ILSR’s 40th Birthday Testimonials!

DONATEWe really appreciate all the kind words and reflections!  Our impact wouldn’t be possible without countless people around the country that have helped put the concept of local self-reliance into action!  Thank you!


Share your stories, photos, and congratulations – we want to hear from you. Your responses not only make us feel warm and fuzzy, they help us assess our impact and strategy.


View a slideshow of 40 years of ILSR’s accomplishments!


Make a contribution – with your help we can make it for another 40 years!


40th Anniversary Logo Clipped Some of the kind words…

“I can’t think of any other organization that has done more than ILSR to advance both the theory and practice of local self-reliance. From energy to banking to broadband to vibrant Main Streets, the Institute thinks and acts with originality and pragmatism. They are an essential counterweight to the forces of bigness. May they thrive for another 40 years.”
— Peter Barnes, co-founder Working Assets (CREDO) and author of With Liberty and Dividends for All

“In many ways, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance during the 1970s and the early 1980s laid the groundwork for the localist movement of the early twenty-first century.”
— David J. Hess, Professor of Sociology, Vanderbilt University and author of Localist Movements in a Global Economy

“Here’s to the ladies too! ILSR was my first job ever, in 1978.  They were offering an internship (non-paid — things haven’t changed much) but I managed to convince them to pay me $50/week.  They were ahead of the curve even then, and I thrilled to be moving to Washington from the Midwest. I didn’t know what I was doing. They didn’t care. They let me take free rein of the newsletter “design” and booklets. It was the ‘70s. My first leadership mentor was Harriet Barlow, the administrative director at the time. She was a tall force of nature, kind and compassionate; but with firm hand in velvet glove. I adored her, and learned so much about grace under pressure. There was also Tessa Huxley, another tall Amazonian that had come to DC from the “Green Guerillas” in NYC and was responsible for our hydroponic garden (on the top floor) and our compost facilities. It was all so grand and utopian. Both women have stayed in the social change movement, and so have I. Hats off to the ladies over the years, including Brenda Platt, whose mighty vision has kept pace with the co-founders for 26 years.”
— Leslie Tolf, President of Union Plus and ILSR employee 1977-1978

“Who else but ILSR to teach the rest of us how to be boldly visionary and intensely practical at the same time? Who else has created more paths forward for cities that lead us in a transformative direction? We celebrate four decades of collaboration with, and brilliant work by, ILSR.”
— John Cavanagh, Director, Institute for Policy Studies

“For 40 years, ILSR has kept its focus clear and laser-like on far sighted yet practical ways cities can exercise their authority to build a just and viable economy, and in doing so inspire and push state and federal governments to do the same. Long before there was a visible “local” movement ILSR was providing detailed analyses and carefully evaluated ideas on how to get from “here to there” at the local level.”
— Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State, State of Minnesota

“As a clean energy journalist, I’ve been following ILSR’s work since 2007. As the industry grew, ILSR quickly became an important part of the policy discussion around distributed generation, feed-in tariffs and community solar. Over the years, its reports and commentary have offered a thought-provoking addition to the policy discussion around renewable energy. Without ILSR, I believe the conversation around localized energy production would be quite different.”
— Stephen Lacey, Editor, GreenTech Media

“From the start of my administration ILSR has been instrumental in helping us retain and expand valuable city assets in our effort to create an environmentally and economically sustainable city.”
— Vaughn Spencer, Mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania

“ILSR has been a crucial partner in making the case for why local ownership is the cornerstone of an economy that works for everyone.”
— Michelle Long, Executive Director of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)

“In 2009, when I began work on the National Broadband Plan, I looked for sources of information on what was happening with broadband in the United States that was not filtered through the normal DC Beltway lens. I am very grateful someone pointed me toward the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Broadband Page and the work of Christopher Mitchell. I always found the data to be reliable, the insights important, and the commentary thought-provoking.”
— Blair Levin, Chairman of Gig.U

“Stacy Mitchell has emerged as one of the most effective advocates for re-imagining a world in which sustainability and localism are fully integrated into every decision made by business and government. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without the work of ILSR!”
— Oren Teicher, CEO, American Booksellers Association, and Co-Chair, Advocates for Independent Business

“Working with ILSR has been critical for the Making Change at Walmart Campaign. ILSR brings a different and important perspective to the public discourse that would be missing if this wonderful organization did not exist.”
— Daniel Schlademan, United Food and Commercial Workers Union

“I just wanted to give you a final, heartfelt thank-you from myself and from our technology advisory board for your fantastic presentations yesterday.  Fascinating stuff, and all of it information we can use to inform our next steps.”
— Ben Krokower, 2014 Chair of Seattle’s Citizen’s Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board and local small business owner

