Sustain-A-Raisers: Re-imagining “barn-raising” for sustainable home and yard retrofits.

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Sustain-A-Raisers: Re-imagining “barn-raising” for sustainable home and yard retrofits.

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Sustain-a-Raisers (inspired by barn-raising) are teams of youth in Lakes Region, NH who provide sustainable home and yard retrofits, or "raisers," that promote resource conservation and self-sufficiency. Raisers include garden-raisers, clothesline-raisers, compost-raisers, rain-barrel-raisers, etc. Each Raiser also serves as a platform for youth to develop entrepreneurial and project management skills.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Sustain-A-Raisers addresses three major problems – 1) The assumption that sustainable living is either too expensive or too much work: Many people neglect to adopt sustainable living practices because they associate it with high costs or inconvenience. These assumptions present a huge impasse to reducing our community’s ecological footprint. 2) The breakdown of the social fabric that binds strong communities: Social capital has diminished over the last 25 years as people have become less dependent on each other, and more reliant on cheap energy and foreign imports. As a result, the rate of community interactions and collaborations has fallen. 3) The out-migration of youth from New Hampshire seeking better jobs and more affordable living. NH is experiencing an alarming exodus of young adults that will leave the state with a slowing workforce and aging population. These conditions further diminish social capital and commitment to community.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Sustain-A-Raisers is optimism in action. It has exceptional ability to discredit common excuses that suggest sustainable living is either too expensive or too much work. Sustain-A-Raisers breaks the impasses associated with cost and convenience that often prevent people from adopting more sustainable living practices such as eating locally grown food, composting, collecting rainwater, or harnessing renewable energy. Creativity and collaboration help transform expensive and laborious chores into enriching youth- managed sustainable home and yard retrofit services projects that are affordable and fun. As a result, Sustain-A-Raisers has a unique triple return – a) reducing our community’s ecological footprint, b) building social capital, and c) developing entrepreneurial skills among youth. Sustain-A-Raisers is also unique in the way it expands and improves upon an already popular community-building model – Barn Raising. Barn Raising is a historic icon of vibrant rural community. It began in the late 1800’s when settlers would organize to help one another build their barns. While barns were essential to rural living, they were physically impossible to erect alone. Barn-Raising was the answer. By recalling the Barn-Raising model, Sustain-A-Raisers are able galvanize participants by tapping into a positive cultural memory and applying it to the needs of a new era.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Sustain-A-Raisers has positive environmental and financial impact that grows over time. For instance, a compost bin helps divert an average of 350lbs of food waste from the landfill per year. Similarly, a rain barrel will save gardeners up to 1,300 gallons of water during the hot summer months, as well as reduce water bills (avg. of $100/month) up to 35%. A clothesline helps avoid an average of 1,800lbs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and saving consumers up to $110 per year. As one can see, the impact of these sustainable home and yard retrofits grows with time. The same holds true for a garden plot, cold frame, or root cellar, which helps consumers reduce their food miles. So far Sustain-A-Raisers have sold approximately 50 compost bins and 40 rain barrels, and installed 25 clotheslines. The estimated annual environmental impact of these projects includes the diversion of 17,500lbs of food waste from the landfill, savings of 52,000 gallons of water during high-demand summer months, and the avoidance of emitting nearly 45,000lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. The financial impact for those who have been touched by the Sustain-A-Raisers includes a savings of $2,750 on energy bills and $1,400 on water bills.
About You
Global Awareness Local Action
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About You
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Last Name



Global Awareness Local Action


, NH, Carroll County

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Global Awareness Local Action

Organization Phone


Organization Address

PO Box 2267, Wolfeboro, NH 03894

Organization Country

, NH, Carroll County

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, NH

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Sustain-A-Raisers is currently being developed in two ways to ensure its success. First I am applying social entrepreneurial innovation strategies so that the project functions more as an innovative business than charity work. Youth will be asked to measure social and environmental impact/returns, alongside financial impact/returns. I am seeking sponsors to offset material costs such as compost bins and rain barrels so that the service remains affordable to the community.

Secondly, I am working to have Sustain-A-Raisers accredited as a School-To-Work program so that youth can earn credits toward career building by demonstrating strong project management skills in budgeting, time management, marketing, and client relations. This aspect of Sustain-A-Raisers will be conducted through a mentor program made possible by partnering with the local organization, Leadership Lakes Region.


