The Farm has been a resource for area musicians and audiophiles for a couple years already, thanks to its recording studio and frequent shows. This Saturday, in a swirl of remarkable musical talent, the Farm's Matt Ahern will launch his larger ambition, a website and buying-card program aimed at helping San Antonians turn a cultural corner in favor of sustainable living.
“The point of the system is to incentivize people to be green and to get over that notion that green costs more,” Ahern tells me.
It starts with the website â?? EchoTown.net â?? where folks can meet, contribute information, and learn about developing a healthier lifestyle. But holding the business model together is a Get Green! card that allows members to receive discounts from a variety of restaurants and service providers.
Maybe you net a free iced tea. Perhaps you knock $100 off that new scooter. It adds up.
Ahern, with one burger-shop member among roughly 40 participating businesses honoring more than 1,000 cards already in circulation, hopes the combined buying power of committed cardholders motivates some more meat-centric restaurants to put vegetarian items on the menu.
If his eco-awareness is a product of a few key school teachers (endearments to the mind behind his third-grade recycling program!) and several years absorbing the ethics of sustainability in San Francisco, his business sense is surely informed in part by his father, a local certified public accountant and developer.
The shift in mindset Ahern hopes to help along is from the reckless consumerism launched in the 20th century (cheap, disposable products bound, ultimately, for the landfill) to a “cradle-to-cradle” philosophy that scorns the idea of waste. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Really.
So far, there are only three criteria for businesses to get listed on EchoTown, they must be “green,” “healthy,” and/or “local.”
While definitions of those terms fall to Ahern to sort out, he said certain businesses with questionable offerings â?? particularly those with “violent” agendas â?? will be listed separately from participating EchoTown businesses and offered full inclusion as an incentive to clean up their act.
You can plug into a snippet of our conversation here:
Or get it straight and undiluted from the site:
We will use funds produced through EchoTown to build urban gardens. These may be private gardens for restaurants and residents or public gardens for the use of the community. Producing food in local gardens and small farms will drastically reduce our need for foreign oil, provide purpose and income for residents, and help families strengthen their bonds to each other and with the community by working together for the common good.
We have already started building gardens through our company "Garden Start." We want to purchase lots in neighborhoods and provide supplies, education, and rental spaces for residents. We will use grants and donations to jump-start this process. We join with other community groups and organizations, such as neighborhood associations and others, to help make this happen.
After a short inspection of the organically grown carrots, broccoli, and squash stretching out in the oncoming dusk, bamboo mats unroll across the yard. Deborah Andersen (below) is preparing to lead a Hatha Yoga class under the open sky.
Get Green! cards are paying off here. A $10 yoga rate drops a magic digit, resulting in a mere $9 yoga class.
With Windtricity powering the recording studio in the house, South Texas winds are blowing off the heat of the day in this garden spot. The foundational “Om” is soon vibrating on downtown's near north side.
I think about what Ahern had been telling me moments ago. That it was a “green” lifestyle change that helped him find happiness, the same contentment he sees resonate inside his friends as they change their diets, opt to bike more, and consider their place in world more deeply.
That it is happiness, ultimately, he is promoting.
“The green movement is going to happen regardless. I'm just trying to make it happen faster,” he said.
Thankfully, nestled inside this green canopy, here at The Farm the green movement slows down, too.