The month of May has flown by, filled with warm temperatures, sunny skies and an abundance of rain – all the ingredients ones needs for a successful G.A.L.A. Sustain-A-Raiser! These youth-driven community service projects, also known as Sustainable Home & Yard Makeovers, are sweeping through town gaining momentum. This past month alone, G.A.L.A. collaborated with the Appalachian Mountain Teen Project, Kingswood Environmental Club, the Kingswood Youth Center, and a cadre of G.A.L.A. volunteers installing raised garden beds, compost bins, rain water barrels, solar clothes dryers and even a solar hot water system! In the process these volunteers clocked up nearly 400 hours and many came away enriched with useful skills, a gratifying sense of accomplishment and new friends. The homeowners now enjoy simple systems that promote resource conservation and self-sufficiency: reducing energy and water costs, growing fresh nutritious food, and re-building healthy soil.
“While these may seem like small actions, says G.A.L.A. Executive Director Josh Arnold, their beauty lies in their simplicity. They are practical and fun ways to bring forth a sustainably-savvy generation, one household at a time.” Consider these numbers – One clothesline can prevent 1,800 pounds 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 gallons of water (about 37 bathtubs worth) each year. One compost bin can divert 350 pounds of food waste (about a quarter of an average household’s garbage) from the landfill each year. A solar electric hot water system can save around 260 gallons of oil and 4,000 KWH per year.
But reducing our community’s environmental footprint is just the tip of the (melting!) iceberg. Perhaps the program’s most powerful outcomes are those less tangible and more visceral results from different generations coming together to build something that will help the homeowner lead a more healthy and meaningful life. And, just imagine the sense of accomplishment that volunteers take home – for some it is their first time using a power drill or soldering pipes, while others perform and mentor tasks as part of their profession and could practically do so in their sleep!
This diversity in skills presents a ripe atmosphere for youth to learn, as well as to lead. G.A.L.A. has already seen repeat youth volunteers take on more responsibility at their second or third Sustain-A-Raiser. Lucas Cookman, a senior at Kingswood High School is the perfect example. Now in his third season volunteering with G.A.L.A., Lucas not only has the hands-on skills sets to complete the various projects, but can also articulate the community and environmental benefits of this program to his peers. It should come as no surprise then, that Lucas won the Environmental Science award at school last Thursday.
Sustain-A-Raisers is working to dispel the common excuses that suggest sustainable living is either too expensive or too much work. Creativity and collaboration through the barn-raising model of neighbor helping neighbor, transform expensive and laborious chores into enriching volunteer-managed sustainable home retrofits that are affordable and fun. If this sounds like a program you would like to be involved with, or if you are interested in a backyard makeover of your own, the season has only just begun so there is plenty of time to sign up as a participant.
G.A.L.A. has an inspiring collection of photographs and videos documenting the history of its sustainability accomplishments over the past few years which can be viewed on the Flickr link to your right. Be sure also to check out our calendar and Facebook page for the latest news on events such as the upcoming Farm to Table Feast. We invite you to explore the links to membership subscriptions, donation information, and a wish-list of tools and equipment needed to support G.A.L.A.’s ability to collaboratively build and strengthen community. For more information someone from G.A.L.A. can be reached at the office in Water Village, Ossipee Mon-Fri from 9am-5pm, by calling 603-539-6460.