduce human's contribution to the toxicity of our planet.
The technologies may seem simple, but when adopted on a large enough scale, their impact is unmistakeable. One clothesline can prevent 1,800 lbs of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year (the equivalent of taking one passenger car off the road for six months). One rain barrel can conserve 1,300 gal of water (about 37 bathtubs worth) each year. One compost bin can divert 350 lbs of food waste (about 1/4 of an average household’s garbage) from the landfill each year. Even if only 250,000 households adopt these actions, that would have the potential to prevent 45 million lbs of carbon from entering the atmosphere, save 325 million gallons of water, and divert 87.5 million lbs. of food from the landfill – annually!
Simple actions like line drying, composting, and collecting rainwater, can begin making large-scale difference within a few short years if they are forged with a plan to mainstream their adoption globally, and that's just what Sustain-A-Raiser's is designed to do.
Impact on politics
A Sustain-A-Raiser movement will effectively build a "bloc" of advocates who lobby for policy incentives the support the ease of implementing the appropriate technology described. Many countries already demonstrate this political leadership, such as Australia which requires rain catchments systems on any new development. Other countries like the Unites States, however, still tolerate private development complexes that ban something as common sense as the clothesline.
Building a Sustain-A-Raiser movement will cultivate political advocates and representatives who understand that political will and incentive is an inextricable ingredient to large scale change. Individual actions will only take us so far until we realize that larger political incentives can tug on just right leverage points that can open the flood gates to undeniable environmental impact. This is what the Sustain-A-Raiser community will understand, and stand for - in town meeting, city hall, and on capitol hill.