Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive

A new article published by the Institute for Local Self Reliance has found that communities where small, locally owned businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks, more engaged citizens, and better success solving problems.

“It wasn’t until the 20th century that this tenet of American political thought was fully superseded by the consumer-focused, bigger-is-better ideology that now dominates our economic policy-making. Ironically, the shift happened just as social scientists were furnishing the first bona fide empirical evidence linking economic scale to civic engagement.

Community Friendly Business“In 1946, Walter Goldschmidt, a USDA sociologist, produced a groundbreaking study comparing two farming towns in California that were almost identical in every respect but one: Dinuba’s economy was composed mainly of family farms, while Arvin’s was dominated by large agribusinesses. Goldschmidt found that Dinuba had a richer civic life, with twice the number of community organizations, twice the number of newspapers, and citizens who were much more engaged than those in Arvin. Not surprisingly, Dinuba also had far superior public infrastructure: In both quality and quantity, the town’s schools, parks, sidewalks, paved streets, and garbage services far surpassed those of Arvin.

“At about the same time, two other sociologists, C. Wright Mills and Melville J. Ulmer, were undertaking a similar study of several pairs of manufacturing cities in the Midwest. Their research, conducted on behalf of a congressional committee, found that communities comprised primarily of small, locally owned businesses took much better care of themselves. They beat cities dominated by large, absentee-owned firms on more than 30 measures of well-being, including such things as literacy, acreage of public parks, extent of poverty, and the share of residents who belonged to civic organizations.”

Read more here…

Wood Pellet Stoves for Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Wood Pellet Stove ReportStarfish has been working on a sustainable heating initiative as part of Farming the Sun for several years. This initiative is currently focussed in the High Country region of NSW. While there are a wide range of benefits from sustainable heating, the particular need in this instance is to address serious wood smoke pollution issues which are impacting on air quality and public health.

A new Report, “Wood Pellet Stoves for Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Reduction”, has just been released. One of the recommendations from the research is to consider establishing a discounted bulk-buy arrangement for pellet heaters modelled on Starfish’s Farming the Sun initiative.

To quote from the Report: “Domestic space heating in many cold regions of Australia is usually supplied by heaters running on solid wood, gas or electricity. All three fuel sources usually emit large quantities of greenhouse gases. Firewood collection for wood heaters has serious impacts on biodiversity. Wood heaters emit smoke and other gases which cause serious health problems. This research looked at pellet heaters as an alternative home heating option, to see if they could reduce wood smoke pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity impacts, using the Northern Tablelands of NSW as a case study.”

While Starfish is currently focussed on an innovative and energy efficient solar thermal heating and cooling technology, pellet heaters are a further sustainable heating option well worthy of consideration.

Download a free copy of the Report here

Show Your Support ~ BackTrack Classroom & Gallery

offers young people who have lost their way an opportunity to reconnect with their education and training, to become work ready, find jobs, lead happy and productive lives and participate fully in the community.

BackTrack have recently expanded their Armidale work to include a two-day per week school with real teachers working with real kids toughing it out the best they can in a real world.

In the same space a gallery is also being created. This will display and sell some of the cracking art and welding gear made by young rookies working with talented artist and youth worker Matt Pilkington.

The classroom/gallery in true BackTrack style is a shed ~ hot in summer and likely to be near freezing in winter.

That is unless some urgent funds are secured to upgrade the facility.

If you are willing to vote your support for BackTrack’s newest initiative they will go into the running for a $10,000 grant from Community Mutual Group. This will go a long way to covering the costs for the upgrade… and making a real difference to the lives of many young people finding their way again. BackTrack has a real track record in achieving such results.

To show your support, simply go to the Heart of the Community, join the website site and make your vote for the BackTrack Classroom & Gallery.

Starfish is currently working with BackTrack to expand their work across multiple communities and locations. See here for more details.

More details about BackTrack here

Australia’s Second Community Wind Farm is Live

[frame src=”http://starfishenterprises.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/OpenBusinessDenmark.jpg” width=”625″ height=”270″ lightbox=”on” title=”Denmark Community Wind Farm ~ Open for Business!” align=”left” ]

Australia’s second community wind farm ~ Denmark Community Wind Farm ~ has officially started producing energy. Denmark follows Hepburn Wind which was Australia’s first, and both are leading more than five dozen other community energy projects which are under development across Australia. Most of these have a solar focus, however there are also several more wind farms and a few micro-hydro.

Community energy presents an incredible opportunity for rural communities. Locally owned energy brings significant economic and financial benefits, for local shareholders, supply businesses and the energy users. Renewable energy is profoundly more environmentally benign that existing fossil fuel electricity and the social dividends are significant, particularly from the focus on energy affordability and education rather than profit.

Starfish is working on several community energy projects: New England Wind, Farming the Sun, the North Coast Energy Forum and is a founding member of the Coalition for Community Energy (watch this space for news of this new initiative soon!).

