Waterbury − the “recreational crossroads of Vermont” – is in Washington County and has a population of roughly 5,300 people. It is composed of an incorporated village along the Winooski River, with the remainder of the town stretching north to the town of Stowe. It is also the location of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, along with a variety of small, local businesses. The town of Waterbury has become a leader as a town energy committee by engaging their community through their Local Energy Action Partnership (LEAP).
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Waterbury LEAP (Local Energy Action Partnership) was created in 2007 and is one of the most active town energy committees in Vermont. LEAP’s mission is to engage the community in reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources. Waterbury LEAP is fueled by the energy and ideas of local volunteer members.
Waterbury LEAP (Local Energy Action Partnership) was created in 2007 and is one of the most active town energy committees in Vermont. LEAP’s mission is to engage the community in reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources. Waterbury LEAP is fueled by the energy and ideas of local volunteer members. Waterbury LEAP’s mission is to:
- Support reductions in man-made emissions that contribute to global climate change;
- Assist individuals and organizations in reducing fuel bills and producing more energy locally;
- Strive to be a model for what small towns in the US and elsewhere can do to address the global climate crisis.
As an independent organization, Waterbury LEAP can be more flexible and responsive when opportunities arise, help the town when it can, and pursue those priorities and projects that are important to it without the oversight of the municipal government or voters. LEAP recognizes that town officials have a lot on their plates, and something that is a high priority to LEAP might not be a high priority to local government.
Still, LEAP has a very strong relationship with town officials. It communicates regularly with the Selectboard, Planning Commission, Conservation Commission, and the School Board. It also works with other Waterbury non-profits. LEAP initiates and carries out projects on its own, and in partnership with other organizations such as the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network and Efficiency Vermont.
- Get started by organizing an event to identify interested people. In March 2007, interested citizens organized a local “Step It Up” event. Of the 125 people in attendance, 60 signed up to help Waterbury become more energy efficient, and LEAP was born.
- Build a strong email distribution list. Gather emails all the time from people who may be interested. Write your emails carefully and make them brief, relevant, and periodic.
- Decide on a clear mission and structure. What are you trying to accomplish, and who is responsible? It helps to have core group of people (5+) who can be counted on to show up and help.
- Attend as many town events as possible. LEAP has had displays at town fairs, farmers markets, Home & Garden shows, July 4th parades, and other activities.
- Pick a few projects that are tangible, useful and measurable. Complete the projects, and report success to your members and the town to bolster support.
- Run efficient meetings. The quickest way to sap an organization’s energy and enthusiasm is to hold long meetings where no decisions are made. Use an agenda, start and finish the meeting on time, and clarify “to do’s” at the end.
- Involve town leaders – Selectboard, Planning Commission, town manager. Always invite them to your events, and provide updates on your progress.
- Pace yourself, and take the long view. Plan reasonable, achievable goals for the next couple of years. Build on your successes, and celebrate your achievements. Don’t fret about what you didn’t accomplish.