Center for Sustainable Living (CSL) offers networking opportunities for those interested in exploring ecologically sustainable ways of thinking, living and interacting in our community and serves as an incubator out of which many local groups and projects have grown. [simplycsl.org]

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4/17/2019, “Closing the Loop on Bloomington’s Foodwaste: Of Compost, Community, and Transformation”

By Ryan T. Conway

Spring is a special time for Hope, as the Winter’s winds recede and the Summer’s heat approaches. Spring is also a season of Transformation: the cold, barren ground becomes warm and soft, again, releasing bugs from their sweet slumber and sending seeds into fits and spurts and shoots of green. Hope and Transformation define the promises of Spring, just as they define values and principles of our small, local, family-run businesses: Fable Farms Indiana, Green Camino Curbside Composting, and EarthKeepers Community Composting.

When we started Fable Farms, in 2017, we broke the bank to get there, so fixing-up the property – things like building fences and remediating the soil in the high-tunnel greenhouse – was out of the question. Fixing the soil was especially out of the question because our fellow farming friends showed us their receipts from the compost they buy to boost and manage their soils: it cost them just as much to ship the compost to their farms (from Michigan and Wisconsin!) as it did to buy the compost itself! Just as well, no local products seemed adequate to meet their needs…So what were *we* supposed to do?

We could make it ourselves, for our farm *and* our friends’ farms and gardens!

Ryan and Andrea feed foodwaste to the chickens on Fable Farms

Shortly after we began this quest, the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District released a recent study of Bloomington & Monroe County’s waste stream, conducted by Kessler Consulting. The results? Over 39% of Bloomington & Monroe County’s waste stream was compostable…but instead of being composted, it was going to rot and release methane in landfills! Gross!

But with this new information, we knew we were on the right track for meeting an unmet need for Bloomington’s Sustainability goals and for Monroe County’s farmers and gardeners.

Thankfully we had good company: we were in meetings with the women who would eventually found Green Camino Curbside Composting and we helped them jumpstart their business – and our compost – by letting them deposit foodwaste at Fable Farms, free of charge.  Fast-forward one year and, with Green Camino’s founders moving-on to greener pastures, we were happy to take the helm on March 29th, 2019: Andrea Avena Koenigsberger as CEO and Ryan T. Conway as her trusty VP.

However, something was missing from our Sustainability formula: we were helping the Environment, by diverting foodwaste to feed over 100 chickens before being moved into composting windrows (like Karl Hammer!); and, we were helping the local Economy by supplying our businesses using local resources and supplying our product to local farmers, gardeners, and nonprofits; but, where was the Equity piece, the third dynamic in sustainable communities?

Before we had even assumed the Green Camino ship, we were already on a mission: how do we make foodwaste diversion more accessible to more people and how do we create meaningful social impact for people who are in great need? Thanks to local sustainability organizer, Kate O’Shea, we were introduced to Made Up Mind, Inc., a local nonprofit that provides wrap-around services and job-placement opportunities for recently-released ex-offenders. And, thanks to them, we’re off to the races!

April 21st, 2019 holds the launch of a truly unique and truly Sustainable new program at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington. We are proud to introduce: EarthKeepers Community Compost!

EarthKeeper’s Community Compost is Green Camino and MUM’s flagship Sustainable Equity program, aiming to help Bloomington faith communities divert foodwaste, as a community, at a price-point more Bloomingtonians can afford and with the side-benefit of knowing where that money goes: ½ of all proceeds go directly toward paying ex-offenders a living-wage for collecting foodwaste, cleaning buckets, and processing compost; the other ½ of the proceeds go toward creating new job positions for ex-offenders at Fable Farms Indiana and at Green Camino Curbside Composting. Everyone wins!

And what could be more fitting for a Social Equity program than the interweaving of wasted food and broken lives, as they work together – in Hope – to Transform old soils and past mistakes into fertile grounds and loving hearts?

It sure feels like a lot to handle but even though it’s a big challenge, it’s just the tip of the iceberg for our Social Equity plans: in the next few months, Fable Farms will be hiring more ex-offenders to gain work experience with tools, tractors, and other equipment; and, what’s more, Green Camino will be rolling out a program to radically slash subscription prices and build community among composting friends and neighbors…we’re talking *doubling* our user base and nearly *halving* our prices!

We’re still crunching the numbers and finalizing the details but we hope our track-record has your trust:
We’re new owners of Green Camino – and we run a rather new farm – but we are proven leaders in community Sustainability organizing and technical expertise. After 3 years as the President of Bloomington’s Center for Sustainable Living, Andrea knows our Bloomington’s Sustainability concerns and is moving the ball forward against climate change, starting with “Reduced Food Waste,” which Project Drawdown lists as the #3 way to effectively fight climate change (of course, Composting makes the list, as well).  After 3 years serving as Chair of the Bloomington Food Policy Council, Ryan has led years of intense local food system planning and policy change. As a newly appointed Monroe County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor, Ryan takes soil health seriously and as a recently-retired member of the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability, he’s helped shape the City’s Sustainability vision.

Andrea and Ryan both completed the US Composting Council‘s 40hr Compost Facility Operators Certification Training course, in August 2018, and gained their food-growing chops while running productivity tests for urban-agriculture innovators at Bloomington’s own Garden Tower Project. With Ryan’s family – parents Kevin and Christy, and older brother Sean – moving to the farm in 2018, Fable Farms Indiana is ready to grow and delighted to close the loop on foodwaste! So come find us at the Bloomington Farmers Market or peek out the window on compost collection days!

Interested in eggs or compost, in addition to your curbside foodwaste collection? Expanded services coming soon!

Ryan T. Conway can be reached at  info@greencaminocompost.com.

