This year has been a tumultuous one for climate change. While progress was made, international agreements were put into place, and cities, states and countries have sprung into action—the political commitment to climate action at the federal and global stage seems uncertain at best. However, 2016 also showed us that action on climate begins at the local level. It is the mayors and community leaders who are closest to the people that are developing, implementing and reaping the benefits of climate-wise programs.
Action on climate can be found in cities and neighborhoods across the country, but what’s often most inspiring is how much can be done with so little. Over the past year, Path to Positive Communities has highlighted many examples of these local success stories, and even in the small city where I live, bold action can be found. These are some of the simple solutions that are already underway:
- Invest: Through a bond measure, residents in the local school district sent the message that they were eager to invest in clean energy. The plan was simple: utilize open spaces at every school in the district to erect robust solar panels. Covering parking lots, lining rooftops, and providing shaded areas on school campuses, the solar investments are now paying off through reduced energy bills for the city and school district.
- Inspire: Sometimes even simple solutions can go a long way. The University of La Verne has this year made efforts to encourage students to cycle, carpool, and even ditch their cars in favor of using on-campus car sharing programs like Zipcar. By upgrading bike racks, providing a station with bike tools and pumps, and even simply encouraging cyclists, the campus has reinforced a commitment to pedal power. These actions have reverberated throughout the community. Students are cycling and walking more in the adjacent downtown, which has helped to decrease local congestion and has cut air and noise pollution.
- Grow: One of the first steps that any community leader can take is to simply provide open spaces for developing community gardens. These can be located within church grounds, school campuses, vacant lots, or even land acquired through private-public partnerships. Community gardens improve the lives of residents by providing local, often organic, and reasonably priced fresh produce to families and restaurants. They have been linked to higher educational outcomes for children, and increased rates of science literacy. They are also good for the climate. Local food has fewer carbon miles than produce purchased in grocery stores. Additionally, increased green spaces can help dampen urban heat-island effects, thereby decreasing A/C use.
The City of La Verne has no sustainability department. There is no sustainability director, analyst, or coordinator. Climate has nearly no presence in council meetings or statements by the Mayor. However, what the community does have is a handful of committed leaders who recognize that they can improve the lives of residents through cycling, lower energy bills, less congested city streets, decreased air and noise pollution, and access to fresh produce from community gardens—and that these have the added benefit of being climate positive.
These commitments represent low-cost actions that offer significant climate impacts, yet have little or no costs. All that is required is leadership. And becoming a climate leader is easier than ever. Access the latest communications tools and research guides at ecoAmerica, join with committed leaders, and begin to take your journey in the Path to Positive Communities.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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