by Caroline and Kirk Ritchey
Four years ago, after meeting at a Transition Town training, a group from the Woodstock area began holding gatherings and film screenings, marking the beginning of Woodstock Transition. These events provided information about global challenges and presented empowering alternative models. Only 15 months later, over 380 town residents attended our dynamic community forum, the Woodstock Transition Festival. A dozen working groups were formed, each with a particular interest and a willingness to gather information and to take action to build resilience in Woodstock. (The article Woodstock Garden Share in the April 2015 issue of CWN detailed the evolution of one of these groups). In the subsequent two and a half years, the working groups have undergone mission rewrites, name changes, consolidations, dissolutions, and new formations. They have experienced successful collaborations and celebrations, frustrations and a few misunderstandings, and countless delicious potluck meals. Today we are moving forward and keeping the long view in our hearts and minds.
After we rested up from all the fun work to put on our festival in September 2012, we realized that although the Transition Town Movement provided guiding principles and suggested ingredients, there were still many undefined aspects of our initiative. What constitutes membership? How do we make decisions? Do we have any rules? The Wednesday Night Group formed to create a structure to facilitate and support the growth of the Transition Movement in Woodstock. We met in the Woodstock Library weekly for six months to produce our very own constitution. Deep bonds were forged during this period of intense engagement about how best to codify our values. We happily celebrated the implementation of our constitution, eager to redirect our efforts into our working groups. While there was some sweet sadness about the dissolution of the Wednesday Night Group, we knew many of us would reconvene at our monthly Working Group Council meetings. Council meetings provide a forum for keeping abreast of the activities of all Woodstock Transition’s working groups.
The Woodstock Organic Waste (WOW) working group was formed in early 2013, with the mission of lowering the use of plastic by local retailers. After WOW learned that Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) has an industrial composting facility that processes organic waste into valuable compost for local farms and gardens, their vision expanded to support the establishment of an organic waste hauling system. WOW volunteers now organize the separation of compostable trash at the weekly Woodstock Farm Festival. In April 2014, WOW inspired the Woodstock Town Board to adopt a resolution requiring all town facilities to separate their organic waste for composting, and requesting all local establishments to do the same. WOW’s ultimate goal is ambitious, and a small, dedicated group perseveres to see it through to fruition.
Working Group Support offers support to other working groups. They practice the art of listening, and they study tools for effective group process and conflict resolution. They cultivate their own inner capacities to respond rather than react to changing conditions on our planet. Members of Working Group Support deeply appreciate their weekly meetings where they explore the practical skills, as well as the inner transition, required for us to work together.
Green Energy works to increase energy efficiency and the use of green energy technologies. The Group informs town residents about state-sponsored programs that help us make our buildings more energy efficient. Green Energy has collaborated with RUPCO to enroll homeowners in free NYSERDA Home Energy Assessments. An event co-sponsored by Catskill Mountainkeeper explained how to purchase electricity from Green ESCOs. This summer, Green Energy will be partnering in Woodstock with Solarize Hudson Valley’s neighbor-to-neighbor outreach program to expand solar electric energy. Look for more events that inform local residents how to decrease energy use from fossil fuels and save money.
Woodstock Transition is a young volunteer organization comprised of self-organized working groups. We have touched on a few of the groups and their collaborations with other local organizations here, but there are many more. And we have more ideas than we have time and energy to implement. It is easy to fall prey to focusing on what is not happening yet, but so vitally important to celebrate and share what we have accomplished.
All working group meetings and the monthly Working Group Council meeting are open to anyone interested in joining or observing. The full list of working groups with contact information and subscription to our email list can be found at WoodstockNYTransition.org. We seek to tap the creative energy of our neighbors and ourselves to build a resilient community, and to have fun along the way. Come find out more about us at our monthly Working Group Council Meeting, the first Thursday of every month at the Woodstock Library, 6:30pm!