No one knew better than Vince Lombardi what it takes to make a team work. Lombardi was head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the seven-year period the team won five NFL championships and two Super Bowl games. Lombardi was once famously quoted as saying: “Individual commitment to a team effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization to work.”
Lombardi got it right, and here in central Maine we’ve seen how a committed team of individuals with a shared vision, can put their heads together, develop an action agenda and make it work. This year, the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition celebrated its fifth anniversary, meeting in the Waterville City Council chambers to review its successes and plan for more of the same in years to come.
SMMC is a locally run initiative composed mostly of volunteers. The group’s mission is to promote sustainability in the use of local food, energy and transportation; and to safeguard our natural resources. So down with smoggy skies, fossil fuels, food from outer Mongolia and three gas-guzzlers in every garage; and up with backyard gardens, clean energy, mass transit, walking trails and bicycle racks.
A critical aspect of SMMC’s mission is to educate and engage the community, and, toward that end, the Education Team sponsored films, shown at local colleges and schools, that highlight the benefits of healthy eating and buying locally grown foods. One film, a classic documentary, depicted the final days of environmentalist Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring.” Carson’s book is credited with inspiring the modern environmentalist movement.
Keep an eye out for more films to come.
In addition, the group has held roundtable discussions about the environment and collaborated with the Waterville Public Library to arrange a meet-and-greet the farmers day.
Thanks to the Local Foods Team, backyard gardens are enjoying a revival, and the team sponsors community gardens in various locations in Waterville, Oakland and Winslow, that is, if summer ever arrives.
The team also is working to promote a farm-to-school program and exploring the possibility of establishing incubator farms, if it can find suitable property in the Kennebec Valley.
The Transportation Team is represented by several local organizations, including Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, Kennebec Valley Organization, United Way and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s office. The group has worked with Waterville Main Street and Rotary Club to better publicize the location of bus stops in downtown Waterville. Thanks to the team’s efforts, ridership has increased by 47 percent the past two years.
The Kennebec Messalonskee Trail network has expanded to more than 30 miles of local trails. New maps and promotional materials have been developed, and usage of the trail system is increasing. A project now under discussion is finding ways to promote expansion of the Amtrak system to central Maine.
The goal of the Energy Team is to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 percent by the year 2020. Toward that end, the group has conducted weatherization audits and studies about alternative sources of energy such as biomass and solar gardens.
Recognizing that the open-ended generation of waste is not sustainable, the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Team has distributed reusable tote bags to use in lieu of plastic bags at supermarkets, held a poster contest for third-graders, conducted compost workshops and obtained a grant to put up signs at the Skills Recycling Center.
The Climate Change Public Policy Team keeps abreast of legislation relating to the environment, public transit and energy, as well as other issues of concern to SMMC. The members work to encourage greater public involvement in the legislative process, to develop good relationships with area legislators, and to work in support of SMMC’s vision statement, the full text of which can be read at its website: www.sustainmidmaine.org.
You won’t find a more dedicated bunch than the members of SMMC. They’ll never win an NFL championship, but their children and grandchildren will breathe cleaner air, eat healthier food and hike longer trails. And they know the true value of teamwork.
Marilyn Canavan served as a state representative and director of Maine’s Ethics Commission. She now is a member of the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition board of directors.