Last month, the Coalition gained our newest member, Transition Howard County. Transition is an all-volunteer organization based in Ellicott City, Maryland, that focuses their work on building better communities throughout Howard County by means of sustainability and resilience. We had the pleasure of speaking with Steering Committee Chair Margo Duesterhaus, to learn more about the ins and outs of this local organization.
Tell us about your organization and your mission:
Transition Howard County is a nonprofit focused on creating sustainable and thriving communities within Howard County. We are part of the national Transition US movement that provides inspiration, encouragement, support, and networking, committed to building resilience across a wide range of social needs such as food, water, health, economics, and energy. Transition US is in close partnership with the international Transition Network, a United Kingdom-based organization that supports the Transition movement worldwide. Transition Network provides a global platform for expressing and exchanging ideas and projects that demonstrate Transition principles. Transition Howard County is the 144th officially recognized Transition Initiative in the United States and is the first official Transition Initiative in Maryland. Our mission is to promote practical solutions for Howard County’s transition to greater sustainability. Our tag line is “Live Local and Prosper!”
Transition Howard County has been in existence since 2012 and has over 1,000 members. We partner with numerous other organizations that are focused on sustainability, including businesses, government agencies, and other nonprofits. Our activities include Repair Cafés, book discussions, movie nights, field trips to local farms, socials, leaf parties, and educational events on a variety of topics including easy gardening, climate change, healthy food, land use, community health, and community solar and other forms of renewable energy. We participate in other coalitions such as the Local Health Improvement Coalition and the Howard County Climate Action Collaboration. We publish an electronic newsletter that highlights our activities as well as other local sustainability events. We have several active Google email groups that are focused on discussing different aspects of sustainability such as food and economy. Our web site is www.transtionhoco.org and our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/TransitionHoCo.
What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?
Transition Howard County is very excited to create the Maryland Fibershed. A fibershed is a cradle-to-cradle system of creating clothes from regionally grown fibers, natural dyes, and local talent. Similar to the local food movement, a fibershed is the new local clothing movement. The fibershed concept started in California and is spreading around the globe with the creation of numerous regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere, including our watershed.
Transition Howard County's goal is to grow a resilient and local textile supply chain in Maryland. The Maryland Fibershed will increase interest in using local, sustainable materials among fiber artists, hobbyists, and clothing makers. Transition Howard County has created the free Maryland Fibershed Directory to promote the organizations that are part of the Maryland Fibershed to help people and organizations easily find local fiber suppliers and customers. The directory includes farmers, ranchers, mill owners, felters, spinners, weavers, natural dyers, and more. Any organization that is primarily located in Maryland and participates in any part of the fiber lifecycle can be listed in this directory.
Transition Howard County wants to help local fibershed organizations thrive. The directory is just the first step. A variety of activities are being planned to increase interest in local fiber supplies and products, such as tours of organizations that are part of the Fibershed. We are also exploring other ways to help connect Fibershed organizations with each other to share sustainable practices and develop a stronger local economy.
What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?
One issue area that we are planning to focus more on is agriculture. We want to see more local food produced in Howard County so we are working on plans for a Transition Incredible Edible Garden. This will start as a small herb and vegetable garden in a public community space at a senior center in Columbia. It will be a visually attractive landscape to show how lawns can be transformed to produce food and better manage stormwater. We want to start an inclusive conversation around a lifestyle of eating our landscapes. The motto is “If you eat, you’re in!” The harvest of the garden will be free to anyone who wants to stop by and pick some berries or take some herbs.
We plan to partner with other local groups to engage the community in the volunteer efforts to start and maintain the garden and share the produce. We hope this first garden will inspire many more around Howard County. We are already in conversation with organizations about installing a Transition Incredible Edible Garden in their public spaces. These gardens will enable people to participate in positive actions and be part of solutions that provide resilience in our own communities. Food can be a unifying action that helps people see the need to find new ways of living in conjunction with nature and wildlife for the benefit of our watershed.
What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?
Transition Howard County is very happy to join the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Partnering with other organizations is the key to success. While each organization has its own goals, we are all stronger and more effective by collaborating together. We are impressed with the work of the Coalition, including the successful advocacy for the pipeline ban in Maryland. Through the Coalition we hope to learn about and support activities of other member organizations that are in alignment with Transition Howard County’s goals. We also hope to share information about our activities that may be of interest to other coalition members. Clean water is critically important to life on this planet and this coalition will help us keep up with the issues and advocacy in the Chesapeake watershed.