A Teen Perspective on the Bioneers by the Bay Conference

October 29th, 2010

What happens when many passionate people care about an important issue? A movement is created, a movement strong enough to inspire others to make change. Bioneers By The Bay is a conference that feeds a movement and wants to connect people from America to unite and fight for a more eco-friendly world. The weekend from the 22nd to the 24th of October, New Bedford was visited by thousands of passionate folks who advocated about environmental justice and other global warming issues. I was lucky enough to attend the conference with my fellow co-workers from the Groundwork Somerville Green Team. With the staff of Groundwork Somerville, we departed for the conference on a cloudy Friday afternoon, all eager and nervous because we did not know what to expect. Granted, I did have an idea of the conference because I attended it last year and was part of the youth committee this year. In the committee I got the chance to meet other youth from Massachusetts, who just like me wanted to make their voice heard in the planning of the conference. I was really happy to know that I was going to Emcee the Open Mic show since I have always had a passion for public speaking.

When our group arrived at New Bedford, getting some sleep was not the only thing that was taking over our minds; we were curious of the conference and what new memories we would make. On Saturday morning, we got the opportunity to listen to some important and inspirational speakers. They all did an amazing job to prep for their presentation and make sure that the audience left changed and more informed. However, there was one speaker that stood out to our group the most; her name is Annie Leonard, author of “The Story of Stuff”. Ms. Leonard spoke a lot about how she came up with the idea of the book that was later made into a movie but most importantly she had the desire in her voice to convey her message to everyone in the room.  Her speech highlighted how we should wonder where all the “stuff” that we have come from.

Later that day, other amazing things awaited for the Groundwork Somerville team. We were chosen to have our own workshop in the conference. We prepared for the workshop three weeks prior to October 22nd, and we called it “Piloting a Youth-Led Social Enterprise: Somerville SoilCycle”. The workshop took time to prepare, especially since there was fifteen of us presenting (each member had a speaking part). After choosing the main topics that we wanted to elaborate on and doing the proper research, an amazing powerpoint slide show was created. The presentation touched upon Groundwork Somerville’s composting project called SoilCycle and its road from an idea to reality. The workshop also gave an insight to its audience of tips and steps on how to start a community composting program or even in a smaller scale, composting at home. Our listeners were quite impressed with our work, or at least so we heard later on as some had mentioned us in their other workshops. We were quite pleased to know that those who attended our one and a half hour long presentation left the room learning new things about business and compost. The workshop was also very helpful to the presenters themselves. Considering that most of us were under the age of 18, for some it was their first public speaking event. It was nice to see them overcome their fears of speaking in front of others and their improvements from a rocky beginning to an excellent delivery when the day finally arrived.

On Sunday morning, we all woke up with mixed feelings; it was definitely nice to know that in a couple of hours we would be back home to our families and friends, but we also were sad that the conference was coming to an end. The keynote speakers that morning were nationally recognized folks who had a dream and vision and made it a success. Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea” had a very emotional and touching video and story about his personal stories in third world countries where children still have problems going to school and mines explode unexpected, and where a shocking high percentage of girls still are not educated. With an interesting and thought provoking quote, “Teach a boy and you teach an individual, Teach a girl and you teach a community” Mr. Mortenson ended his speech and for our group he also ended our time at the conference as we had to leave shortly after his presentation. However, we were all glad that we heard him last because the ride back home was quiet as we all pondered upon his words and images.

Thinking back to the conference, we are all very glad to have participated in such an important event. I like conferences like this, because they remind people that there are many in this movement and they remind us why climate work is so important. You know that an event is successful when it changes minds and inspires others to keep working hard or to start advocating, and Bioneers By The Bay definitely did this for us. As a youth planner, emcee, workshop presenter, keynote listener, that weekend was truly memorable and I am glad that I got to share it with my peers and co-workers and to know that this movement keeps getting stronger and stronger as we spread everything we learned from the conference to others.

- Enxhi Popa, 17
Somerville High School, Class of 2011

First Annual Green-A-Thon

October 28th, 2010

Don’t miss it! We’re still taking participants – check us out and participate in an amazing local clean-up effort :)

Groundwork Somerville, Inc

www.GroundworkSomerville.org

21 Properzi Way, Suite O

Somerville, MA 02143

Press Contact:

Charitza Mateo

chada@groundworksomerville.org

617-628-9988

For immediate release

October 28, 2010

Groundwork Somerville to host first ever Green-a-Thon!

