Sustainability is finally starting to gain traction amongst our communities and in our neighborhoods. This is primarily thanks to initiatives like Environment Day which have improved everyone’s understanding of the climate crisis and our role in protecting both local and global environments.
However, despite the general interest in sustainability, most of our neighborhoods, blocks, and streets don’t do much to support it.
As a sustainability-focused member of your neighborhood, it’s time to change that. Even a few small changes can make a huge difference to your local community and the surrounding area — it just requires a little organization, elbow grease, and community spirit.
What does a sustainable neighborhood look like to you? Does it involve beehives and community produce — or perhaps a street of solar panels and a fleet of small wind turbines to power community centers and resources?
You can find support to build your ideal sustainable neighborhood through your local homeowners association (HOA). An HOA is already organized around a community purpose, and many HOAs already have sustainability practices and guidelines to help you get started sooner. Some of the best sustainable HOA practices are easy to implement, too. You might consider:
- Community product pooling — Hand-me-downs help keep unwanted goods out of landfills and will be well-loved by their new owners.
- Incentivizing your community — An HOA can put their weight (and monetary resources) behind plans like a neighborhood wind turbine or solar panels.
- Holding education events — Many folks feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis and don’t realize the positive impact they can have on their local environment. Positive educational events can help inspire these community members.
Of course, you don’t have to go through an HOA to make your neighborhood more sustainable. You can start small with your neighbors or elect to focus on changes to your own homes first.
The climate crisis won’t be resolved purely through individual responsibility and at-home changes. But starting at home is great if you want to improve your local environment and lead the charge toward a more sustainable neighborhood.
Creating an energy-efficient home does take some time and effort. You’ll want to start by sourcing renewable energy through solar panels and a carbon-neutral energy provider. You can also look into small wind turbines, but this is largely dependent on the outdoor space you have at home. Smaller changes, such as installing energy-efficient lightbulbs, can also help with improving your home’s sustainability.
Once you’ve sourced more renewable energy, you can look into smaller changes like energy-efficient appliances and eco-friendly home decor. You might, for example, decorate your home with handmade items which are inherently more sustainable than mass-produced goods. Plants and natural light also give your home an eco-friendly vibe and are better for the planet.
It’s important to remember that your home cannot be perfectly sustainable and that a totalitarian approach to sustainability at home is not the answer. Do what you can to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce waste at home, but focus most of your attention on community projects that give you more bang for your eco-friendly buck.
Some communities don’t understand the need for sustainability. This can make it hard to negotiate with neighbors and lead to unnecessary conflict. However, almost everyone will be up for renovating those unused spaces that lurk in every neighborhood.
Start by figuring out who exactly owns the unused space you are planning to renovate. Most city councils and local governments will be overjoyed to hear that your neighborhood would like to do something productive with these areas, but it’s always worth checking in and getting permission before breaking ground.
You can approach the owner of unused space with a small plan of how your neighborhood plans to make your neighborhood more “green.” This can include small sketches and blueprints of the flowerbeds or benches that you want to install. Ideally, anything you pitch should work in tandem with things like native plants, local wildlife, and the community. You’ll also want to note down practical things like who will maintain the area and any long-term goals you have for the space.
Community gardens are one of the best uses of neighborhood space. Even ornamental gardens can have a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of local people, as green spaces reduce the risk of mental health issues and help improve overall wellbeing.
Community gardens can also be a great space to share produce and educate folks. Many people love the thought of getting their hands in the dirt but haven’t been taught how to sew, plant, water, or maintain healthy plants. A community space is an ideal place for this kind of learning to occur, as social bonds will also be strengthened around the common purpose of neighborhood sustainability.
Before planting a community garden, it’s important to take stock of native plants and animals. A boulevard garden might look great but can quickly turn into a disaster if your plants are invasive. Instead, try to create a planting plan that uses plants native to your area and supports pollinators like bees as well as small animals that will benefit from the refuge that a small community garden can provide.
Combating climate change alone can feel overwhelming and even a little futile. However, you can amplify your impact by doing your part in making your neighborhood more sustainable. Even small acts like sponsoring solar panels or planting a community garden make a big difference in your local area as folks come together around the common purpose of improving neighborhood sustainability.
Image Source: Unsplash.