Even though Sustain Mid Maine Coalition started having a column over a year ago, perhaps some of you still are unfamiliar with who we are.

Sustain Mid Maine Coalition is a local grassroots group comprised of volunteers who are concerned about the environment. We began with a “catalyst” during the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2009. In 2015, we revised our mission statement as follows: “Sustain Mid Maine Coalition, recognizing the challenges of climate change, works to increase sustainable practices in the mid-Maine region through education, programming, and projects focused on energy conservation, fossil-fuel alternatives, local agriculture and sustainable food systems, and waste reduction. Sustain Mid Maine Coalition is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is a collaborative partnership of major stakeholders (engaged citizens, municipal leaders, educational institutions, businesses, and service agencies) working to build the systems and infrastructure for a thriving community and a sustainable economy.”

Sustain Mid Maine Coalition’s Energy Team was fortunate to obtain an Energy Efficiency and Consevation block grant in 2010 for $170,000. This money was used to provide Waterville and Winslow residents with free energy consultations as a first step to possibly having a home energy audit.

In the winter of 2013, we received more grant funds to educate area residents about various ways to reduce their fuel consumption. Our WindowDressers program joins residents together to build inside storm windows at very low cost.

Currently we are sponsoring Solarize Mid Maine, a solarization project that will reduce costs for homeowners who decide to install solar panels.

Educating and engaging the community is a critical aspect of our mission.

The task of the Education and Community Outreach Team is to provide readily available information on sustainability to the community at large. Our program “Adapting to a Changing Planet” offers free programs to help people understand the environmental issues we are facing.

What began as the Grow and Support Local Foods Team has morphed into the Farm and Food Team. One objective decided in 2009 was for people who want to grow their own food to have space and support to do so. In 2010, North Street Community Garden in Waterville was built. Shortly thereafter, Moor Street Community Garden was created for residents of Waterville’s South End.

Community gardens have also been established in Winslow and in Oakland. In 2012, we created a garden at the Alfond Youth Center. In 2014, two students from the Maine Academy of Natural Science along with our volunteers added a garden for residents of the Mid Maine Homeless Shelter. Members of this team are also on the Winslow Agricultural Commission, a group looking to preserve farmland in Winslow.

The Public Policy Team was approved by the board of directors in early 2013. Throughout the legislative sessions, members of this team appear before committees, including the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources, and the Transportation Committee.

Our newest team is Permaculture, which was added in 2015. Permaculture can be defined as a way to integrate land, resources and people to provide solutions for sustainable development. This group is working on a demonstration garden at Railroad Square Cinema.

As the name implies, the Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Team encourages people to recycle and reduce their waste.

Every year during The Taste of Waterville, team members and volunteers staff composting stations to help consumers sort out the compostable materials. In 2015, we collected 900 pounds of materials that were converted to energy at Agri-Cycle Energy in Exeter. The team has done composting displays at Inland Hospital’s Women’s Wellness Fair and at the Waterville Farmers’ Market.

Developing an infrastructure to encourage bicycles and pedestrian alternatives is one key to reducing our carbon footprint. The Transportation Team combined efforts with other area groups to further promote transportation choices. The creation of the Kennebec Explorer, a low-cost, convenient public transit system, is a huge asset for area residents. The Kennebec Messalonskee Trails group has worked diligently to build more than 30 miles of recreation and fitness trails in our area.

If you would like to learn more about us, I invite you to our annual meeting on Saturday, March 19, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, in the Diamond Building at Colby College.

At this meeting, you will have the opportunity to meet Vaughan Woodruff from Insource Renewables in Pittsfield, who will be administering our Solarize Mid Maine program.

Kevin Bright, Colby College sustainability coordinator, will be speaking about Colby College’s energy management strategy and progress to date. Dan Dixon, of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, will present, “Regional Climate Change: What Can We Expect in Maine?”

Linda Woods is the coordinator of Sustain Mid Maine Coalition. She can be reached at [email protected] or 680-4208.


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