Date: Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Time: 10am-2pm

Location: Locations across Somerville, MA

Groundwork Somerville’s Board of Directors is excited to host our first annual Green-a-Thon. We will be collecting trash and leaves in four Somerville spaces to create an even more beautiful city! Community members are asked to meet at 10am at one of the following locations:

East SomervilleZero New Washington Street: we’ll be working from there to Cafe Belo (along street) to make way for new trees to be planted;

Central SomervilleSomerville Junction Park at Central Street and the Commuter Rail bridge; and the parking lot behind the High School on School Street (Urban Wild);

West Somerville – Intersection of Broadway and Alewife Brook Parkway

Modeled after the typical “walk-a-thon” style fundraiser, GWS will be accepting pledges for each hour spent “greening the city!”  We are accepting both pledges AND participants. All proceeds will help fund healthy education, green jobs, and sustainable community programming at GWS. You can sponsor any GWS participant for each hour worked, or you can donate a set amount. You can also participate yourself and help Groundwork by getting sponsors for your work. Please make checks payable to GROUNDWORK SOMERVILLE. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Thank you so much for lending your time and effort to helping to make Somerville a greener, cleaner, and healthier city!

The Green-a-thon will take place from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 11/13 (raindate 11/14).  Check website for rain updates or call Nancy at 617 605-2912.

Please bring rakes and work gloves if you have them.  Try to gather pledges in advance. If collecting pledges after the event, please get all funds to a board or staff member by November 20.

For anybody who raises $100 by Monday, November 1, you will get your name on our t-shirt!

To access our Pledge Sheet, please click the link below:

greenathonpledge2010

Please RSVP on our Facebook Event Page!

Northern Strand Trail Clean-up in Saugus

October 27th, 2010

Please join Bike to the Sea and Groundwork Somerville for a day of trail clean-up along the Northern Strand Community Trail in the Town of Saugus!

When: Saturday, October 30, 2010, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM (rain date: Sunday, October 31).

Where: Northern Strand Trail between Laurel St. and Adams Ave. in Saugus (along the old MBTA Saugus Branch rail bed).

Meeting Location: Anna Parker Playground parking lot (across from the intersection of Essex St. and School St., Saugus, MA).  Volunteers should meet between 8:30 and 9:00 AM.

Activities: Trash and debris removal from the trail; some cutback of overgrown brush.

What to Bring: Work gloves, sturdy footwear, and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.  (Please come prepared for potentially cold weather!)  We’ll provide tools, trash bags, water, and snacks.

If you plan to participate in this event, please RSVP to Brad Arndt at brad@groundworksomerville.org or call (617) 455-1127.  Thank you!

To learn more about the Northern Strand Community Trail, visit www.biketothesea.com.

Special thanks to the Saugus Public Works Department for its assistance with this event.

Groundwork Somerville and SCAT teamed up this summer

October 27th, 2010

Groundwork Somerville and Somerville Community Access Television teamed up for a fantastic Next Generation Producers program focusing on Somerville’s community path, bicycle safety, nutrition, and living a healthy lifestyle. Check out the great videos below and be inspired!

http://nextgenerationproducers.wordpress.com/

Groundwork Somerville visits Washington D.C.!

October 26th, 2010

GroundworkUSA®

Changing places, Changing lives

www.groundworkusa.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

National Contact:

Kate O’Brien

Director of Outreach

kate@groundworkusa.org

Local Contact

Jennifer Lawrence

617-628-9988 or                                                                                                              admin@groundworksomerville.org

Executive Director, Groundwork Somerville


Clean-up Starts Here!

Concerned Youth Partner with Government Agencies in Local River Restoration

Kenilworth Park, Washington, D.C., October 22, 2010

In response to an urgent call to action by environmental groups and federal agencies that have prioritized efforts to clean-up the Anacostia River, on Friday, October 22nd, Groundwork USA brought 70 youth from communities all across the country, including two representatives of the National Park Preservers from Groundwork Somerville, to participate in a comprehensive restoration project along the river.  These young people were on hand to show their concern by getting involved in trash pick-up by the river, water quality testing, and trail improvement at one of the Anacostia River’s six known “toxic hot spots” near the Eastland Gardens neighborhood of Kenilworth Park.  The youth work with Groundwork USA and its growing network of local Trusts in 19 cities and towns across America to revitalize and restore their cities and waterways, and joined Groundwork Anacostia Trust members, other adult leaders and concerned citizens in Groundwork’s watershed service project.