“The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has been ahead of the curve for 40 years—way ahead of the curve! Its New Rules library, the Hometown Advantage newsletter, groundbreaking energy reports, and far-sighted economic analyses set the mark years–indeed decades—before the country embraced locavore and community-based strategies.”
— Gar Alperovitz, Historian, political economist, activist, writer

“In my humble opinion, we need ILSR to not only continue doing what it’s doing but to expand greatly.”
— Zachary Shahan,  Director of CleanTechnica

“Forty years later, ILSR is still helping to lead the charge to build a sustainable world from the ground and community up. I count on John Farrell to push and pull me and the clean energy advocacy community to always think about more local options.”
— Alan Nogee, Clean Energy Consultant, Former Energy Program Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists

“Talk about ahead of the curve and right on the money–somehow ILSR figured out 40 years ago where the world needed to go, and it’s been bending our systems in that direction ever since. High ambition matched by high achievement makes them a unique crew, in place with the solutions a puzzled world is starting to realize it badly needs.”
— Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist and founder of

“The words were fierce: ‘We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and material ruin…Corruption dominates the ballot box, the legislatures and the Congress and touches even the bench…The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced…the fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few.’

On the Fourth of July, 1892, those words were made famous in the platform adopted by the newly formed People’s Party which aimed to end the unholy alliance between great wealth and political power and put American government back on the side of everyday citizens. The urgency of those words has resonated down through the years and nowhere more powerfully than in the work of the Institute for Local-Self Reliance, which for 40 years now has inspired local efforts by individuals and communities to challenge corporate power and the concentration of wealth.

Take just one example: ILSR’s leadership in communities that are building broadband networks to provide affordable, fast access to the Internet — surely the most democratic venue for the public to be heard since the Agora in Athens! Or consider how ILSR fired up hundreds of communities to fight back against big-box stores and their threat to local businesses; generate renewable electricity; adopt recycling; and develop sustainable earth-friendly economic strategies. As ILSR celebrates its 40th birthday — the exact span of my own broadcast journalism — I can think of no other citizen’s group whose work and witness during these four decades has done more to spark the courage, clarity, and conviction needed to save our social contract from the behemoths and bullies who would shred it.”
— Bill Moyers, journalist, host of PBS show Moyers & Company, former White House press secretary

“Communities remain the incubators of innovation and epicenter for creating equality. I have valued the knowledge and know-how of ILSR for years and look forward to getting 40 more.”
— Maya Wiley, Counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio,  founder of the Center for Social Inclusion

“Congratulations on ILSR’s 40th years of hard work advocating for and educating about community-centered solutions to our thorniest and most important structural issues. I “discovered” ILSR back in the mid-1980s while researching a book about what was then called the “farm crisis.” Of course, as I learned, the problems went much deeper than agriculture. It was a rural community crisis, and understanding this big picture was crucial to writing about the problems that were threatening the viability of small towns across the country. More recently, ILSR, and you in particular, played a key role throughout the process of writing Clean Break, an investigation of Germany’s clean energy transformation, focusing on the lessons the Energiewende held for the United States. Distributed generation is a key to Germany’s success, what you rightly called, “having skin in the game.” You helped provide the missing link between what Germany was doing and what we could do here. I’ll always be thankful for your help. Would I recommend ILRS to others? Oh, hell yes! In fact, I’ve sent so many journos your site that I’ve felt I needed to point out I don’t get paid for each referral. (Although, I’d be open to working something out along those lines. That’s a joke, BTW.) Continued success on your important work in the coming years. We’ve never needed an organization like ILSR more, and I’m glad I’ll be able to turn to you in the future when I’m stumped and on deadline.”
— Osha Gray Davidson , award-winning journalist

“During my candidacy for Mayor of Bridgeport, ILSR introduced me to the entire notion of recycling as an important factor for economic development, particularly in old urban industrial centers such as Bridgeport. Your suggestions for taking discarded materials such as the glass bottles we began collecting from area restaurants to be later resold to certain wine makers. They then converted these bottles into containers for their particular use and less expensively than purchase of new bottles. We also collected used auto tires which were sold to pavement contractors for use as road paving material. Perhaps our most successful endeavor came from your ‘deconstruction’ suggestion where we contracted with the local housing authority to purchase the bricks from demolished buildings which we sold to a major Connecticut housing contractor for use in new construction where used brick was a popular adornment material for fireplaces, chimneys, and facades in very expensive homes and commercial buildings. Each of these ‘reuses’ was not only a fond remembrance for me but they were also economically profitable for the area.”
— Charles Tisdale, Executive Director of Action for Bridgeport Community Development

“Eco-Cycle and ILSR grew up together from the mid 1970s on. It was a perfect match. Eco-Cycle passed on technical information about its unique recycling model. ILSR used the information to bring the recycling movement and the community self-reliance movement together. Now we work together to protect the gains that have been made and moving the US forward toward zero waste. It’s been a terrific partnership.”
— Eric Lombardi, Director of Eco-Cycle, Boulder, Colo.

