Category Archives: Social Responsibility

Hiding in Plain Sight

Vermont Public Radio commentator Andrea Learned chimed in today with a piece called “Sustainable Waldo.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to nudge more people toward sustainable living practices.  While switching out light bulbs and recycling as much as possible are both easy ways to start that process, what comes next? … we may now need to focus on places where sustainability is hidden in plain sight…  Remember the “Where’s Waldo” books?  Darned if he wasn’t right in front of your nose and you didn’t see him.  So where are some sustainability Waldos?

One great example might lie in urban density and community transportation planning issues… Gardening is another activity where sustainability may be hiding in plain sight.

And what about neighborhood involvement, as supported by services like Vermont’s own Front Porch Forum, which host networks of online neighbor-to-neighbor help and information. Communities built on stronger interpersonal relationships and citizen interconnections help build more long-term, sustainable views on big, challenging issues.  Whether or not citizens see this as sustainability doesn’t really matter.  They are responding to powerful, sustainability-promoting, shared values.

She’s got a point!  Sometimes we talk about FPF’s larger community benefits… but most of the time when chatting with folks, we focus on the direct and obvious benefits… use FPF to find an affordable plumber or ride to Boston, to report a car break-in to neighbors, to sell a bike or give away a stroller.

Christian Science Monitor: Maybe FPF better than good fences

Carrie Leber writes on The Christian Science Monitor website about the challenges of living with difficult neighbors.  Her bottom line…

Maybe Internet forums, not fences, are what make good neighbors.

After discussing her own hard-to-live-with neighbors, she says…

Ironically, rather than face-to-face discussions, it may be that the Internet is the best source of info about potentially exasperating neighbors. You can go to sites like RudeNeighbor.com, where people post items about loud parties and bad behavior.

Although researching online kvetching about your potential neighborhood is one option, I really like the notion of the Front Porch Forum.

Started by Michael Woods-Lewis and his wife, Valerie, about 10 years ago, Front Porch Forum is comprised of groupings of neighborhoods in Vermont, each of about 400 homes. People sign up and must clearly identify themselves (no anonymous ravings), and then post items of concern or interest to local neighbors.

To date, 17,000 households across 25 towns in that state interact and discuss what’s going on in their neck of the woods.

What’s key about FrontPorchForum is that it is a micro-community, not a giant group of users such as on Facebook or Twitter. And while the geography of the organization to date has been limited to the Vermont area, FPF will set up a forum in any area for a fee. Or you could start one of your own!

From a real estate perspective, this is a great option for giving insight to prospective buyers about the nature and zeitgeist of a neighborhood. Had there been a forum for my community in Connecticut, I most likely would have seen the many qualms others in the area have had with the infamous Mary and Jerry over the years (no, their ire has not just been focused on me).