On hand were EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Mike Shapiro, and David Lloyd, Director for the Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization, who have both served as longtime partners of the Groundwork USA initiative, as well as National Park Service Deputy Director Mickey Fearn, a longtime champion of meaningful youth environmental engagement and hands-on learning.  Each senior official spoke alongside several Groundwork USA representatives, Groundwork youth employment program participant Edward Bell, and DC’s Department of the Environment Director Christophe Tolou, to kick-off the 1 p.m. event.  At the same time, the EPA celebrated its 40th Anniversary and the agency’s launch of the inter-agency Urban Waters Partnership Initiative with this event.

As a result of strong Federal agency partnership, support for establishing Groundwork was delivered through a unique interagency agreement between the National Park Service Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program and the EPA Brownfields Program.  To date, NPS staff has provided ongoing technical assistance and program support to the Groundwork USA Initiative, while EPA has provided funds and technical assistance through its Brownfields Program.  This support has catalyzed the establishment of new trusts in distressed environmental communities across the country, all of which face a preponderance of overlapping challenges including environmental, economic, and social justice issues.

For more information about Groundwork USA, where its local Trusts are located and what kinds of local projects they are involved in, check out our website or contact Kate O’Brien.

# # #

[For more information]:

Cooperative, partnership-driven efforts on the ground, like those driven by Groundwork USA, are improving the environment and quality of life in distressed neighborhoods by directly engaging youth and residents in the planning, transformation, and stewardship of their own communities across the country.  The organization’s national youth program, the Groundwork Green Team, places an emphasis on hands-on engagement and learning about natural resources both in their communities and beyond the urban metropolis.

Mickey Fearn, Deputy Director of Communications and Community Assistance, says:

“You can’t take city kids out and show them the grandeur of nature and then return them to the city without giving them any tools for improving their own neighborhood. Groundwork USA, with assistance from the NPS and EPA, gives youth the opportunity to learn and serve by providing them with the structure, knowledge and tools to help revitalize their own communities and engage with their local national parks. This event is just one of many ways Groundwork USA is engaging youth in hands-on stewardship of their own special places.”

This year, for the first time, EPA’s Office of Water is also contributing to the interagency agreement to advance Groundwork USA’s efforts to reconnect communities to their urban waters.  With this support, Groundwork USA will document and share examples of the challenges and successes that have emerged from its urban rivers work across the country.

This unique event is part of the larger annual National Assembly and Youth Summit held by Groundwork USA each year.  The gathering is meant to provide an opportunity for Groundwork practitioners and youth from across the network to learn from one another and share strategies for addressing issues common to the distressed communities in which our trusts are located, including brownfields and abandoned vacant lots, unemployment, food insecurity, and limited access to quality parks and open space.

Maggie Super Church, Chair of the Board of Directors of Groundwork USA, notes that in its efforts to engage the public in each of its challenged communities, the Groundwork program has a documented history of success in leveraging significant funding from all levels of government and private sources.  “All of our Trusts are required to document the value of their improvements,” says Super Church, “and it is one of the main reasons that EPA looks to our organization as an example of what can be done with good management and the dedication of staff and volunteers in the non-profit world”.

Groundwork USA is a national network of non-profits working on the ground to transform community liabilities into quality neighborhood assets.  For more information about this service project or about the Groundwork USA network, please contact Kate O’Brien, Director of Outreach and Resource Development, at  kate@groundworkusa.org.

An Exciting Weekend for GWS!