“I am so fortunate to have encountered ILSR back in the early 1990’s through my early engagement with the National Recycling Coalition, Inc. (NRC). During that time, ILSR’s Brenda Platt was such a very important sounding-board for me in my early years as NRC President. Decades later, I can look back with an extremely fond and grateful perspective, mentally reviewing all that ILSR has meant to me personally, and to the NRC, local communities, the sustainability programs I lead at Syracuse University, and to environmental stewardship in general. I can think of few organizations that are as nimble and effective as ILSR. Whether it is their recent partnership with the EPA and me in my Syracuse role helping to move the ball on sustainable materials management in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, their support of Syracuse’s USDA discard management programs in New York, or their continual willingness to help the NRC as it embarks on its next life. In fact, great appreciation goes to Neil Seldman of ILSR, one of the original and stalwart supporters of the creation of the NRC way back when. I think it also very important to point out that we have ILSR, along with a select few other forward-thinking organizations and individuals, to thank for laudable efforts to truly transform our relationship with what we once knew as “waste.” My most sincere appreciation to all that the ILSR team represents, and has done throughout the years; and, a heartfelt Happy Birthday to all my ILSR friends!”
— Mark Lichtenstein, Syracuse Center for Sustainable Community Solutions, President and CEO of National Recycling Coalition, Inc.

“I attended a conference hosted by the Sierra Club in Washington, DC. Neil was one of the presenters. I had the opportunity to introduce myself. From that moment he has taken DoxicomGlobal under his wing and delivered to us several opportunities. DoxicomGlobal is known for its ability to find solutions for items or materials that are being sent to the landfill. It appears the mission of Institute for Local Self-Reliance is to provide assistance to communities seeking solutions for waste and other items by finding cost effective solutions. In our opinion ILSR has more than achieved this mission. I have spoken to Neil, while he was vacation, on weekends, late at night, early in the am and all times in between. I have never know a person more dedicated to achieving his mission. Meeting Neil has been a blessing as he has introduced my company to individuals across many industries. Together we have discovered many solutions for various needs. I know our company and the world is better off because of Neil and ILSR.”
— Sidney Wilson, Jr., Managing Director, DoxicomGlobal! The Recycling Company

“I believe it was sixteen years ago that we first met – The ReUse People was a fledgling operation barely four years old at the time. TRP was trying to figure out how to make deconstruction and building materials reuse a business that could be sustainable on its own merits and duplicated by others. With your encouragement, energy and assistance we have not only figured most of it out, but have in-turn assisted others in successfully opening and operating deconstruction contracting companies and used building materials distribution centers.

Thank you for inviting us to join you on several podiums and in many markets throughout the United States. Additionally I want to thank you for being a part of our advisory board where you continue to contribute to our salvaging and distributing of used building materials.

With the help of ILSR we have:
• Kept over 347,000 tons of materials out of local landfills.
• Trained over 500 unemployed and under-employed workers in the art and science of deconstruction.
• Trained budding entrepreneurs in running successful retail warehouses for used building materials
• 17 regional and area managers in 13 states who have trained and
certified local contractors to deconstruct buildings and deliver salvage
materials to us or one of our partner warehouses.
• Opened two or our own warehouses and established distribution partnerships with 8 others.
• Deconstructed and salvaged materials from over 3,000 buildings.
• Begun our third National Reuse Contest with over 30 participating stores.

Once again, thank you for all your support!”
— Ted Reiff, Director of The ReUse People

“I have been involved in the recycling field for more than four decades, including editing Resource Recycling for the past 33 years.  During this time, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has garnered a well-deserved reputation for generating important, stellar research on municipal waste reduction and recycling. I’ve been pleased to publish numerous articles and studies by ILSR researchers, and I look forward to a continued alliance.”
— Jerry Powell, Editor of Resource Recycling

“I met ILSR in 1976 at the first CRRA Conference in Santa Barbara CA. From that time I have worked with the Institute as recycling and zero waste advisor all across the US and the world on ILSR’s major projects: from California to the Mid West and Deep South, to the East Coast to Europe, China and back home through Hawaii. We worked together on starting the National Recycling Coalition, 1980, Grass Roots Recycling Network, GRRN,1985 and Zero Waste International Alliance, ZWIA, 2000. What a ride! Self Reliance is still as potent than ever.”
— Rick Anthony, GrassRoots Recycling Network, President of California Resource Recovery Association, former Solid Waste Manager for San Diego County, Calif., current chair, ZWIA

