By Lin Smith
January 26, 2014—Sustain-A-Raising is a volunteer program, neighbor helping neighbor, patterned after the old fashioned barn raising in which the community members, unpaid, help a neighbor construct a new barn. This was prevalent in the 1700′s, in North America, until the turn of the 20th century and is still ongoing today in the Amish communities. I grew up in a small rural town near an Amish community, and was privileged to attend a barn raising which my friend, John (not Amish), held years ago. The result was a barn that has lasted over the years, housing various animals and many bales of hay. The community built the barn and the Amish, known for their roofing abilities, roofed it in the weeks following. Yes, we all worked together!
Working Together For A Sustainable Community
Sustain-A-Raiser uses the “barn raising”, community volunteer, paying-it-forward, neighbor-helping-neighbor technique to promote sustainable self-sufficiency for individuals, installing compost bins, rain barrels, clotheslines (solar dryers!), raised garden beds, solar hot water systems, and other renewable resource equipment for a person’s home and yard, one household at a time. This program even offers “zero carbon lawn maintenance”–yup! The old fashioned rotary mower!
Using The Barn Raising Method
Sustain-A-Raiser was started in 2010 by Joshua Arnold and a community of people in Lakes Region, New Hampshire, restoring an old grange hall using the barn raising method. Arnold is the Founding Director of Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A), the organization behind the Sustain-A-Raiser. He states, “Looking at the coming impact of things like climate change and the economy, we want to be able to weather these challenges, to adapt, and to thrive through them. We are using the barn raising method to mobilize an unstoppable network of volunteers.The response has been really positive so far,” Arnold said. “We customize a solution for each person, and we try to address any of the physical, financial, or convenience barriers that prevent people from adopting more sustainable living.” His hope is to ignite a global movement, neighbor-helping-neighbor, in creating sustainable home and yard makeovers, helping the planet one house, one yard, at a time. “As our environmental crises continues to mount, our window of time to solve these problems quickly closes.” The window of time being the 400ppm of CO2 recently measured in our atmosphere, which is far beyond the safe limit for our planet. “We cannot afford to wait for experts or governments to solve our problems,” states Arnold.
Back To The Basics: Less CO2 in Our Atmosphere
Here are the statistics that Sustain-A-Raiser hopes to incorporate: One clothesline can prevent 1,800 lbs. of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere. One rain barrel can conserve 1,300 gallons of water each year (depending on your climate), one compost bin can divert 350 lbs. of food waste from the landfill yearly. Sustain-A-Raising’s goal is to get 250,000 households to follow their lead, saving 45 million lbs. of carbon from being dumped into the air by clothes dryers alone!
Sustain-A-Raiser’s emulation of the Amish community offers a “back to basics” solution we can all benefit from, individually, socially, and globally. The self-sufficiency of maintaining lawns, gardens, and homes enables people to get outside, away from technology, not only benefiting and restoring their property, but also restoring health of mind and body. It provides a way to learn new skills that are beneficial to our planet, instead of the damaging methods that have become the standard for “easier” living. The Amish think of a hard day’s work as one of the most important things in life, getting their hands dirty to maintain a household or help a neighbor maintain theirs- refusing to accept the ready-made world around them. Sustain-A-Raiser is helping people get back to the basics, helping neighbors to explore and incorporate sustainability into their every day life, returning to the old values for a healthy future!