October 21st, 2010

This weekend Groundwork Somerville staff, interns, and volunteers will be hitting the road for a long weekend filled with learning, activism, making connections, and strengthening our community!  Read on to learn about the amazing events that we are fortunate to be part of:

Groundwork USA National Assembly:

Executive Directors from Groundwork trusts across the country are meeting at the EPA Office of Water in Washington DC for an “Open House” about the work of Groundwork USA. On Thursday, Groundwork will hold a number of panels and discussions on Urban Waters, Sustainable Agriculture, Forming Groundwork Trusts, and Youth Programming. In the evening, additional staff and youth representatives from Groundwork Green Teams will arrive for a weekend of environmental restoration along the Anacostia River, meeting with their peers in the environmental movement, and learning about the formation of the EPA. For more information, click here!

The Sixth Annual Connecting for Change: A Bioneers by the Bay Conference:

This conference presented by the Marion Institute, in the historic Downtown of New Bedford, MA, on October 22-24, 2010, is an internationally acclaimed annual gathering of environmental, industry and social justice innovators who have demonstrated visionary and practical models for restoring the Earth and its inhabitants.  For more information, click here.

Environmental Leaders Program:

Groundwork Somerville staff have been fortunate to be part of this program that inspires visionary, action-oriented and diverse leadership to work for a just and sustainable future.  The 2011 application has just opened!  If you think you might be interested in being a 2011 fellow, click here for more information.

…Somerville gets $1.8M for transportation plan

October 20th, 2010

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Boston, along with Congressman Mike Capuano, D-Somerville, today announced that Somerville will receive $1.8 million in funding to complete a comprehensive citywide transportation plan and capitalize on the six new rapid transit stations that will come to Somerville by 2015.

As Somerville implements a new comprehensive transportation plan, the grant will allow the city to prepare and implement plans for land use and infrastructure around new stations, prepare a new zoning ordinance for the city, streamline permitting, and create a land bank for affordable housing.“A streamlined, modernized transit system means a better commute for everyone who lives or works in Somerville,” said Sen. Kerry.“This federal funding will help the City of Somerville as it prepares for the Green Line, increasing the resources available to implement a thoughtful approach to transit oriented development planning,” said Rep. Capuano

Mikes Auto

October 20th, 2010

Mikes Auto in Union Square is hosting a GREAT fundraiser for GWS by donating $5 for every green oil change in the next week to Groundwork Somerville!

DePave in the Boston Globe!

October 19th, 2010

Striking a blow for a softer, greener world

The ‘de-paving’ movement comes to Somerville

Courtney Koslow pried the tip of a crowbar under the slab of asphalt, then lifted it just enough for her partner to slide a wooden block under it. Then she grabbed the sledgehammer.

Thunk! The first blow resonated. Thunk! Then, on the third hit, she smashed through. The rectangle broke into pieces. Around her, fellow volunteers cheered.

It was a small victory, but combined with dozens like it, that ceremonial smash helped reclaim about 400 square feet of green space in a backyard in Somerville, a city that is 77 percent paved over. A few blocks away, behind another Winter Hill house, volunteers cleared about 200 square feet of asphalt.

They called it De-paving the Way, and for the 40-plus people who took part, it was at once a global gesture and a practical attempt to address local problems.

Organized by Somerville Climate Action, Monday’s event was one of thousands of “work parties’’ coordi nated by activist Bill McKibben’s 350.org to raise awareness of envi ronmental issues. It was also the first of what some hope will be many “de-pavings’’ in private and public spaces.

“It’s really struck a chord,’’ said Vanessa Rule, who led the project. “I think there’s something really empowering about literally taking things into your own hands and restoring your community.’’

The two backyards were “a test case,’’ she said, and the response was so strong that Somerville Climate Action and partners are looking for new sites.

“The enthusiasm is palpable,’’ Rule said. “We’ve gotten so much great feedback. . . . It’s a great way to raise visibility in a way that addresses so many angles — health, flooding, food, creating peaceful places, cooling the city.’’

De-paving has taken off in many other areas. In the Bronx, teenagers tore up the asphalt in a park to plant vegetables. In Seattle, gardeners claimed a traffic median. In Houston, a nonprofit group is turning paved schoolyards into public parks. In Davenport, Iowa, a downtown parking lot is being turned into a fruit and nut orchard. And in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood, Calumet Square is being reclaimed for green space.

In many cases, the de-paving is left to professionals — it’s rough work, after all, and asphalt isn’t easy to dispose of. But in Portland, Ore., one group has reclaimed more than 50,000 square feet since 2007 with only volunteers.

