Solar Co-ops: Neighborhood “Solar Support Groups” Reap Big Savings

This article, by Andrew Schein and Kara Turtinen, originally appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of the Green American.    Visit the Green America Web site to subscribe to the Green American.

When Tim O’Neil approached fellow Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association member Stephanie Stewart in 2009 about starting a solar buying cooperative in their suburban Portland community, she loved the idea.

“Literally within a couple of days, Stephanie had created a Web site and a logo,” says O’Neil.

Then O’Neil and Stewart turned to Lizzie Rubado of the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon to help them put together workshops on installing solar panels. Originally, the new team expected to sign up 50 or so people, and they hoped that about 10-20 would go through with the installation. After all, 2008 saw only 38 solar panel installations across the entire city of Portland, Rubado says.

To their surprise, about 300 people signed up for what would become the Solarize Portland solar buying co-op. One-hundred and twenty homeowners installed solar panels that year.

Continue reading “Solar Co-ops: Neighborhood “Solar Support Groups” Reap Big Savings”

Crafting Change: Our Fair Trade Tour

posted by Fair Trade coordinator, Elizabeth O’Connell

The Crafting Change crew

On May 10th 2011, I embarked on a 16-day adventure that would take me from San Francisco all the way up to Seattle and over to Spokane.  No, this was not a vacation in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but an educational speaking tour called “Crafting Change: A Fair Trade Tour”.

I was joined by Sonia Anahue Uscamate, a Fair Trade jewelry maker from Peru, and Carrie Hawthorne, the executive director of Partners for Just Trade, a Fair Trade organization here in the US that imports Fair Trade artisan goods from Peru.

The goal of this tour was to connect American consumers with producers from around the world. These relationships are at the heart of Fair Trade.  In spite of having never visited the US before, not speaking English, and having to travel here on her own, Sonia graciously agreed to join us for almost three weeks and share her story more than twenty times.  Being able to hear Sonia’s story in her own words, from her own mouth is extremely powerful, and confirms that Fair Trade truly can be a means for sustainable economic development around the world.

Continue reading “Crafting Change: Our Fair Trade Tour”