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Civic Group Set to Help Move Town Toward Sustainablility

Transition Cheltenham is a citizens organization with a vision of a more resilient and sustainable community, one where social ties are stronger and life is more fulfilling and equitable. With those sorts of public aspirations, clearly, these folks are not of the faint of heart.

Yet with their high ideals also comes some very concrete and practical approaches for moving forward. Founded by Bill Mettler of Wyncote and his brother Dave, they represent a growing number of Cheltenham neighbors with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. And they already have an impressive number of accomplishments over the past year, including permaculture and energy conservation workshops, a number of film events, a gathering of “existing practitioners,” (those already involved in grassroots sustainability activities), and an ” Un-Car Picnic” promoting alternative transportation such as local bike routes and other options. They also held a “Locavore” Banquet & Mini-Fest featuring locally grown food and local artists and artisans. They even sponsor ongoing Tai-Chi classes.

Says Bill Mettler: “We are reaching out to people one at a time. We like to ask our friends and neighbors two questions: 1. What do you love? 2. What do you want to “grow” in your community? I love bikes, for example, and I want to grow a safe bike path network on the least car-traveled streets in Cheltenham Township.” Mettler points out that their Clean Transportation Action Group is just one of the groups that has evolved over the last year. Separate action groups also are underway in education, transportation, clean energy building, local government, food and gardening, and more. The Transition Cheltenham team, he says, has forged partnerships with local businesses, schools, and the community in general, to include everyone “in the vision of a resilient, joyous, clean energy town.”

But this is not a group that make things up from scratch. Rather, they are a part of an international movement and have just become the 78th official Transition Initiative in the U.S. Transition Initiatives started in Ireland and began almost immediately to spread locally, then globally. The movement is growing, beginning the task of uniting towns across the U.S. in a common understanding of the imminent threat of human-induced climate change and the ticking clock that confronts all advanced economies dependent upon fossil fuels (their short-hand for which is “peak oil”). Their long-term goal is nothing short of “relocalizing” each town’s economy in response to these challenges. The group believes that the “Transition Model” provides a framework for getting there.

“As an engineer, the transition movement is incredibly exciting,” asserts Beverly Maisey, a member of the initiating team. “I’m focusing my attention here because I believe that only at the grassroots level will we be able to truly make a difference and help move our community in the right direction.”

Their latest initiative is a series of discussion “salons” they are hosting this month to usher in their official Launch Party set for March 13. The remaining salons, designed to present an introduction to Transition Cheltenham and the collaborative path to a resilient, energy efficient and food-secure community, are scheduled for this Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. at Arcadia University’s Castle Building and February 15 at 7 p.m. at the Rowland Community Center.

Beyond the Launch Party, they will start work on crafting an overarching vision for Cheltenham’s transition. The Launch Party will be at 4 p.m. at Cheltenham High School, 500 Rices Mill Rd. in Wyncote. All are invited. For more information, visit, email or call 215-885-8936.

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  1. meenal

    Great description of the working being done to-date. Thanks, Steve!

    • Thomas K. McHugh

      I wholeheartedly agree with Meenal. Great job Steve. Thank you!