So as we try to re-localize, how do we find what we need? How do we collaborate when we don't know who's who? How do we garden when we don't know how? How do we buy local when all we see on the streets are big-box stores? It's kind of a difficult slog sometimes, isn't it?
Help is here! Bright Neighbor is an online tool designed for cities or towns to help their residents weather the peak oil and financial storms currently brewing. It helps citizens connect, share and barter items, rides, and knowledge. By facilitating community involvement and local networking, this tool can help increase the liveability and sustainability of our cities.
Bright Neighbor is the brainchild of Randy White, a key member of the Portland Peak Oil Task Force. As usual, Portland is in the vanguard of sustainability and environmentalism. Part of the Portland peak oil plan is the Portland Bright Neighbor site, where residents can:
- Find local businesses and resources
- Meet local people with the same interests
- Swap and share items, goods, and services
- Search for and offer rides and car-shares
- Find community events and news
I first read about this site at Lawns to Gardens, and I contacted Randy White to find out more. He called me back within 5 minutes and gave me a guided online tour of the Portland Bright Neighbor site (available to community members only - otherwise I would link it here). Simply impressive! Although I have only seen the tool for 20 minutes, the potential of this thing is HUGE.
I mean, how many grain mills does a neighborhood need - couldn't we share one? And wouldn't it be great if people knew where the local water wells were in an emergency? And wouldn't it be nice to be able to find the Master Gardeners in your neighborhood to ask about the best plant varieties? To find a local business that sells what you want? Even find a local homebrewing or quilting group?
Bright Neighbor has great interactive maps where you can find all things locally. For example, food. Search on food, and you can see a map of the local farmer's markets, urban gardens, even find the publicly available fruit and nut trees. It also has great lists of people. Click on edible landscaping, and you can find people in your area with the same interest. (Community members use an online alias, with their information hidden, until they chose to "trust" another person and show them their information. )
To put it another way, Bright Neighbor is to going local as Amazon.com is to buying books.
Caveat time. I know I seem a little excited. So please note that I haven't used this tool, I've only seen an online demonstration. It's still in beta, it's still a new technology, and I don't know if Bright Neighbor has "bugs" or issues, and how the people using it like it. But from what I saw, it's very easy to use, safe and secure, and COOL. And if you know me, you know the Hausfrau doesn't get excited over just any old technology. (Just the Global Sun Oven :))
I tell you, it gives me hope. Now, Bright Neighbor has been deployed in 5 locations already, and this company is ready to help your city get started. Randy White, the founder, is on a mission to help this country prepare to live sustainably, city by city, town by town.
The base cost of the Bright Neighbor online tool starts at $5000 (depends on the size of the town or neighborhood and other technical factors - so the price could be higher for your city), which is a drop in the bucket in most city budgets. Think like this: What is the cost of each person preparing for peak oil individually, versus the cost of everyone working together? Working as a community, we can achieve so much more. And this tool, I believe, could be a major key to working together.
If you are interested in getting your community ready for peak oil and living sustainably, this tool should really be a part of your community preparation strategy. So talk to your town and neighborhood leaders and city planners. Tell them about Bright Neighbor. Check it out. It's been designed so that cities and towns can have a city site up and running in a short amount of time, and the tool grows organically as people join and share their knowledge. But remember, like any community tool, it's only as good as the community members who join it.
Say it with me, people! There is help to GO LOCAL. And it's name is Bright Neighbor!
Now if I can just find someone to talk to in Oklahoma City government....