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Community Coaching

Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Allegory of the Good Gov...
Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Allegory of the Good Government (left view, detail) - WGA13485 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, I had the opportunity to tell my buying club’s story to another buying club. This new buying club just started. They had only completed only two buys and were working on their third.

Levi and I joined them while they were debriefing after their second buy. They are meeting weekly, by the sounds of it. It was amazing to hear this group figure out problems from the beginning. A diverse group (in age, gender, and ethnicity), they were drawing from a diverse set of experiences. Clearly a smart group, it was fascinating to watch as they respectfully deliberated.

I’m not sure they really knew what I had to talk about, but I knew what I wanted to talk about, so I began by describing, from my buying club’s perspective, Buying Club Best Practices.

In Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good Government and Bad Government, he pictorially describes the perfect, healthful balance of farm to city – and its opposite. When there is harmony between farm and city, managed by good governance, there is peace and health in all the lands. The city can give intellectual stimulation and arts while benefiting from the healthful countryside.

While “educating people on the importance of a sustainable society” and “bridging the gap between farm and city”, how can I help? I can share my buying club’s story. No, it’s not over, but we’ve done a few things, problem solved, and continued to evolve and get good local food. If I really want to help bridge the gap between farm and city, one way I can do that is by sharing our story so others can make new and more interesting mistakes and not the ones we’ve already made!

So, I shared. I skimmed through my notes, eliminated a few slides, and fast tracked towards lessons learned.

I was amazed at how enthralled this group was. This group, who likely didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to say were on the edge of their seats. It was amazing and empowering for me.

Are you in a buying club? What are your lessons learned?

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The Introvert Advantage

People mistake me for an extrovert.

This surprises me.

Some people think that because I willingly engage in conversations with strangers that I must be an extrovert. Some people think my often chipper disposition makes me an extrovert. Some people mistake my community engagement as an extroverted tendency.

I am not an extrovert. I do not hate people. I am not chipper all the time. And, I often loathe talking to people.

I am an introvert. I am an introvert with the strengths input, intellection, belief, learner, and deliberative. I am an introvert who lives internally. I live in my head. I think in my head. I deliberate in my head. I find energy — in my head.

That’s what makes me an introvert. It’s not how well someone can engage with others that makes one an introvert. It’s not enjoying parties. It’s where you draw your energy. It’s how you refresh. A fellow introvert answered the question of where she finds her energy with: alone in the woods. That’s an introvert. I am getting energized writing this. Sure, there are distractions around. Sure, the TV is on. Yes, my husband is in the room. Yes, we are together, but I am not engaging in those other activities. I am writing. I am writing, more or less alone. I am in my head pondering, reflecting, deliberating.

That’s what makes me an introvert.

Top 10 Myths About Introverts


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My month of not wanting to write!

Steps of St Paul's
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, here are a few words anyway.

I am tired. Board meetings are tiring, sitting in those chairs. Conference calls from the ceiling are funny. Dramatic change is, well, dramatic. I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. I have been doing that and I am working towards doing that more. We leave for Michigan in less than a month. Yea, vacation! Levi is excited to see his cousins and grandparents. We have consensus training for our food club on March 19th. Super yea! WordPress has another update. I think I have it figured out how to do it right, if only the plugins would cooperate. Why hosting service, why?

I am now going to marinate the lamb and read Cat among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie.

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Recycling at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Castle
The Castle at the Smithsonian

In April, I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for the National Low Income Housing Coalition Conference. We were in D.C. for five days. Two mostly occupied by travel, one day to ourselves, and two days in NLIHC workshops. The conference was very educational, informative, and interesting. As a board member for the Community Alliance of Tenants, it’s always nice to see how our actions are impacted by national and state policy.

La Promenade in L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, D....
L'Enfant Plaza and hotel, Washington, D.C. Image via Wikipedia

On our “free day”, we were able to play tourist. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been to D.C. The last time was with Project Close-Up in 1995 while I was a junior in high school. I wanted to revisit some of the things I saw in 1995 and others I didn’t have a chance to see. Luckily, our hotel, L’Enfant Plaza, was just three blocks south of the Smithsonian block and the Mall. I wanted to walk around, take it all in, and explore. The Freer Gallery was on the top of my list, after lunch.

We lunched at the Castle Cafe inside the Smithsonian’s information Castle. We consumed an overpriced, fair-tasting, lunch filled with wraps, and yogurt. I was amazed at the variety of sustainable products for sale. We had choices of fair trade coffee and teas, organic yogurts and fruits, all available on or in compostable products.

The quandary came into play when I went to dispose of said eco items. There was a small recycling station, but nary the availability of the Capitol (which I was to find in three days). Offering compostable products is really important. But equally, or more, important is offering a place to put the green products other than the trash.

Compostable Glasses
Compostable serving-ware found at the Smithsonian and available throughout the Capitol buildings.
Smithsonian Recycling Station
This is the recycling station at the Smithsonian. Notice there is no space for compost.

When I think of the Smithsonian, History comes to mind. Preservation and the ideas of being a step ahead of the “average person” are all stereotypes I associate with the institution. I was very pleased to see such a wide sampling of eco things at our nations Capitol. There were spaces everywhere for depositing soda cans. Our nation’s government buildings emphasized organic foods, fair trade, shade grown, and all served in compostable wares. The Rayburn House Office Building was the only building that offered a space in which to deposit those wares. Closing the loop on all things is probably the most important concept of sustainability.

It’s great to offer recycling. It’s important to recycle. But, if we fail to purchase recycled products, where does the recycled content go? There would be no market for it. Two things are needed to make recycling work. One, a system in which to collect the thing. Two, a market for the thing. When I lived in Lansing, Michigan in 2001, the city refused to take any colored glass because there was no local market for it. Sure, glass is plentiful, it’s made of sand. It’s also super easy to recycle and has almost no net-energy use when it’s recycled. Of anything to recycle, glass is one of the most important, but there was no market so no easy way to get it into the system.

Recycling will routinely be taken to a trash facility if there are no buyers to take the plastics. On one hand, you can argue you need the demand first, so the Smithsonian isn’t entirely to blame. But, I was really surprised when the Rayburn House Office Building offered a space for compost. Both facilities, within a mile of each other, are in D.C. Presumably both facilities have their waste picked up by the same service and taken to the same place.

I do not know what kind of composting services the D.C. area has. There may be a small facility that can only take what the Capitol buildings provide. But, when compostable products are made available for use without a place to put them when they are done being used (outside of the trash), the availability of said product amounts to green washing. That is, it is wasteful and imprudent to offer compostable products if there is no compost to put the product when one is done using it.

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