“ILSR assisted us in our long fight against garbage incinerators in Los Angeles. They combined the principles of environmental justice, community control and jobs. ILSR brought its expertise but we set the agenda. They worked for us and did not charge us a cent. It has been years since this victory in 1985, but ILSR still is in touch and advises on business opportunities.”
— Robin Cannon, Co-Founder and Board Chair of Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles

“ILSR has been essential for helping elected officials to understand the links between local policies and state and national developments.”
— Gail Baldi Mackler, Delegate, California State Democratic Party and National Democratic Convention

“ILSR has consistently been a clear, constructive advocate for greater local benefit from local resources, local voice in decisions that affect economic and political vitality, and policy solutions that are both efficient and equitable. ILSR’s analytical rigor, bold proposals, and commitment to the long game set me on the career course that I have pursued for over 35 years. Congratulations on turning 40!”
— Rich Kazis, Vice President of Jobs for the Future, former ILSR staffer

“ILSR is 40? I wish I had known about it 40 years ago. I wish I had known about it, in fact, at any point before when I happily did first hear of it in 2011, while researching a piece for Sierra magazine on the then-nascent solar-leasing industry, because it would have made my thinking clearer, stories more informative, and errors fewer. John Farrell is not only a fountain of knowledge, but a fountain that dispenses that knowledge in elegant, well-turned sentences; he gives interviews like he’s reading from the story you should be writing and which, thanks to him, you soon will be. Now I lean on him all the time, and refer him widely–although, truth to tell, I’m a little reluctant to tell every other journalist about him for fear of losing the competitive advantage that access to John and ILSR gives me. Congratulations on the anniversary and I wish you many more. PR
— Paul Rauber, Senior Editor at Sierra magazine

“In 1988 Austin became the first and only city in the US to cancel a garbage incinerator after construction had started, with $22 million invested. Organized citizens, small businesses and prominent business leaders joined to stop the plant and put the city on the road to zero waste. This would not have happened without ILSR’s strategic guidance devoted to this effort. The city’s garbage future was permanently changed.”
—Gail Vittori, Co-Director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, Austin, Texas. First chair of the City of Austin Solid Waste Advisory Committee, formed in 1988.

“In 2009, when I began work on the National Broadband Plan, I looked for sources of information on what was happening with broadband in the United States that was not filtered through the normal DC Beltway lens. I am very grateful someone pointed me toward the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Broadband Page and the work of Christopher Mitchell. I always found the data to be reliable, the insights important, and the commentary thought-provoking. More than any other source, it was helpful in leading to the recommendation that municipalities should not be restricted in how they approach their bandwidth destiny. While I don’t always agree with their positions, I continue to find their work essential in understanding all the options and the trade-offs communities face in building a foundation for the 21st Century Information Economy.”
— Blair Levin, former Chief of Staff of the FCC Chair

“Leadership of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, its current and former staff, community collaborators, and grassroots innovators have together influenced the understanding, design and commitment to act and create in ways that improve equity and protect the environment.  The Institute has changed the way we think about connection and integration, demonstrating what passion and intelligence combined with a sense of humor and adventure can do to move community development, policy, and practice to expect innovation and positive impact long term. Congratulations on a long and successful history and future work with communities across the country and the world.”
— Rachel L. Pohl, former ILSR staff member

“Since I started working in recycling and resource conservation in 1981, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has been a key ally to those working towards sustainable production, consumption and communities. They have promoted “sustainability” since long before it became an overused catchphrase. ILSR’s data-driven analysis and policy guidance have been invaluable to local struggles to harness investment, technology and fiscal policy to empower and enrich people and community, not exploit them. From struggles against waste-to-energy plants, landfills and demolition in favor of reuse, recycling, composting and deconstruction to analysis of tax policy and depletion allowances, ILSR has assisted the fight to replace the “flush mentality” with a value-conserving, job-creating, mindful approach to resource management. ILSR has helped us visualize ourselves not just as consumers but as producers of the world we live in, and know that together we can change it for the better. Congratulations on 40 years! Keep on truckin’!”
— Tom Padia, Recycling Director of Co.

“The Environmental Justice movement in Detroit needs you to come to Detroit.”
— Guy Williams, President and CEO of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice

“Who else but ILSR to teach the rest of us how to be boldly visionary and intensely practical at the same time? Who else has created more paths forward for cities that lead us in a transformative direction? We celebrate four decades of collaboration with, and brilliant work by, ILSR.”
— John Cavanagh, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies