If you care about the earth’s resilience, you probably want others to join you. By building a sustainable community in your neighborhood, school or workplace, you can multiply your impact and engage others around green projects. These helpful step-by-step sustainability tips will show you how to influence others to join the sustainability movement.
No one definition describes every sustainable community. Each one has a unique vision and purpose. It may help to start by envisioning an ideal sustainable community, as the National Resources Defense Council did in its blog post, “A Trip to Sustainaville” (cross-posted in The Atlantic).
Regardless of their specific sustainability practices, sustainable communities tend to have the following traits in common:
If your community doesn’t rally around any sustainable values yet, it may seem difficult to propose new sustainability ideas. This is because people in our schools, workplaces or neighborhoods often have wildly differing ideas about sustainability. It helps to start small by initiating a single community project that can eventually lead to more projects, shared awareness and sustainable values in the future.
Have you noticed that today’s overarching dilemmas like “climate change,” “mass-extinction” and “poverty” give many people anxiety? By taking a proactive approach to improve your community’s sustainability, you can address those challenges, instead of blaming others for them. By focusing on resilience, health and shared well-being, your community can make an important attitude shift from overwhelming fear, disagreement and stress to positive change-making.
Every goal your community reaches gives the group a shared sense of achievement and this becomes part of your story. For instance, if your school reaches a tree-planting goal of 100,000 trees, you can share this story with your friends and inspire even more people. The more that the different community members take ownership for the achievement, the better. That’s why it’s important to have shared decision-making and involvement.
When people in a community take ownership for actions aimed at sustainability, they start to feel a heightened sense of purpose. This can have a ripple effect because each community member grows knowledge and awareness about how to make a difference. They can continue to share their experiences and help sustainability grow beyond the boundaries of your local community.
Each sustainable community project you tackle comes with specific benefits. For instance, a zero waste project has the benefit of reducing waste, while a community garden project provides fresh, healthy food. Yet, when you approach sustainability holistically with long-term commitments, your community will thrive together and build lasting memories.
So, maybe you’ve decided to start a community project. You have a great idea and you want others to join. Now what? Here are some steps to help you get others to join and support your sustainability ideas:
Several key elements are necessary for a sustainable community to have ongoing impacts and survive the ups and downs of a process of change:
These key features ensure the community gains self-awareness, achieves its goals, makes mutually beneficial decisions and progresses smoothly.
Cities and communities across the U.S. are “going zero waste.” On a smaller scale, communities can also take on this challenge. The goal of zero waste may never be achieved entirely, but setting high goals gives people a way to dramatically cut back.
The essential ingredients for a zero waste community are as follows:
Communities that take on climate change show they’re serious about sustainability. Here are some of the best ways to take action:
Healthy, local food helps reduce the transportation emissions of shipping food and it helps local businesses. In addition, you can improve your local water health by choosing organic, plant-based food. Agricultural nitrate and phosphorus run-off from livestock biowaste and agricultural fertilizers has a devastating impact on freshwater sources. Here are a few ways to improve your community’s approach to sustainable food:
Green space is important for our physical health thanks to the clean air and natural cooling it provides. Studies also show that our mental health benefits from spending time in nature. Green spaces are also important for increasing local biodiversity. You can add them to any structure or open space in your community.
Remember to think outside of the box with green spaces. For example, bus-stops across Holland are covered in bee-friendly gardens. You can create green spaces on rooftops, design vertical green walls or even transform a sunny room into a greenhouse.
With the community’s involvement, you can share the responsibility of designing, purchasing materials and building a beautiful shared garden with bee- and butterfly-friendly native plants.
Another way to take part in greening your community is by planting trees. Trees are both an important climate change solution and a wonderful way to protect your community from harsh storms, heat waves and floods.
Remember that the trees you plant should be native plant species so they blend in naturally with the local ecosystem. You should also have a plan for stewardship, to ensure they don’t get removed or cut down in future years.
The most obvious tree-planting solution is to have a tree planting day in your local community. The Arbor Day Foundation provides excellent resources on how to do so.
When you decide to take on a tree-planting project, you can also utilize services that focus on tree planting to tally up the total number of trees you plant worldwide. Examples include Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees, and One Tree Planted, a global non-profit charity focusing on tree planting.
Create a forum where people can share resources like lawnmowers, ladders, barbecues or even large vehicles. The same way libraries entrust us to borrow books, your community can entrust its members to borrow other things. This eliminates the need for every household to own tools or equipment that collect dust in storage. Check out the original Library of Things in the UK to see how it works.
This is one of my favorite ways to spread awareness about sustainability. Make an event that has a sustainable message. Whether it’s a zero-waste event or a weekend beach cleanup event, you can host events that both inspire your community about sustainability and give people a chance to socialize. Be sure to promote your event using social media.
If you already believe in the value of personal sustainability, then community sustainability is a natural next step. The problem with individual action is that it doesn’t necessarily influence others to improve their sustainability, even though a critical mass is necessary to make a dent in most sustainability issues. By creating community projects centered on sustainability, you have a realistic outlet for making a larger, more lasting impact.
Our sustainable community needs you!
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