Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ready to Save the World? Three Ways Your Local Weekly Newspaper Can Help!

Newspaper Dispensers
In Building Blocks, we looked at six practical components we could use to help design a life of intent.  One of those components was increasing knowledge and awareness of your community and the world around you. This component incorporates the permaculture principle of Observe & Interact (see here for the list of other permaculture principles).

Here’s where your local weekly paper comes in!

Now, you’re probably wondering how seemingly mundane tidbits such as wedding and birth announcements or coupon inserts will lead to personal enlightenment and help you save the world!  However, here are three ways your local weekly can be a powerful and invaluable tool for doing just that:

1. What’s Going On in Your Community?

Obviously, a weekly reports local news stories, but of particular interest for our purposes are the civic association columns. They’re a really great source for news and insights about issues of importance to the people in a community. They also highlight activities and events that association members organize to enhance the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors.  Due to my schedule, I am not able to attend my association’s monthly meetings, so I look forward to reading about them in the paper (Bronx Times Reporter). In addition to the civic columns, I of course enjoy reading any articles about green initiatives, but really, anything reflecting the care, commitment and pride residents take in where they live or work is also of interest.

Last year I was thrilled to learn that a member of the Locust Point Civic Association (Chrys Napolitano), in conjunction with Stoneledge Farm, was starting a CSA in her neighborhood, one of only two operating in the northeast Bronx.  CSAs (or community supported agriculture) allow smaller, local or regional farmers to sell their harvests directly to consumers (for more information see Building Blocks – Health & Fitness, but in particular, Just Food's site).  Chrys has also begun writing a biweekly column called Food for Thought, where she discusses sustainable food production, gardening, and how, as consumers, we can be more mindful about our food choices.

I find these two developments to be very exciting, and are just a couple of the many things I’ve learned reading my local weekly.

2. Who and How is it Getting Done?

My local weekly also regularly features articles about the efforts of local officials to address various issues. These types of articles will help you to keep up with what they are doing year round, and not just at election time.  They are often your first and last lines of recourse in getting a matter resolved.  From initiating or passing legislation, to allocating or advocating for additional funding to jump-start a project or initiative, they play a critical role in helping a community to function effectively.  This is especially true of problems that are persistent or recurring in nature.

One such situation involved a battle between a community group (the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance) and the city over how many trees would need to be removed to make way for a major road repair and improvement project.  This story unfolded in the paper over a period of about three years.  However, through the determined efforts of both sides, a mutually satisfactory solution was eventually reached.  Many more trees were preserved than originally specified in the city’s plans, while also accommodating construction needs. And again, this is just one example of information I gained by reading my weekly, reflecting what's possible when different constituencies work together to resolve a problem. See? Contrary to popular belief, you can fight City Hall and your local paper shows that!

3. How and Where Can You Spend Your "Green" Locally?

My local weekly regularly features articles about existing or new small businesses operating there.  As I will continually emphasize, economics is a key factor in a community’s health and resilience.  Local small businesses can be significant drivers of employment and entrepreneurial opportunity (see Saving the Mom & Pops: Ten Ways to Support Small Independent Retail Stores and Keep Manhattan Vibrant), so a decision to patronize them is a great way to contribute to your own community’s vitality while also reducing your carbon footprint!  Many of the businesses written about are often family owned and have been operating in their neighborhoods for years, maybe even passed down across a generation or two.  The proprietors always express great pride and enthusiasm about the goods and services they provide, and why they feel you won’t be disappointed if you shop at their establishments. Their success in turn attracts new businesses, whose owners often cite this positive atmosphere as one of the reasons they feel they too will be successful.

Shopping Local - Bryant Park

Finally, you might not have considered this, but your local weekly is itself a local institution in need of your support! As is the case with mine, some of the paper's staff may have grown up or currently live in the community.  Additionally, in my area, membership in one’s neighborhood civic association entitles you to a subscription to the paper.  So this is a convenient and easy way for me to circulate some of my own green locally, support my civic association and access all the great information the paper contains.  Looks like a with intent trifecta to me!

I hope you are beginning to see that there's far more to your local weekly than meets the eye. It is a huge window allowing you to observe who, what, where and how things get done in your community. As you get into the habit of reading it, you will eventually begin to see how you can connect and interact with your community in ways that are personally meaningful.  Caring about something is far easier when you’re familiar with it, and making good or better choices, including those related to the environment, are ultimately a natural consequence of caring.

Changing Your Intent

Observe & Interact: What You Can Do Right Now!

  1. If you already read or are a fan of your local weekly, give a shout-out here or on Facebook. Not yet acquainted with your local weekly? What are you waiting for?! Check it out and report back!
  2. Leave a comment here or on Facebook, about one thing you learned about your community that you didn’t know before, or an activity that you have or will participate in as a result of reading your local weekly.

Happy reading!


  1. My local weekly is the Bronx Times Reporter, where I recently read about a Bronx Council for Arts Tuesdays Networking Event. I'm a Poet, and attending this will allow me to learn more about artists in my area, as well as share info. about a workshop I'll be conducting soon. I'd also like to talk about collaborating on art works with themes around living in a more environmentally conscious way.

  2. Interesting article. Frankly I hadn't previously given that much consideration to the value of the local weeklies in my neighborhood. You definitely raise several good points. -jl

  3. Thanks pataplan! Hope you'll give your weekly(s) a whirl. :-)