Applying the actions described above will help the project become more financially sustainable, while also providing greater incentive and opportunity for youth to develop skills and credits helpful in entering the workforce. These actions will also help the project more effectively address the problems described in question #9.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Sustain-A-Raisers must achieve the following over the next three years to be successful –
Year One:
Find a sponsorship that will supply discounted equipment and materials such as rain barrels, compost-bins, clotheslines, etc.
Achieve accreditation through the School-To-Work program so that students can earn career building credits for participation.
Create a “Sustain-A-Raisers” logo and find sponsorship for branded outdoor work-gear such as work gloves or T-shirts.
Conduct, document, and evaluate at least 10 “raisers.”
Year Two:
Adjust services based on Year 1 project evaluations.
Develop and distribute a pamphlet that describes Sustain-A-Raiser services.
Formalize a partnership with Leadership Lakes Region.
Conduct, document, and evaluate at least 25 “raisers.”
Evaluate youth project management performance and identify candidates for a cascading leadership position, whereby Sustain-A-Raiser alumni train newcomers.
Begin developing at least two new types of “raisers” such as a carbon-free lawn mowing, or root cellar installations.
Celebrate success with Sustain-A-Raisers graduation and publicize annual impact.
Year Three:
Allow Sustain-A-Raiser alumni to assume greater leadership roles in project implementation.
Grow sponsorship commitment.
Begin scaling up program to reach beyond target areas of Wolfeboro and Ossipee, and into the greater Governor Wentworth School District.
Create a video of “Sustain-A-Raisers Strike Again!” to highlight impact over the last 5 years.
Conduct, document, and evaluate at least 30 “raisers.”
Begin developing at least two new types of “raisers” that can be offering during the winter months including simple home-energy audits and carbon-free walkway snow-removal.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

There are a few factors could prevent the success of Sustain-A-Raisers. First, without sponsorship the costs of conducting the service projects may be more than consumers are willing to afford, especially without financial assistance for upfront costs of materials and equipment.

Second, without accreditation through the School-to-Work programs, students may not have enough incentive to participate in another extra-curricular activity.

Third, unless Sustain-A-Raisers maintain momentum through branding and measuring their impact, demand for their services may diminish and recruitment of volunteers may prove difficult.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$1000 - 4000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.)

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Primary Sustain-A-Raisers partnerships thus far have been with the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA), Project Laundry List, and Leadership Lakes Region. Respectively, these partnerships are critical to the success of Sustain-A-Raisers for their in-kind contributions of materials/discounts of compost bins and rain barrels, promotion of National Hanging Out Day, and access to leadership alumni interested in mentoring Sustain-A-Raisers participants. G.A.L.A. also partners with the Wolfeboro Energy Committee to help this town government organization meet its ICLEI community energy conservation milestones.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions needed to grow Sustain-A-Raisers include:

1)Creating a comprehensive financial plan that leverages social innovation strategies and triple bottom line business planning.

2)Conducting and measuring the impact of at least 25 branded Sustain-A-Raiser service projects.

3)Establishing an accredited School-To-Work program that works with alumni from Leadership Lakes Region to optimize service projects as platforms for entrepreneurial and leadership development.

The Story
What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?

The defining moment that led to the development of Sustain-A-Raisers happened during the autumn of 2008 when I helped a neighbor install a solar hot water heater. There were approximately five of us present – one person to unwrap the panels, a couple people to carry the panels to the ladder, a couple more on the roof securing and connecting the panels. The efficiency and simplicity was astounding! Not only was this project nearly impossible to accomplish with one person, but attempting such a feat would also lose the added educational and community building value that came from engaging more people in the project. It occurred to me, with panel in hand, that this model could be applied more widely to help make sustainable living more affordable and fun.

The idea began to evolve after hearing this project referred to as an “energy raiser,” named after the Barn Raising phenomenon of the late 1800s and early 20th century. It dawned on me that applying this already popular and familiar model to wider degree of service projects would help discredit the excuses I frequently heard that suggested sustainable living was either too expensive or too much work.

It was around this same time that I began learning about another challenge and problem – the alarming exodus of young adults from NH in search of better jobs and more affordable living. It occurred to me that I could design this program to help break the impasses of sustainable living described above, while also creating a platform for youth to develop entrepreneurial skills that prepare them for the workforce and encourage them to make a deeper commitment to their communities. I knew the program had to be exciting and fun. Sustain-A-Raisers had a “teamwork” ring to it that sounded appropriate, while also giving a nod to Barn Raising, which conjures a positive community building memory for the majority of residents in New England.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Josh Arnold is the social innovator behind the Sustain-A-Raisers project. He is also Founding Director of Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.), the 501(c)3 nonprofit that manages Sustain-A-Raisers as one of its four programs including a Localvore Initiative, Homsteading & Cottage Industry Connection, and GALAvanting.

Josh Arnold is a uniquely determined, entrepreneurial young man with a steadfast passion for sustainability. By the time he was a sophomore at Wheaton College in Norton, M.A. Josh had designed an independent major in "Global Sustainability." During his senior year, he was granted the Emily Susan Hartwell Leadership Award for "Motivating Others in Areas of Social, Political, or Global Responsibility." Josh concluded his college experience by spearheading the Graduation Pledge - a project that committed almost half of his class to furthering the environmental and social integrity of professional career the signatories pursue.

Between 2004-2008, Josh served as a delegation leader at conferences of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 15-17). During this time Josh also served as Festival Manager for Clean Vibes, a company that provided environmental education and recycling services at music festivals around the United States. After graduating college and ending his career with Clean Vibes, Josh returned to his hometown of Wolfeboro, N.H. where in addition to founding G.A.L.A., he was nominated and began serving on the Town Energy Committee and Agricultural Commission. Josh also began managing the Wolfeboro Area Farmers’ Market.

Last spring Josh was recruited into the Global Youth Action Net Fellowship Class of 2009 where he joined twenty other young entrepreneurs from around the world who have founded organizations that are leading societal change. Josh is currently in the second half of that year-long fellowship experience.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

Dana Frasz