“De-paving is really not that hard,’’ said Maren Murphy, a leader of Depave, a Portland-based volunteer group that forms partnerships with municipal officials, schools, and churches to create new public parks and gardens. The group, with no paid staff, is backed by the sustainable-living nonprofit City Repair; for project expenses, it relies on grants and donations.

Portland requires a permit for de-paving, she said, so Depave works with property owners to develop site plans, file the paperwork, and apply for grants. Sites are identified months in advance, so there’s time to prepare and to build up community support

A week before the de-paving, project leaders cut the surface with a diamond saw, leaving “brownies’’ for the volunteers to lift out. The actual removal can take hours or days, depending on the size of the space and the thickness and age of the pavement. The waste is hauled off and recycled; the site is then cleaned, and new soil is brought in.

Altogether, Murphy said, the cost is 75 cents to $1 per square foot — and worth every penny.

“Living in the Northwest, we get a lot of rain, and pavement contributes to storm-water pollution,’’ she said. “But also, when you see pavement all over the place, you get disconnected from nature and from your surroundings, so it’s kind of a small way to do something positive, to re-green the city, and bring nature back into the city.’’

The Somerville group had never heard of Depave when it came up with its plan. Three members were sitting in a cafe, tossing about ideas for a 350.org event, and they laughed at the thought of smashing some pavement to vent their frustrations. And yet, they asked, what if they actually tried it?

“We always talk about having more green space,’’ said Melissa Lowitz, who made the suggestion. “It’s kind of a no-brainer, but nobody thinks of it.’’

Doing a Web search for logo ideas, Rule discovered Depave.org, the Portland group’s site, which became a major resource for her team, providing everything from planning tips, to a list of useful tools, to step-by-step de-paving instructions.

Other local groups agreed to help, including Groundwork Somerville, which enlists local youth to plant gardens in the city, and the Mystic River Watershed Association.

“This is key to solving urban runoff, which is one of the biggest sources of pollution for the Mystic River,’’ said board president John Reinhardt, who volunteered at the event. “In the city of Somerville, there are so many yards that are paved from border to border. While this is symbolic, it’s important for people to start seeing it. I hope it will take off.’’

City officials embraced the idea, as well. Somerville has done some de-paving already, and the Board of Aldermen is considering measures to discourage paving and promote de-paving, prompted by the devastating floods of this spring and summer.

More than three-quarters of Somerville is paved over, according to the Charles River Watershed Association, compared with 56 percent of Boston. The city spends $11 million per year on storm-water treatment, said Alderwoman Rebekah Gewirtz.

Alderwoman Maryann M. Heuston, who represents Winter Hill, had tried to find a public site for the group to dig up. Still, she and Gewirtz helped on Monday, and Heuston said she hopes to compile a list of sites that residents want to de-pave, to have the city do the work.

“People can’t do it all themselves, because it’s not as easy as it sounds,’’ Heuston said.

Indeed, this week’s event wasn’t without its challenges. Each homeowner spent about $500, mostly for Dumpsters, and they will have to pay to have soil brought in.

Yet Steven Nutter, whose Maple Avenue yard was the larger work site, said he can’t wait to grow melons, okra, asparagus, corn, and heirloom tomatoes — and maybe put in a plum tree as well. He has been planting gardens since he was a child in West Virginia, and he would like to inspire others to do the same.

“I hope that more and more people de-pave their yards,’’ Nutter said. Several of the volunteers expressed similar wishes — and based on their mood after de-paving, it’s easy to imagine them jumping at the chance to do this again.

“It’s exhilarating just to physically be able to work like that,’’ said Koslow. “There’s a passion behind it when you know you’re breaking something up that doesn’t belong here, and that we’re putting back the earth the way it needs to be.’’

Groundwork Somerville office closed 10/21-10/24

October 19th, 2010

Hi folks! Due to AMAZING events this week and weekend, we are doing the never-before-done and CLOSING the GWS office from 12pm on Thursday, October 21st THROUGH Sunday, October 24th. If you need assistance, please contact us on Monday, October 25th.

Don’t forget to join us on Sunday, October 24th from 12-4pm as the City of Somerville closes down Somerville Ave to auto traffic and opens it to pedestrians and bikers only!