NORWAY — For more than a decade, Scott Vlaun was working for an organic seed company where time and time again, he heard stories from farmers across the country impacted by climate change.

Unreliable rains. Early frosts. Higher winds.

“Everybody had a different story about climate change,” he said. “Climate change was affecting their ability to run an organic farm.”

In 2013, with his young son’s future in mind, Vlaun, along with Programming & Education Director Seal Rossignol and two others, founded the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, a nonprofit climate action organization based in downtown Norway. A successful crowdfunding campaign raised $30,000 for the budding organization, giving it the opportunity to take root and grow.

“When we started, we were really focused on technical solutions to perennial needs,” said Vlaun, the executive director. They’ve targeted their efforts in four key areas, each with large, unsustainable carbon footprints: food, shelter, energy and transportation.

Rebecca Brakeley of Oxford stretches out the cord to plug into her hybrid vehicle at one of the Norway charging stations April 15. She and her family have installed solar at their home and business as well. “We are environmentally conscious folks,” she said while plugging in. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Celebrating its ninth birthday Friday, the organization has already left its mark on western Maine. With the help of a generous donation, the nonprofit has installed 17 electric vehicle chargers in numerous towns, including Bethel, Poland, Norway, Fryeburg and Buckfield.


More than half of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to transportation, according to the Maine Climate Council.

Due to their efforts, Norway was one of the first communities in Maine to install an electric vehicle charging station in 2014. When the town was considering the center’s request, there were just three stations in the state, two in Portland and one in Bangor, according to a 2014 article in the Advertiser Democrat.

At the time, there may have been just two electric vehicles in the entire town, Vlaun said. Now, a vehicle can be found at the charger virtually all the time.

The organization also runs a bike share program in downtown Norway and helped launch Spoke Folks Cooperative, a worker-owned, bicycle-powered cooperative that provides trash, recycling and compost pickup.

As a founding member of Community Food Matters, a nonprofit council promoting local foods and agriculture, the Center for Ecology-Based Economy is working to strengthen food systems in the Western Foothills region and reduce dependency on far-flung imports.

“We’re starting to see the linkage between fossil fuels and food,” Vlaun said. “It takes a gallon of oil to feed someone in Maine every day.”


Jess Cooper of Norway looks for traffic as she crosses Beal Street in Norway on Dec. 15, 2021. She was heading to another pickup after changing the trash can at the head of Norway Branch Rail Trail. She and three other partners created Spoke Folks Cooperative just before the pandemic hit and says she thinks it has helped their business. The worker-owned, bicycle powered cooperative provides trash, recycling and compost pickup as well as delivering food and just about anything else.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

We Built This, a women-led carpentry initiative partnered with the center, helps teach wood working skills to women and individuals who do not identify as cisgender men. We Built This and the center are collaborating on a program to offer subsidized weatherization and energy audits to local homeowners to reduce energy consumption.

“The problems are global,” Vlaun said. “The solutions are ultimately more local.”

Moving forward, the organization has plans to fundamentally change the way locals live and draw energy. The center is currently working to create a cooperatively-owned solar array in the area, in which “anybody who pays an electric bill can start to build equity in their solar array and end up owning the means of producing their own energy,” Vlaun explained.

The program would be “democratically controlled” by the people that are using the electricity, as opposed to owned and operated by a large corporation seeking profit.

The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy is also working to create a cooperative housing project in Norway, an initiative Vlaun described as a potential “game changer.” He envisions a small community where people share appliances, like washers and dryers, as well as a small pool of vehicles.

A sign used and reused at functions sits in the corner with a collection of other ecology-based material at the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy headquarters on Main Street in Norway. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Similar to the solar co-op, individuals living in the housing community would build ownership with each payment, he said.


Recently, the center became a grant-funded community service provider for the Maine Community Resilience Partnership, a program from the state government aiming to reduce emissions on the local level and prepare communities for the effects of climate change.

As a service provider, the center will act as a liaison to help enroll towns in the greater Norway area in the program and provide support for municipal officials writing their first community action grant.

“The people that are suffering most of the effects of climate change are the ones that are doing the least to cause it and the ones that have the least ability to adopt the solutions,” Vlaun said. 

The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy will be hosting the three-day 2030 Vision Climate Convergence beginning Friday, 6 p.m. at Cottage Street recreation area in Norway. This year’s theme is “Collective Power for Climate Justice.”

It will be the center’s third time hosting the convergence, and the second time in-person. The event features climate-related workshops and speakers from across the state.

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