Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sustainability in the Pioneer Valley

Among our shared interests at Khandroling Paper Cooperative are the many faces of sustainability in Western Massachusetts where we are located.

One of the missions of  the handmade paper movement is to move away from wood based paper pulps towards fibers that can be cultivated or pulp made from recycled papers or recycled cotton "rags." Although handmade paper is primarily the provence of artists here in the US, nevertheless it is important to understand the enormous cost to the planet in the use of wood based pulps. Such practices are especially important for many countries where deforestation is an ecological disaster. Making handmade paper sustains the livelihood of whole villages in places like India and Nepal. We here at Khandroling Paper Cooperative believe that it can sustain us too. Our coop members offer their services for free and all courses are by donation. Some products are also by donation.

[Photo above: Kathleen recycling an old linen table cloth for the Hollander beater to make pulp]

Stone Soup Cafe
Beyond our focus on papermaking, there are many exciting initiatives happening in the valley.  One such initiative I love as a low-income senior is Bernie Glassman Roshi's inspired soup kitchen in Greenfeld called Stone Soup Cafe which provides a weekend nourishing meal. Every Saturday, they serve a kick-ass (excuse the expression) dynamic lunch (mostly vegan/gluten free) that is exquisitely prepared and presented. The entire venue is uplifted with tablecloths, wrapped cutlery, flowers, and candles. There is also live music with local musicians.  Bernie Glassman and his Peacekeeper's have established an environment that cultivates egalitarian principles and provides far more than just a meal. They also nourish through offering wellness services such as free acupunture, a family-friendly place to socialize, and an internship program to train unemployed individuals in food service.

Sitting at our table, we were graced with some interesting women who sat with us-- one a Basque/Apache young mother with a law degree from Harvard and her two kids; A South African elderly lady dressed elegantly in red and with long silver braids who spoke of her social activism for decades, and another woman--one of the main cooks for the day, who is a women's studies major at Mt. Holyoke College. At the next table were two young mothers passing out free samples of their medicinal herbal infusions for free made at their medicine farm.  I signed up to receive notice when they harvest a variety of herbs such nettles, red clover and oats. Their mission: "To bring medicine to the people."

Time Banking
Another innovative program I have discovered here in the Pioneer Valley is Time Banking, an international movement that takes simple bartering/trading to a sophisticated level creating supportive community service that functions on a non-cash basis where the only currency is Time. I am very excited about Khandroling Paper Cooperative joining the local Pioneer Valley Time Bank where we can offer local artists an opportunity to intern with us on special projects. Their Mission statement is meaningful and not unlike Stone Soup Cafe.

Valley Time Trade's mission is to: Connect people and unmet needs with untapped resources; Provide economic relief through access to alternative resources; Encourage increased community interaction, wherein people help themselves and others; Foster mutual respect for all individuals in a community and bridge gaps between existing barriers; and Promote equality, recognizing that all services are necessary to society and equally valuable.

As we explore more, I'll be reporting on other sustainable activities in the Pioneer Valley. If you have any organizations you would recommend, write me.

Jacqueline Gens

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