Laura Sweaney shares her wealth of knowledge in Permaculture


Recently, Sustainable Renton hosted an excited group who were eager to learn more about the nuances of permaculture. Laura Sweaney was kind enough to share the knowledge she has obtained from two decades of experience in the field. The seminar drew a sizeable crowd at the offices of Sustainable Renton which focused on strategies for individuals to implement at home, including: sheet mulching, composting, zoning and layers, hugelkultur, herb spirals, and plant guilds.

The ethics of permaculture stress a holistic approach of limiting consumption, caring for the earth, and caring for people. It is a method of growing which incorporates traditional ecological knowledge with whole systems design. The general idea is to become productive towards natural systems as opposed to continuing the strain of our current consumption cycles.

When beginning a permaculture garden, Laura noted the important things to consider include planning for future yields, diversity, input & output, energy, wild-soil, a multi-dimensional design, and relative location. Minimizing the amount of non-replenishing resources used such as petroleum based products and precious metals allow scarce energy to be redistributed towards other projects.

Microclimates were also discussed as another aspect to consider when choosing the location of your plants. Laura emphasized, “If you have a corner of your yard that’s a bog or wetland, let it function as a bog or wetland.” It is almost instinctual to want to dig ditches or add soil from outside resources to change the landscape, but many plants love the excess moisture including rhubarb, celery, and fuki.

One of the last things covered in the class was the invisible structures of permaculture. Cottage industries, intentional communities, political and monetary systems, and farmers markets are all elements that play a role in a successful permaculture operation. However, personal relationships, the most tangible and critical structure, was immediately present in the room of enthusiasts. At the end of her talk, the space was adherently fervent and ready to begin networking with each other and working together towards a common goal.

by Joshua Reasoner and Steven Nguyen

Meaningful Movies presents American Meat

Revere_8mm_projector_circa_1941Meaningful Movies of Renton shifts this month into a series of films about our food system.  This Friday, February 28 we will be showing the film American Meat.

Here’s a synopsis of the film from the producers:
“American Meat is a solutions-oriented documentary chronicling the current state of the U.S. meat industry. Featuring Joel Salatin, Chuck Wirtz, Fred Kirschenmann, Steve Ells, Paul Willis, and farmers across America, it takes an even-handed look at animal husbandry. First explaining how America arrived at our current industrial system, the story shifts to the present day, showing the feedlots and confinement houses, not through hidden cameras but through the eyes of the farmers who live and work there. From there, the documentary introduces the revolution taking root in animal husbandry, led by the charismatic and passionate Joel Salatin. Stories are shared of farmers across the country who have changed their life to start grass-based farms, and everyday solutions highlight actions people can make to support America’s agriculture.

Here are some quotes from the director of the film, Graham Meriwether:
“Joel Salatin is one of the main characters of our documentary. Filming at Polyface periodically over the course of three years, we show the various seasons on the farm and the ways in which animals, insects and ecosystems work together to create both a healthy environment and an economically profitable farm.”

“One story we tell that’s indicative of a potential sea change in the industry is that of Chipotle and Polyface. Chipotle starts sourcing meat locally from Polyface Farms for their Charlottesville, VA location, and it is a big success for all involved. There’s a lot of reasons that local sourcing makes sense, environmentally, and economically, and if a company with the purchasing power of Chipotle is making the switch, it may not be long until other large restaurant chains follow suit. These kinds of hands-on solutions allow people to leave our documentary feeling optimistic about the future of food in our nation.”

Is it possible to produce meat in a way that works for family farmers and consumers?  Can a localized farming system be better than the industrial farming system?  What can we do as consumers to encourage retailers to stock local, humanely raised meats?  We will discuss these questions and others that the movie raises after the film.  Be sure to join us!

To whet your appetite (pun intended!), here is the trailer for the film:

Renton Food Co-Op needs you


This past Wednesday was inspiring at the Renton Food Co-Op meeting. We had a larger than normal turn out and there is nothing more energizing than sitting with a group of good people that want to band together to make something happen. Any event that brings people together for a common cause is a power that cannot be denied-take the recent success of the Seahawks for example. People who would have not normally spoken to each other at the grocery store were suddenly striking up conversation-they had a common bond, perhaps for the first time. I couldn’t help but wish people would bond together for a more lasting purpose, like creating a Renton Food Co-Op, or resurrecting the downtown area, or localizing our economy. That is what we are doing at Sustainable Renton-one baby step at a time.

