“There’s a good vibe out here,” reports Island Institute Fellow Amanda Ravenhill from her home on Islesford. A longtime seasonal resident, Ravenhill recently spent her first winter on Islesford, filling a fellow position that was vacated last spring when Eric Dyer took a full-time position with the Town of Cranberry Isles. 

Ravenhill is particularly interested in sustainability issues including local food and energy production and climate change, and her fellowship has coincided with efforts within the Cranberry Isles to examine these very issues. 

But although it is difficult to distinguish the line between her duties as a fellow and her duties as a citizen, the fellowship experience has expanded her involvement with the town and enabled her to capitalize on the enthusiasm for sustainability efforts in the Cranberry Isles.

In March, the selectmen of the Town of Cranberry Isles signed the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, establishing the town as the 811th , and smallest, municipality pledging to reduce global-warming pollution to seven percent below 1990 levels, by 2012. In addition, the town authorized $10,000 to promote and support “green” community projects and agreed to purchase electrical power for municipal needs from a renewable-energy provider.

This commitment was motivated by the Cranberry Isles Sustainability Initiative (CISI), “a forum to discuss ideas, promote projects and implement solutions that ensure a healthy future for our community and environment.”  Amanda provides community-outreach and other support for this organization, enabling her to interact with many different Islesford and Great Cranberry community members about how Cranberry Isles can become more sustainable. 

In addition to a Web site with an active community bulletin board, the CISI’s most recent projects include two major energy studies. An energy audit will inventory the community’s energy use and, by examining four different homes, will focus on best practices for increasing energy efficiency of buildings throughout the town. A renewable energy study is simultaneously investigating possibilities for increased energy efficiency as well as the potential for energy generation on the islands. 

As part of her outreach for these efforts, Ravenhill has been teaching the older students at the Islesford School about the effects of climate change. “Sea-level rise really struck a chord with them,” she says, and the students decided to do a public-awareness campaign that will culminate in a “Sustainability Soiree” this Memorial Day, as well as the conclusion of a project that will hang student-designed posters to mark the future high-tide line.

Ravenhill is also assisting with the Islesford Buying Club, helping coordinate 22 households who receive shares of produce from the Crown of Maine organic co-operative. Meetings and distributions have turned into interesting community auctions, she jokes: “who wants five pounds of rutabaga?  Do I hear ten pounds?”

Says Amanda: “I do a little bit of everything, so it exposes me to a lot; it’s great.”