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SCALLOPS helping to build local, sustainable communities - Sound News

SCALLOPS helping to build local, sustainable communities

By Sound News reporter Maggie Murdoch

Sitting around the dinner table in early 2008, Joann Kerr, Susan Gregory, and Carol Kibble had a realization.  Major environmental problems faced the Puget Sound and indeed, the world, but they did not know how to tackle those issues alone.  Kerr, Gregory, and Kibble, all mothers, worried about what the world would be like in the future for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren.  They realized that they needed the help and support of many individuals, but felt isolated even from people who lived down the block.  So they connected into a grass-roots Puget Sound-based network of groups formed by people like themselves who share the goal of protecting the natural resources that are so valuable to them, their communities, and life itself.

The network, called Sustainable Communities All Over Puget Sound, or SCALLOPS, is what its name implies—small groups of people concerned about the human impact on the environment.  Initiated in 2007 by Neva Walton and Vic Opperman, founders of Sustainable Bainbridge and Sustainable Ballard, respectively, SCALLOPS brings together smaller neighborhood-scale groups and encourages networking, idea-sharing, and problem-solving.  SCALLOPS is currently in the process of becoming a non-profit, a legal status which will then be conferred to the smaller groups.  This status allows the groups tax-exemption on fundraising and legitimatizes their cause.  Since 2007, SCALLOPS has grown from just three groups to over 60 that represent areas all over the Puget Sound region.

Over 60 communities around Puget Sound have neighborhood or regional Sustainable groups.  Map by Google maps.

Over 60 communities around Puget Sound have neighborhood or regional Sustainable groups. Map by Google maps.

Walton, who co-founded Sustainable Bainbridge in 2005, says of her inspiration for forming SCALLOPS, “we saw other groups doing their thing, but not a lot of collaboration, partnerships, and networking and looking at the larger sustainable picture…lots was wasted, a lot of opportunities missed.  We said, let’s start looking at sustainability as a whole system, including the environment, the economy, the social aspect, and build partnerships to strengthen the health of the community…We need to accelerate change by working together.”

Although each Sustainable group operates on its own by conducting its own meetings and working on their own projects, leaders come together biannually to discuss ideas, problems, and simply get to know each other.  Says Walton, “you cannot minimize the importance of building relationships,” and SCALLOPS offers a way for isolated groups to do just that.  As a larger entity, SCALLOPS is the public face for all the small groups, which enables them access to more press and causes government officials to take them more seriously.

With this support network as a model, Kerr, Gregory, and Kibble went on to found Sustainable NE Seattle.  Like the other SCALLOPS groups, Sustainable NE Seattle builds community as it focuses on solutions to problems such as global warming, peak oil, and local sources of pollution that degrade the natural beauty and health of the Puget Sound ecosystem.  Their group now holds regular meetings meant to educate their membership on environmental problems and to encourage solution-oriented action.

For instance, Gregory opened up her back yard last summer as part of an edible garden tour in NE Seattle.  “We wanted to show our neighbors how easy and fun it can be to grow your own organic food!  And by doing so, people can reduce the amount of pesticides that go into rivers and streams, as well as cut out all the greenhouse gases from transporting food from miles and miles away. ”

The warm smile on Gregory’s face as she speaks reveals the satisfaction she gets from eating homegrown food, and the joy she receives from getting to know the people who live a stone’s throw away.

For more information about SCALLOPS, please visit http://scallopswa.org.  SCALLOPS is currently in the process of building a networking website that will allow every group to link to each other but for now, there is no central location to access each Sustainable group.  To learn more about the specific groups mentioned in this blog, and the type of work they do, check out the following links:

Sustainable Ballard
Sustainable Bainbridge
Sustainable NE Seattle

You can also visit SCALLOPS and meet representatives from many area Sustainable groups at the 2009 Green Fest

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  1. I never even knew this was a real thing, thanks for this story.