Sustainable Renton will table at events and educate the community about our mission in general and specifically about why a Food Co-Op-or any cooperatively run business is a good idea for Renton. If you are in the dark about what a cooperative is and why it is especially important in this economic environment, you can find out more about them here: The wonderful part about cooperatives is that they are cooperative, not competitive. They operate democratically and everyone has a voice.

Our plan is to be at the Farmer’s Market a couple of times this summer, in the Renon River Days Parade and man a community booth at the Renton River Days Fair. Our annual fundraiser will be held in August this year and we are scheduling an event specifically for co-ops with the showing of a film followed by a lively Q and A with the filmmakers, so keep your eyes on our blog to find out more about when and where that event will be.

One more thing we have decided to look into is the idea of a local Buying Club. When we first gathered about a year ago we looked into the idea of a Buying Club and after some research we voted it down because we thought it would detract us from our ultimate goal of a brick and mortar food co-op. However, we are re-visiting the idea because we are looking at it as a means to an end, a way to draw interested people out, people that will ultimately shop at the Co-Op. To find out more about Buying Clubs you can visit here:

The Renton Food Co-Op Steering Committee meets the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30 pm for a potluck followed at 6:00 pm for the regular meeting at the Sustainable Renton Headquarters. Everyone is welcome. We discuss what steps we need to take next on the road to starting a cooperatively operated grocery store in the Renton area. We are in the organizing phase and are in need of people to help make this dream a reality.

For more information you can contact



Digging Deeper: Announcing the formation of the Sustainable Renton Study Group

I’ve been studying environmental issues for over 10 years now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to truly solve the issues we face, a deeper understanding is needed. I have come to believe that all the issues we face – environmental, economic, energy and many more are all interrelated. These problems are parts of a systemic crisis, and the roots of this crisis need to be better understood. To this end I propose a Sustainable Renton Study Group.

I envision this group to be run under democratic principles. We will go where the group members feel we must as we learn more. We must have a starting point though, and for that I propose the Roots of Change curriculum from The International Society for Ecology and Culture. ISEC produced the film The Economics of Happiness, which we showed in December, but the film was cut short due to a blackout. I highly recommend you see the film, and we may show it later. In the meantime, here’s the film’s trailer:

Here’s a brief description of the ISEC curriculum:

Over the last 500 years, numerous, predominantly local and human scale societies have been transformed, becoming increasingly industrialized and globalized. In the process, both the distance between people and power, and the separation between production and consumption have grown. As a result, people have become increasingly alienated from each other and from the natural world. These broad, structural changes —and the forces that have animated them—are at the root of many of the crises we face.

The first part of the Roots of Change curriculum (‘500 Years of Progress?’) unravels this history. In the process readers will be treated to a selection of powerful voices that question a number of widely-held assumptions about progress, growth, wealth, and development.

The second half of the curriculum (‘Resistance and Renewal’) provides readers with a broad understanding of the steps needed at the local, national, and international levels to shift the world in a more sustainable direction. We have taken pains to showcase examples of resistance to the dominant order, as well as renewal, through brilliant ideas and initiatives that prefigure a much more humane, healthy, and happy future. For every critical exposé in the first section, we include in the second, new ideas and tangible, instructive, living solutions that will inspire. Where the curriculum ends, the journey of action begins.

I have all the materials we will need, there is no purchase necessary to be part of this group. I do highly recommend you support the work of ISEC through donating on their web site.

As we proceed through our studies, we may supplement, alter, or abandon the curriculum as needed. This course is only a starting point for what I hope will be an ongoing and enriching study group.

I also see this group as a means for mutual support. It is easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed when you understand the scope of the issues we face. As we grow closer together, we can lean on each other more and more for support to get through those tough times, and to celebrate the victories, large and small.

I understand that this group won’t be for everyone. But for those of us who are interested in digging to the roots of the problem, I think that this group will be a good place to start. Will you join me?

I have called for a first meeting on Saturday, February 15th at 10AM-Noon at the Sustainable Renton office – 970 Harrington Ave NE, Renton, WA. For more information about the group, please contact me at .

See you there!

Preston Glidden