Read more about Denmark Community Wind Farm here

Community Ownership Transforming our Energy Systems

Cooperatives Driving the New EconomyCharles Cotton never gave much thought to the fact that he owns a piece of Jackson Energy Cooperative, the utility that delivers power to his home in Berea, Ky. His grandparents used to go every year to the co-op’s annual meeting and cook-out, where member-owners elect representatives and vote on cooperative business, but Cotton himself has never gone. He uses Jackson Energy simply because it’s the only utility serving his region.

But last November, Cotton’s membership paid off in a way he hadn’t expected: The cooperative gave him an energy upgrade, installing a plastic moisture barrier underneath his house and replacing his old furnace with an efficient heat pump. Cotton’s home now feels warmer and his electric bills have dropped significantly, but he never paid a dime up front.

Jackson Energy’s status as a cooperative led directly to Cotton’s retrofit.

Starfish’s community energy initiatives: Farming the Sun, New England Wind, North Coast Energy Forum
Find out more…
Source: Yes!

Shebeen ~ True Responsible Drinking

Shebeen | MelbourneA new Melbourne bar is serving up beer from developing countries with the profits going to projects in the country of origin. Jackie Hanafie puts the spotlight on this emerging social enterprise.

Shebeen takes its name from the illegal drinking dens of South Africa and Zimbabwe that sprang up during apartheid.

The way it works, in theory, is simple. Buy a beer that’s been imported from a developing country and the profit will be funnelled back to projects in that beer’s country of origin.

Cosily tucked away in Melbourne’s Manchester Lane, everything you see in the bar is second hand, mostly sourced from salvage yards. The chairs are made from an old school’s woodwork class while the tables were put together from old hoarding board from construction sites.

Starfish also utilises enterprise to create social change. See our community enterprises here.

Find out more…
Source: ProBono News

Feldheim ~ Germany’s energy self-sufficient village

Nations as diverse as North Korea and the United States have sent delegations to visit a tiny village in former East Germany to see how it has transformed the way it uses energy.

A 60-minute drive south of Berlin and home to about 125 people, Feldheim is Germany’s first and only energy self-sufficient village and attracts both international energy experts and politicians.

“We’re seen as pioneers and the world wants to know whether they can duplicate our success,” said Joachim Gebauer, a 55-year-old former teacher who guides visitors through the remote hamlet.

“No coal or gas is burned here, it’s all clean.”

Instead, Feldheim is powered by a mix of 43 wind turbines, a woodchip-fired heating plant and a biogas plant that uses cattle and pig slurry as well as maize silage.

Local energy costs of 16.6 euro cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) are just a little more than half of the 27-30 cents Germans pay on average, according to the New Energies Forum Feldheim, an information center.

Starfish is working with the New England High Country and NSW North Coast regions to create sustainable energy systems with high levels of local community ownership. See New England Wind, Farming the Sun and North Coast Energy Forum.

Find out more…
Source: PlanetArk

North Coast Energy Forum: Lismore

CLAIM THE DATE ||| 31 May 2013 |||

The North Coast Energy Forum is back this year and will be holding a day-long forum in Lismore 31 May. The goal of this grassroots initiative, founded in 2010, is to help the North Coast “grow its own” sustainable energy system.

“After two highly successful events in Bellingen in 2010 and Mullumbimby in 2011 we thought it was time to take a step back and see how things developed locally”, said forum convenor Mark Byrne.

Starfish is a long-term partner of the Forum, a member of the Organising Committee and Forum Facilitator.

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Plans Unveiled for 400kW Community Solar Park

The first large community solar project in the city of Sydney is to be unveiled today when the not-for-profit community advisory group Embark and property giant Lend Lease announce plans for a 400kW rooftop solar PV system in the convention centre to be built in Darling Harbour.

The Sydney Community Solar project is the first of a number of projects currently being negotiated or advised by Embark. This includes similar deals with project developers in major cities, ranging in size from 100kW to several hundred kWs, as well as a series of installation on commercial rooftops in regional NSW being proposed by Starfish Enterprises, in conjunction with Embark.

Find out more…
Source: ReNew Economy

How communities can take lead in green energy

The Middlegrunden wind farm in Denmark was the first offshore wind farm to be owned by a community-based co-operative.

Community ownership [of renewable energy] is common in Europe and other countries. In Germany and Denmark, the countries with the most ambitious renewable policies, it is a fundamental part of their clean energy strategy. Even if the numbers in dollar terms are relatively small, it has granted the social licence to invest the hundreds of billions necessary for the clean energy transformation.

But in Australia, it is a resource that is largely untouched…

That may be about to change. In the next few weeks, a NSW organization hopes to unveil plans for up to ten community-owned solar installations totalling 1MW of installed capacity across the state.

Read more