Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Putnam RISE: Taking Sustainability to the Next Level

Representatives of Putnam RISE and the Putnam County Community Foundation pause for a photo at the Putnam County Community Foundation's Envision 2011 grant presentation.

Nearly two years ago, a group of more than 100 citizens representing diverse interests got together to develop environmental solutions to strengthen our community, economy, culture and quality of life.

That gathering turned out to be the origin of the Greencastle Sustainability Commission, and since that time, this new organization has been hard at work. We've developed partnerships that have re-invigorated and expanded our Farmer's Market. We've opened pathways and connector trails throughout the city. Our community garden helps bring fresh produce to food pantries. And, along with Duke Energy, we've engaged community schools in an energy conservation challenge. These are just a few of our accomplishments, but the greatest of all, perhaps, is that we've done all of this at minimal cost to the taxpayers.

Just last week, we received news that will help take the community's sustainability efforts to the next level. The Putnam County Community Foundation awarded a $100,000 Envision 2011 grant to Putnam RISE (Renewal, Investment, Savings and Efficiency), an initiative of the Sustainability Commission. The Vectren Foundation joined in as well, providing an additional $25,000 grant.

So, what does Putnam RISE plan to accomplish?

Putnam RISE will educate the county's citizens about ways to become more energy efficient. It also will stimulate the local economy through energy efficiency investments in schools, neighborhoods and homes. In addition, the group seeks to produce double digit increases in energy consumption in Putnam County school facilities; secure energy savings through cash incentives for resource-challenged schools; obtain more than 2,000 home energy savings pledges; provide 100 residential energy audits; conduct a "Green Home Makeover" program that will select one low-income household to receive $15,000 in energy efficiency upgrades; and weatherize 21 homes.

It's a pretty ambitious agenda.

But let me share with you who's a part of Putnam RISE, and you'll understand why this initiative has the potential to become a national model for sustainability: North Putnam Community School Corporation, South Putnam Community School Corporation, Cloverdale Community School Corporation, Greencastle Community School Corporation, City of Greencastle Commission on Sustainability, Greencastle Chamber of Commerce, Greencastle Presbyterian Church, Greencastle Civic League, Shuee & Sons Great Buys Plus, The Window Place, Smiley's Heating & Air-Conditioning, and Insulation Supply Co.

Clearly, this is a long list of partners, and it gets to the heart of what sets Greencastle - and Putnam County, for that matter - apart from other communities our size. It's what I like to call the "Greencastle Effect," where we channel our energy and optimism into meaningful contributions that will ultimately impact future generations.

There's no doubt we live in tough times. But with initiatives like Putnam RISE, supporters like the Putnam County Community Foundation and Vectren, we have an opportunity before us to weather these difficult times, and move our community forward - together.

Mayor Sue Murray

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