ACES Leaders and Youth Corps team members
Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.
Mike Bloomberg, the UN special envoy for climate ambition and solutions and founder of Bloomberg LP (and owner of Newburyport/ Boston Radio station 106.1 FM) interviewed at COP27 recently said “From flooding to extreme heat to wildfires, we’re already experiencing the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Local leaders have built serious momentum through the #RaceToZero campaign, but the work is far from done.”
Mike is right about local action building momentum in dealing with climate change but more needs to be done. That’s why we all need to help by adopting a personal resolution about localizing our lives. Growing, making, sourcing, and buying as much as possible locally –localizing – as close as possible to home is a climate virtue. Why? Because transporting things from far away is harmful for the climate. and the destruction of natural environments, whether forest or prairie, for industrialized farming is harmful. For those of us living in New England there are ways to increase the amount of localization of our spending and consuming that can be good for the planet. In fact, we have some remnant skills and places where we always did things locally before. And we can choose to do so again.
Historically, New England was very self-sufficient in its food sourcing with exceptions like citrus fruit, tea, and coffee. We raised our own meats and dairy and caught our own seafood. Now after the 100-year rise of industrial agriculture in the south and west, we’ve outsourced food production to the lower labor cost, but energy and chemical intensive global system.
But now a better paradigm is emerging as many new innovations extend our growing seasons using solar power and LED lighting make growing many crops possible year-round. So called vertical farming, where old factories or new buildings are equipped to grow floors and floors of vegetable and fruit crops indoors and in winter. Companies have retrofitted old shipping containers which did duty transporting furniture from Asia into growing rooms parked next to restaurants and supplying herbs and greens and mushrooms for the chef to choose. Some of these containers are actively growing food in Boston under the Southeast Expressway just blocks from the South Boston Broadway MBTA station.
Beyond food, we have history here as makers. A history of making cloth, clothes, and shoes. Furniture and silverware were made in greater Newburyport. We made beer and we made rum. We made carriages and we made silverware. The Merrimack Valley was the epicenter of worldwide textile and shoe manufacturing. Massachusetts was a premier furniture design and making region. We still can grow that business cluster. We are now making craft beers and ciders all over the region as well as rum, vodka, and whiskeys in several north shore communities.
Sourcing locally also means trying to buy what is already here, like secondhand and vintage tools, furniture, and clothing. When we buy used items, we save the transportation and manufacturing climate costs it took to make it and get it here. It’s here already and a new one won’t need to be made again.
Buying locally instead of online creates jobs for your neighbors or yourself and it avoids lots of surplus packaging that needs disposal. If you consider a local retailer ordering and receiving say 12 blouses in a single large box that creates a lot less wasteful plastic and paper debris than 12 packages from Amazon.
Lastly, buying things grown and made locally is good for your social life because conversations at Cider Hill, Maple Crest Farms, Colby’s farm stand, the Newburyport Farmer’s Market or Gentry’s keep you connected with the community and that’s good for our mental health as well. The same holds true for art from local artists at local art galleries; such as, the PEG Gallery.
Our Youth Corps asks you to please try to do a bit more localizing of your purchase choices and little by little we can make the climate better, locally, together. Please share any thoughts about a project or practice that could foster more local purchasing and send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.