Getting Involved Locally to Overcome Climate Change

Chances are that you’ve seen news on TV or your newspaper or the Web about polar icecaps melting, or rising sea levels, or changing weather patterns. It’s easy to be an observer on the sidelines, and let the news happen on its own.

We can take steps on our own to live more energy efficient lifestyles, like purchasing hybrid cars, or using public transportation more frequently, or buying energy saving household appliances, and conserving energy more wisely where we work and where we live.

The problem of climate change can seem overwhelming though. Most of us aren’t in positions where we can influence public policy, or the actions of large corporations, or come up with scientific breakthroughs that bring clean energy to the world. But we can act locally, and we can help spread awareness, and become informed on the issues involved, and share that knowledge with others.

How much do you know about what is going on in your own community to combat climate change?

Local Environmental Groups

Many communities have local environmental groups that would love to see more participation from people in their area.

A couple near me that are very active, and focus upon a mix of education and activity are the Virginia Conservation Network and the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Have you looked for similar groups in your area? Chances are that they would like you to find them.

Local Government Initiatives

Another way to become involved locally is in your government, whether on a town or county or state or province level.

One of the things that attracted me to the town I live in now is the Green Initiative (pdf) program they’ve been putting in place to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the area.

What is your local government doing to help fight climate change? One way to find out is to do a search like the following to find government organizations in your area:

environment [insert state/county/country/town name here] site:.gov

A search in my area pointed me to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality,

Local Educational Environmental Activity

Local Universities and schools are another place to look to see how educational institutions in your area are getting envolved in the environment. The following search might help

environment [insert state/province/county/town name here] site:.edu

I was surprised but also excited to see that the Virginia Military Institute has been hosting an environmental symposium to help educate people on environmental issues for the past 20 years. I also learned about the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia.

What are the schools near you doing to help raise environmental awareness, and action?

Environmental Actions in Business

How green is your grocer? Your auto mechanic? Your plumber? What are large businesses doing in your area to help the environment? It doesn’t hurt to ask them.

Are there any businesses involved in green technology near you? Why not find out, and contact them to see what they do?

Are there any initiatives in your area to help companies near you become more green? Is the local Chamber of Commerce spreading green ideas?

As consumers, we have some power to choose which goods we buy, and which services we use, and our choices can make a difference. Looking for socially responsible businesses to deal with is another way that we can help make a difference.

Tools to help promote local environmental activities:

1. If you would like to find others in your area who might be interested in a cleaner and greener earth, you might want to consider finding them through the creation of a group at meetup.org

2. If you don’t want to go through the steps of organizing something by yourself, another way of finding people locally who are concerned about reducing waste and reusing things that might otherwise end up in a landfill is through sites such as the Freecycle Network. Craig’s List also has a “Free” section in their “For Sale” area where you might find a wide range of things offered that otherwise might be brought to the local landfill.

3. If you want to let others in your area know about events that might help the environment, one place to do so is Upcoming.org

4. Many local environmental groups have presences in social networks such as Facebook – an example of one organization that is local to me using Facebook is the: Piedmont Environmental Council on Facebook. They also report local events on their own site, from ones that they sponsor to others initiated by other organizations – Upcoming Events – Piedmont Environmental Council. Where are local environmental groups in your area spreading the news?

5. Another place to meet people locally who are interested in making a difference locally is Green Drinks International.

6. You may also be able to learn about meetings, seminars, and activities in your area that benefit the environment by searching for your town or county in Twitter, and seeing if you can find a group like the Virginia Conservation Network, which does a great job of spreading awareness in my area.

7. If you have the energy, the inclination, and the time, using a blog to let others know what is going on in your community can be another great way to help raise awareness, and get others involved.

Conclusion

No doubt about it, climate change is a global phenomenon, but you don’t need to be an environmental scientist, or the president of a country, or the leader of an international environmental nonprofit to help make a difference. Do what you can in your own neighborhood, and encourage your neighbors to do so as well.

If we start in our homes, and in our towns, and set achievable goals that can be met, and build upon those successes, our grassroots efforts can make a difference.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2009, which has asked bloggers to show unity in blogging about Climate Change today to spark and inspire discussion of the topic on a large scale. I’d love to hear your thoughts on climate change, and things that people can do to help make a difference.

I’d especially love to hear your experiences making a difference locally, through interactions with local environmental groups or government or educational institutions, or grass roots movements.

Thanks.

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16 thoughts on “Getting Involved Locally to Overcome Climate Change”

  1. Oh well, I do not have time to write a post (in and out all day) Can a post from earlier this week count? I wrote about how simple design decisions, like ceiling height, can effect energy usage in your home. I do advise about green features during my inspections.

    I think many people would be surprised how many groups do exist in so many cities. However, if you live in a small town, this may be a bit harder, so I recommend that you read The Barefoot Architect by Johan van Lengen. This is probably the most accessible book on green building for homeowners. A lot of practical projects to help convert your home into a green one.

  2. Hi Frank,

    The idea behind Blog Action Day is to inspire discussion, online and offline, even after the day has come and gone. I suspect that anything that someone writes that can help the discussion move forward is fair game. :)

    Nice topic – I hope you don’t mind if I link to that post here?

    http://yourhoustonhomeinspector.com/living-in-your-home/green-home-conversion/ibuilding-higher-ceilings-greener-homei/

    I think most people would be surprised about the number of local environmental groups if they looked as well. I mentioned the Virginia Conservation Network in my post above, and it is a network of groups – more than 100 of them.