 

October 23, 2018, The Center for Sustainable Living, Andrea Avena-Koenigsberger reporting –

The CSL won a $1,000 award from the Bloomington Cooperative Community Fund. The money is to be used for our 2019 Neighborhood Tree Planting Project (NTPP), where we will be planting several hundred fruit and nut trees in various Bloomington neighborhoods. The first iteration of the NTPP was this last spring, where around 700 trees were given away for free, together with mulch, and fencing protection (for deer), and many workshops were offered during various weekends.

 

October 13, 2017, The Center for Sustainable Living, Andrea Avena-Koenigsberger reporting –

The Center for Sustainability Living nears completion on its administrative overhaul, both as to legal paperwork and updating project agreements. Among personnel changes, Woodie Bessler (a SIREN member) has joined the Board and Orion Day, an IT developer, was hired to upgrade the website and IT infrastructure.

The Center still occupies the Grimes St. location, which is City property destined to become part of the new Switchyard Park. February 2018 is the target date to move the CSL office to the Overlook community space in the Maple Heights neighborhood. (Overlook is a CSL project.) The move will involve migrating the Glenn Carter Memorial ToolShare, a lending library consisting of hundreds of tools.

The tool workshop space at Grimes is currently not active; all you can do right now is to borrow tools. We need people to help organize the holdings and staff the space. If someone wants to volunteer to do this or help with the migration, please contact me by email. at president@simplycsl.org

CSL clearly decided that it did not want ownership in the Overlook building, which needs a lot of work before it opens. The Overlook organizing group is working with lawyers to put the building in trust; the project can’t have ownership because then the building would become CSL property. Before the tools can be migrated, they have to make sure that the floors are able to support the weight (there are tons of tools) and the windows must shut and lock.

City and IU partner on bike share program

In addition to my Board duties, I also volunteer with the Bloomington Community Bike Project. This CSL project describes itself as “a local cooperative that helps get the city of Bloomington moving by recycling bicycles back into the community.”  Because of this connection, I was contacted about a bike share program that the City and IU are collaborating on.

The program will have bikes to rent and racks for pick-up and drop-off both on campus and around the city.  The City reassured the Bike Project and other bike shops that the intent of the program was not to take business away from them, but instead to increase the number of people for whom bicycling is a primary and regular form of transportation.

The City hired Jane StJohn, who previously implemented the City’s curbside recycling program, to assess feasibility and set up the program. StJohn has begun screening multiple leasing vendors and holding meetings at City Hall with interested parties, most recently on October 11.  “There is a lot of support for bike share (as I guess you’d expect from people who are willing to take their time to stop by and talk about it!),” StJohn told us. For more information, contact her by phone (812-322-5193) or email. 

There are a number of unresolved issues, notably what forms of payment to use, how to secure the bikes from theft, and whether bikes can be left off at any rack or must be returned to their original docking station.  StJohn is considering a zip car model (but not everyone has a phone). She strongly prefers not to require a credit card which is the most common payment mechanism (because not everyone has a credit card).

In an editorial, the IDS strongly endorsed the model adopted in Carmel’s municipal bike-share program: “Because bike-share programs are ordinarily impeded by the limited number of docking stations from which the public can access bicycles, the Editorial Board suggests that the IU-Bloomington bike-share system proceed with a dockless option by linking bike racks on campus to geo-sensors that could check in the bikes from any registered rack.”

The Indianapolis bike share program is also being studied as a model.


April 8, 2017, The Center for Sustainable Living, Andrea Avena-Koenigsberger reporting –

I am pleased to introduce Jack Cathcart as our new Outreach and Communications Coordinator. He will be reaching out to our projects in the next weeks and eventually out to the community at large.

We welcome new people with fresh ideas who can build on the Center’s proud history as a change agent and help realize the Center’s full potential. Currently there are supporting and/or Board-level positions we hope to fill from among volunteers with some of the following qualifications:
• Website and/or IT support
• Accounting
• Marketing (to advertise t-shirts, workshops, stickers and conduct fundraisers)
Currently CSL leases the limestone building located where the B-Line Trail crosses Grimes from the City of Bloomington, but the property will soon be developed as part of the Switchyard Park. We expect to have to move at the end of 2017, but possibly earlier. One of our recently adopted projects, The Overlook, is working on rehabilitating an old furniture factory in the west side of town and we will probably move the CSL to this space, which we will share with other local grassroots organizations.

We are excited about this possibility because the space provides more than an office to the CSL: it is a project workspace that will facilitate collaboration and cross-pollination between like-minded organizations. Nonetheless, moving to a new location will be a challenging task, since we currently host the tool library at the Grimes space; this is a collection of thousands of tools that will have to be inventoried, moved and organized at the new location.

CSL projects are mostly self-contained and their agendas are naturally quite diverse. We want to make CSL truly a *Center* and not just an administrative unit by developing more activities such as workshops that bring in new people and promote collaboration between projects. We already partner with some like-minded external organizations such as Bloominglabs (Bloomington’s very own hackerspace!). We’d like to develop other similarly close collaborations.

Some of our projects are members of the Time to Choose Coalition, including Bring Your Bag Bloomington, Friends of Lake Monroe, SIREN and Solar for All. As change agents in Bloomington for over 20 years, we have served as an incubator for innovative approaches to reducing the wastefulness of consumer society. The annual Trashion Refashion Runway show produced by our Discardia project is a prime example.

We have promoted pollution-free transportation through the Community Bike Project. We have created models of the sharing economy through ShareBloomington and Glen Carter Memorial ToolShare. These are only some of our more than 15 ongoing projects that embody climate action. We are looking for more people who want to build on this foundation.

Andrea Avena-Koenigsberger is the president of The Center for Sustainable Living and chairs the Board.