The Center for Sustainable Living will be holding its Annual Meeting on Saturday, March 22, from 2pm – 3:30pm at the Northfield Public Library. Come join us in the Community Room as we recap 2007, choose new board members, and set intentions for 2008!

We will be looking to fill vacancies on our board, and possibly add board members as well! If you are interested in learning about the CSL, volunteering on our board, or have items of interest that we should hear, please come! This event is free and open to the public!

To read about our accomplishments for 2007, read on for our 2007 Report Narrative.

The Center for Sustainable Living – 2007 Report
Narrative by Scott Schumacher

I feel very privileged to once again prepare the narrative recounting of the past year for The Center for Sustainable Living. Throughout my years of volunteering on nonprofit boards, being involved with environmental organizations, and dedicating my time for grassroots causes, I’ve always marveled at the uniqueness and resiliency of The Center for Sustainable Living. Northfield is indeed a small community, and many times, only a small handful of passionate people will volunteer their time to contribute to grassroots social change. At times these people work tirelessly, and at times they need to step away and recharge, because they may have over-committed themselves, or over-scheduled their lives. I believe this is a natural phenomenon in a small community.

I have seen other non-profit organizations grow, expand, build buildings, amass money through grand campaigns, borrow money, hire consultants, thrive in their structured “machine-like” productivity, and also come crashing down under the weight of a super-structure that they could no longer maintain. The CSL is not a “big player” in the non-profit world by these standards. We thrive only on the hearts, minds, and passions of volunteers and our community. We have no office, no employees, almost always less than $5000 in the bank. Often times, board members come and go due to their many other commitments in life. We have stretches of time where we are passionately busy, and other times, we take breaks, lie dormant, or come together to ask ourselves again, “So what do we do now?” Many may criticize, and many may celebrate the fact that we are far far from the model of the “Non-Profit Machine.”

As for me, I happen to love how the CSL is a living, growing, breathing, and organic organization. With very little monetary resources, we accomplish many things. In 2007, we began hosting several “Community Sustainability Discussions.” Probably the most successful effort to grow out of these discussion sessions was to bring community members together with regard to the Northfield Comprehensive Plan. The CSL was able to meet with consultants and planners as a stakeholder organization, and brought together others from other organizations in the community to form a more unified set of goals and priorities for making sustainability a priority in the revision of the comprehensive plan.

In April, the CSL, in conjunction with the St. Olaf Environmental Coalition, brought Guy Trombley and Paula Westmoreland to Northfield to present a Permaculture Film Festival and Introduction to Permaculture class. Considering the many community opportunities available on Earth Day weekend, I feel that the participation by 14 people in the permaculture class was a great success!

Spring and Summer of 2007 was a time of breaking ground for the Northfield Community Gardeners, as the first growing season began for the first community garden in Northfield. The first year of the Greenvale Park Community Garden was highlighted by ground breaking ceremonies, community work days, open houses, and celebrations.
Within our larger community, we saw both growth and change. After a year-long process of litigation, the Village School lost its appeal to reverse the decision of the Northfield School Board to revoke its charter. During this time, teachers and students still volunteered their time and effectively “squatted” in the building and held many Village Markets of handcrafted and recycled arts, clothing, and goods to the community. In late October, the building was locked and cleared, and made ready to be placed on the market. While we mourn the loss of a democratic school in our community, Starwalkers and The Village Learning Community have done their best to keep this spirit alive, as 15 students still meet with three teachers to be “unschooled” and to dictate the very terms of their own individual learning. Starwalkers has also planned all of their workshop offerings in advance for 2008, and we welcome their first community living resident, Amy Wilcox, to Northfield (and to the board of the CSL!).

Throughout this year, the CSL website still reached many eyes around the world. We averaged between 10,000 – 13,000 hits per month, with a peak last April of over 16,000 hits during our efforts with the Northfield Comprehensive Plan and the Permaculture class. As the webmaster, I still answer many email questions from people both locally to as far as South Africa. Our reach is farther than our eyes can see at times, and I enjoy the feeling that the world can become a small place when others get a peek at our efforts in Northfield.

2008 is here, and we are still thinking about our “next big thing” to introduce to the Northfield community. Will it be a neighborhood sharing program, a better composting effort, a local currency, a gift economy? We’re trying to work that out. I’m comforted though, that whatever evolves or comes forward, that it will be in the same spirit of community and grassroots social action of all of our previous efforts. The grass will grow, and will soon peek it’s head out – between the cracks in the concrete, greening Northfield and beyond – yet again.

-Scott Schumacher, Webmaster
The Center for Sustainable Living

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