    The Barefoot Architect looks pretty interesting. I may have to stop by the local bookstore tonight. They list it as available instore on their website. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. I’ve got 2 kids in grade school and it’s fun seeing them learn about earth science and equally unfortunate they have to learn about global warming at the same time. And it’s triggered new behaviors for our family in terms of gas consumption and water waste and so forth. Local initiatives will increase awareness at an individual level which is definitely half of the battle. The biggest problem is that oil companies and government officials manipulate the entire population and their greed for short term profits is hard to beat. I never got to vote on cash for clunkers to support workers making an average salary plus compensation package of $72 an hour at GM. Why should tax dollars pay to support cars that are not even hybrids? It’s going to take measures at all levels and in many areas to stop global warming. Although it seems too big to tackle, and impossible to be heard, as an individual we can all help as you suggest promoting local action and local education.

  4. Hi Mal (NJ Web Design),

    That’s an interesting point about education, in schools. I think that we do have to start thinking about our relationship with the planet that we live upon differently, and how what we do impacts our world. If that’s being done in elementary school, then it’s a positive thing. I remember when I was younger, and we were experiencing gas shortages in the 70s, there was a lot of talk of conservation and how people could save energy, and people did start doing more to conserve. But you’re right – there are a lot of things happening on poltical and global levels that we have little control over directly that are tied to making money and taking shortcuts. But I’m wondering if something is starting to change a little. It’s been interesting watching companies speak up about the US Chamber of Commerce’s stance on Climate Change, with companies like Apple, and even Shell disagreeing publicly with the stance that the Chamber has taken.

    I think our best hope in making change is on a widescale local level – finding opportunities for us to learn more about what we can do to make a difference through education, and through local advocacy.

  5. Hi Nick,

    Thank you for your comment, and for your post on this topic as well. I think it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the problem of climate change on a large scale, but it becomes a lot easier when we start looking at the problem from something that we can help to solve in our own communities.

  6. Hi Frank,

    Thank you. That’s a pretty informative site. I just spent the last forty minutes reading about how to control rainwater and groundwater when building. I’ll be spending a lot more time there, and I’m not planning on building any homes anytime soon – but it is pretty interesting stuff.

  7. Bill- thanks for all of the extremely useful info on this important topic! I just moved to Vermont, where living “green” is a huge deal for everyone I live with. I’m glad that I can now bring some useful info to the table that they might not know about :)

  8. This is a wonderful list you have put together. I do believe local activism is the way to start a community off in the right direction when it comes to using green technologies. However, the biggest change happens at the government and political level. I think one of the most effective ways of securing a truly environmentally friendly future is through our schools and colleges. Being an alumni of the University of Colorado (where our buses ran on green tech) I took a course in environmental economics which opened my eyes to what was really happening here. If we push for more education on the subject we will have more young people getting involved and that is exactly what we need to really convince our government that these alternative energy programs need more funding. Developing techs such as solar panels, hydrogen and ethanol are all very expensive right now. With the right amount of research we can see these high costs melt away and (hopefully) see positive impacts on the environment world-wide.

  9. Hi Christian,

    You’re welcome. My family almost moved to New Hampshire when I was younger, and we toured around Vermont and New Hampshire before making the decision whether to move or not. I remember how beautiful the area was. It’s no surprise that green is so important to people there.

  10. Hi ecamacho,

    Thank you.

    I’m a strong believer in the power of education to transform our world, and the direction of technology and politics. Hopefully, education and research and grassroots movements can overcome the inertia that politics and big business seem to bring to addressing climate change.

  11. Great post, we all need to help! Eating less beef is a major help as well. 1 Lb of beef consumed produces equal emissions to driving your car 150 miles if you consider the full life cycle of that cow. The government needs to take profit from oil production in America to make faster strides in this arena so that we can use profit from a negative factor and turn it in to eco research, tax incentives for eco friendly vehicles and other major movements to reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately America doesn’t have any money to invest because we are so far in debt, so this would be an excellent solution.

  12. Hi Joel,

    There definitely are a lot of small steps that each of us can take to make the world greener, from buying our food from local sources which can help cut down costs associated with transporting and distributing our meals, to being more aware of the energy we consume directly.

    Many of the things we can do to cut our energy consumption also reduces our costs – from reusing and recycling, winterizing homes and businesses better, etc. We can try to influence our government representatives with calls and letters and petitions, or get involved in government offices ourselves. Acting locally is often easier for most people, and if enough people do, the results can have national and global impacts. :)

  13. Hi Bill, this post shows me the different image of you. That’s true. Reading your posts — with my poor English — give me a profile of Bill Slawski who is focusing his thought and energy on search engine researches and patent aplications. Now you look so ‘green and cooling’. :mrgreen:

    Anyway, I absolutely agree with you about local action to overcome climate change. I live in Indonesia, a tropical country. Nationally, the government are now more sharp and mean to illegal logging activities since they cause severe damages to our tropical forests. On the other side, education about the importance of healthy and natural environment is applied to any level of schools. We don’t want to be late..

  14. Hi dekguss99,

    There are many sides to each of us, I guess. I like to write about patents and search engines most of the time here because this site tends to be my workbook for research. But, I find it’s sometimes a good idea to write about something else every so often.

    We do need to care for, and protect the world we live in, and not have our children have to pay the price tomorrow for our actions today.

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