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Going Green on Whidbey Island

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Darkest Day

December 20th, 2012 at Thu, 20th, 2012 at 3:41 pm by maribeth crandell

The winter solstice is an exciting time.  It’s the darkest day of the year but it’s lit up by cheery lights everywhere.  In historic downtown Oak Harbor the street is lit up for the holidays.  I especially love the live tree with the bright star on top.

We’ve also had some wicked weather lately, wind, snow, hail, and rain.  It makes being inside that much more cozy.  Though these short days and long nights can be dreary, I try to look for the positive in each season.

photo by Arnie Peterschmidt

Last week I was told I’ll be laid off as the Environmental Educator for the City of Oak Harbor.  Budgets are tight.  But as I clean out my files and say good-bye, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work full time on projects I felt passionate about for these last 5 years.

Working with Mayor Jim Slowik was a joy.  The City made great strides.  The new improved Pioneer Way is among the first certified Greenroads in the world.  It certainly doesn’t seem to have suffered from being a One Way street.  New businesses have sprung up next to our old favorites.  Whenever I’m there it’s hard to find a parking spot.  If you remember what it looked like before the renovations, you’d have to admit, what’s there now is a vast improvement.  It’s a pleasure to see the downtown looking so good.  Thank you Jim.

When I started work for the city I began a series of monthly Sustainable Living Seminars.  We started taping them to show on Channel 10 so they could be seen all over Whidbey Island.  Later we made copies of the DVDs for the Sno-Isle Library System.  Now there are 43 DVDs available for check-out in 21 libraries featuring our regional experts on topics like green building, backyard chickens, low impact development, waste reduction, clean boating, responsible yard care and local food.  I’ve received praise from people around the region so thank you to all the volunteer presenters for offering your time and expertise. And thanks to our camera man Jim Riney for ironing out our technological glitches and making it fun.

Our Green Business Award, won by Angeloe’s Caffe on Pioneer Way, has morphed into the Whidbey Green Seal thanks to the work of Cathy D’Almeida and Britt Conn.  They put the check list online and made it a year round certification system.  Now over 40 organizations display the Green Seal on their window.  To find out how you could qualify “Google” Whidbey Green Seal.

My Waste Wise Holiday campaign started out slow with just 8 businesses offering discounts for gifts of experience to reduce trash over the holidays.  It grew to include over thirty businesses and ventured beyond the city limits with help from the WSU Waste Wise program including businesses in Langley, Freeland and Coupeville.  This year Island County Senior Services included it in their new SHOP LOCAL Coupon Book so now it’s year round and Island-wide.

My Bike to Work Month campaign, Like2Bike Whidbey, started just before the formation of the Whidbey Bike Club.  Working with Brian Wood, Matt Plush, Donna Keeler, Joyce Swanson, Janet Hall, Cathy D’Almeida, Terry Welch, Jerry Mingo, Arnie Peterschmidt, Rick Almberg and other super cyclists we got bikes in the Holland Happening parade, offered bike repair workshops, and our annual Free Breakfast for Car*Free Commuters went from Oak Harbor to include Coupeville and Freeland in the last 2 years.  The Most Miles in May Contest started with Mike Merickel taking first place with over 1,000 bike miles and has continued with prizes for adult and youth divisions.  Ride on!

I’ve met many of you at the Farmer’s Market each week in the summer.  Next year you’ll see my friends from the WSU Extension programs at the Market, Waste Wise, Beach Watchers, Shore Stewards, 4-H and others, so stop by and visit with them.

I worked closely with Janet Hall of the WSU Waste Wise program to start a new Compost Demonstration Site here at the Oak Harbor Public Works Shop.  We’ve diverted 25% of our lunch room garbage to the worm bins and in addition to offering classes on composting, were able to offer free red wigglers for worm bins to the public.  I’ve helped schools and businesses start worm bins, too.  Thanks to volunteer Ernie Branigh, Arnie Peterschmidt and Janet Hall, the worms will be fed and it will continue to serve the public on North Whidbey.

photo by Arnie Peterschmidt

 

Thanks to some hearty volunteers our Adopt-A-Street program is up and running.  The Key Club, Navy and individual volunteers have all been busy keeping the town cleaner and greener this year.

With help from the Parks Department we certified 4 City parks as Backyard Wildlife Sanctuaries which helped Whidbey Island qualify as a Community Wildlife Sanctuary.

This position has given me an opportunity to work with great school faculty and students, scout leaders, county staff, the conservation district, WSU Extension programs, regional environmental educators, service clubs, the Navy,  non-profit organizations and volunteers.  Your good energy is what makes the world go around.

Finally I want to thank the city staff here in Oak Harbor.  You’ve helped me gain insights and perspective.  I’ve benefited greatly from your support. My world is richer from the experience. Thank you all.  It’s been a pleasure to become friends and see how much can be done when we work together.

I don’t know where the New Year will take me but I hope what we’ve started here continues to grow.   Happy Holidays and look to the light!

 

Maribeth Crandell

 

Maribeth Crandell has a green thumb. Most of the rest of her is "green", as well. She's worked in city, state and national parks as a naturalist, educator and guide, on ships and on shore from the Columbia River to Southeast Alaska. She offers presentations for 6 year olds to seniors. She publishes articles, sings songs, plays the banjo and hikes trails. In fact, in 2006 she hiked the 2,000 mile long Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. She's been an educator for the Whidbey Institute, Fort Casey State Park, the Whidbey Watershed Stewards Outdoor Classroom, Island County Recycling, Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve and for 5 years worked as the Environmental Educator for the City of Oak Harbor. She's been a consistent voice on Whidbey Island leading the way toward sustainability. Because Maribeth has a green thumb, along with the rest of her.

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