West Virginia Department of Commerce Sustainable living

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Sustainable living

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
West Virginians Join Forces for Sustainable Living

By Andrea Bond

Green living doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing undertaking. There are a number of actions people can take to help enrich their communities, one step at a time.

Who's doing what

In May 2008, the Sustainable Kanawha Valley Initiative hosted its first sustainability fair in Charleston, featuring more than 70 local vendors and exhibitors dealing in natural, economic and social capital.

“Based on funding, the initiative hopes to make this an annual event,” said Beverly Davis, development director for the initiative’s parent organization, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.

Sarah Halstead-Boland, organizer Build Green WV
Sarah Halstead-Boland, organizer
Build Green WV

The initiative sponsors projects in Kanawha and Putnam counties in the areas of Community Education/Participation, Human Dignity/Human Services and Open Space/Land Use, Davis said. The initiative usually funds 10-12 projects per year at $10,000 each.

Sarah Halstead-Boland is organizing a West Virginia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council under the name Build Green WV. The group’s purpose is to provide a resource network for people who are interested in making their homes and businesses more environmentally friendly. Educational courses will be provided, and members meet once a month via conference call to brainstorm for ideas.

Halstead-Boland and her sister Rebecca Kimmons also run Katalyst, a communications firm dedicated to green and sustainable economic, community and workforce development. The West Virginia native became involved in the green movement while living in San Diego and brought her ideas with her when she moved home. She said she is excited about the business prospects in the Mountain State.

“The green opportunities are tremendous for craftspeople and skilled laborers. This could position West Virginia like never before,” she said, citing as example countertops made of recycled glass. “The best part is that people don’t have to relearn a trade – just tweak it.”

Stephanie Burroughs is the founder of www.wvstonesoup.org.

“It is vital to network for a number of reasons: to reduce fossil-fuel use in trade and transportation; to protect and create jobs in our local community; to encourage cultural diversity based on the local population, to make our streets safe for our residents, and to have a real say on issues that are important to us. The more a community is networking, the more self-sustaining it is.

Burroughs has been doing community service and volunteer work most of her life. As a student at Washington State Community College in Ohio, her volunteer service through Phi Theta Kappa honor society earned her a nomination for a National Leadership Award.

“I then realized, not only was I pretty good at this work, but it was my favorite ‘job’ of all time, even though the pay was zero,” she joked.

Working together
Halstead-Boland and Burroughs bring their ideas to Green Drinks, a discussion group that meets monthly in Charleston. The group is a chapter of the Green Drinks International movement, active in 597 cities worldwide. The state chapter was founded by Rob and Jes Russo in correlation to Jes’ Web site, www.littlegreenfamily.com.

Jes Russo, a Marshall University graduate, was inspired to begin the blog after having worked as an educator with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Chesapeake Bay, Va.

“We worked with children who lived within a few miles of the Chesapeake Bay and never saw the water,” Russo said. “It was an indescribable feeling to see these kids discover their local environment for the first time. They learned how to respect, conserve and live more sustainably.”

She, her husband and their daughter moved back to West Virginia in 2008, after which she began Little Green Family, which focuses on fun, earth-friendly activities such as “Make Your Own Worm Bin” to minimize the amount of food that ends up in landfills.

“Environmental topics are sometimes ‘hot buttons’ and I don’t think kids need to get caught up in all that. Instead, we just want to encourage families to get creative and live simply,” she said. “In my experience, when families work together to live more sustainably, the knowledge becomes concrete and children will carry that throughout their lives.”