Making Climate Action Contagious From Neighborhoods to Cities

Early this month, I had the great opportunity to tour several environmentally friendly homes located throughout my community. The outing was part of a city garden tour featuring native and drought resistant landscaping, grey-water recycling systems, solar panels and a range of innovative, eco-friendly measures implemented by environmentally conscious homeowners. These homes each presented unique, practical actions that residents in neighborhoods across the nation could adopt.

From Neighborhoods To Cities

When considering which environmental action plans, elected officials often are inspired by successful examples tested by other countries, states, or cities that are on the path to meeting their unique sustainability goals. Often overlooked though, is the importance of spotlighting climate action already at work in one’s own community.

One simple way to highlight the local action of residents is through the use of sustainability tours in your city. Already underway at multiple universities and a number of cities across the country, these tours help identify the important, concrete ways in which all residents in a community can implement climate solutions—like renewable energy generation, water friendly and native landscaping.

Sustainability walking tours help residents identify ways in which they can apply practical climate solutions, and there is growing evidence that within cities, climate action is contagious. Recent research has identified a so-called “contagion effect,” showing that when one household installs rooftop solar, there is an increased chance that others in the neighborhood will follow. Mayors and community leaders should leverage this effect by encouraging residents to act, and by offering incentives for implementing tried & true plans.

How Mayors Can Help

The role of mayors and community leaders in facilitating these programs can vary depending on the size, access to resources, and needs of the community. For instance, in Claremont, California, local tours first sprung from the city’s Sustainability Plan and a Mayoral Task force.  The program has since evolved into a nonprofit organization, Sustainable Claremont, which collaborates with and receives grants to help promote citywide sustainability efforts and plans the city’s Earth Day Celebration events.

Communities and cities are increasingly committing to act on climate: and their action can’t come soon enough. Walking tours represent one solution. They are simple, low cost, community building options that leaders in any city can implement. Access invaluable resources by visiting and joining with other climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities.

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