By Jenna Whitson, Vermont Council on Rural Development
Area businesses and nonprofits are increasingly involved with climate change – both its challenges and opportunities. Their creative solutions are becoming a growing part of our state’s economy, and our resilient future. You can hear more about these solutions, and share your own at the Climate Change Economy Forums coming this fall.
For 10 years now, Washington Electric Co-op has been generating power from the stuff that Vermonters throw away. Their system channels methane gas from deep within the Coventry landfill to fuel engines that produce enough electricity to power 8,000 houses a day. While this was a sizeable investment, the benefits are tangible. Co-op General Manager Patricia Richards explains, “The Coventry plan is a tremendous success story and a perfect example of how we can produce electricity in a sustainable and responsible way…at a very affordable price.”
Other businesses, like Butternut Mountain Farm in Morrisville, have focused on increasing efficiency and waste reduction to cut costs and improve sustainability. Butternut Mountain Farm cut back to a four-day workweek for production staff, reducing transportation emissions, energy and time associated with an additional day of production. They have also worked with Black Dirt Farm in Greensboro to divert more than 68,400 lbs. of compostable materials from the landfill for use on a local Vermont farm.
Whether it’s improving efficiency, looking at alternative energy choices, building community solar projects, or developing new innovative technology solutions, Vermont businesses have a real opportunity to lead in cultivating and supporting this growing economic sector.
To take a deeper look, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) launched the Vermont Climate Change Economy Initiative with the premise that confronting climate change through innovative economic development can be a competitive strategy – one that will build national reputation, create jobs, and attract youth and entrepreneurism.
In February 2015, VCRD hosted a summit to launch the initiative. We founded the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council, a group that will develop a practical action plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate green economic development in Vermont.
VCRD and the VT Climate Change Economy Council are hosting three Climate Change Economy Forums, entitled What’s Next for Vermont’s Climate Change Economy? The events are an opportunity to hear from people already adapting and growing businesses that lower Vermont’s carbon impact and to gather ideas on how to nurture this emerging field. The first took place at Rutland’s Paramount Theater on August 26. Two additional forums will be from 7-9 PM at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro on October 6, and Contois Auditorium in Burlington on October 29. At each forum, participants will hear from a panel of local business leaders and elected officials about their strategies and ideas to advance the Climate Change Economy, and then will be asked to share their ideas on how to boost economic opportunity while confronting climate change.
“We have an opportunity to lead in the climate economy, attract and nurture entrepreneurism, build on the Vermont brand, and support the future prosperity of our communities,” explains VCRD Executive Director Paul Costello. “The forums will bring Vermonters together to share their ideas about how to advance the state’s economic future.”
A second Summit on Climate Economy Action will be held at VT Technical College on February 22, 2016 to share the platform developed by the VT Climate Change Economy Council and build partnerships to advance it.
The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a nonprofit organization charged by the federal farm bill to act as a neutral convener at both the local and policy level supporting the progress of Vermont communities. VCRD will promote the platform of action that comes from the deliberations of summit participants.
Past VCRD policy efforts have supported progress in issues ranging from wood products to downtown revitalization, rural energy development, the digital economy, and Vermont’s working landscape. VCRD produced the most extensive evaluation of Vermont values and priorities in a generation when it led the Council on the Future of Vermont in 2009.