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Transition Streets: Local Government, Renters, and the Magic of Meeting Your Neighbors

A couple of weeks ago, Transition US convened a handful of courageous and inspired community leaders who are implementing Transition Streets in neighborhoods across the US: Sacramento and Berkeley CA; Bozeman, MT; Charlottesville, VA; and the Catskills, NY. We were very excited to hear about their successes and innovations, and wanted to share some of our takeaways with you.

Partnering with Local Government

Chris Thompson from Transition Bozeman, MT pointed out that mayors in more than 1,000 US cities have signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and the local governments in these cities are often seeking community-based partners and initiatives to promote. The City of Bozeman recently hired a neighborhood coordinator who Chris has been meeting with, and—among other things—will support Bozeman neighborhoods to implement Transition Streets.

Linda Currie of Transition Berkeley is meeting with her city’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator to explore the potential of using Transition Streets as a tool for building more resilient neighborhoods. Transition Charlottesville received financial support from their local government to print copies of the Transition Streets Handbook, and the city included information on Transition Streets along with utility bills.

Renters

Transition Streets Sacramento organizer Richard Lentz asked a great question: “What about renters?” He observed that many of the actions listed in the energy chapter will have greatest benefit to homeowners, who have a greater incentive to invest in projects like attic insulation and upgrading to energy efficient appliances.

Linda Currie had a great response, based on her years of experience as a facilitator for another household energy-efficiency project: renters can do this in partnership with their landlords. Many landlords appreciate that their property value can increase from energy-efficiency upgrades using incentives and rebates that are often available. In addition, most of the other Transition Streets actions (food, waste, and transportation) can be implemented in almost any living situation, regardless of whether or not the participant is a homeowner.

We heard an inspiring story from Logan Blanco in Transition Charlottesville-Albemarle, where one Transition Streets group is made up entirely of renters in the same building. Participants were initially drawn to Transition Streets because they wanted to build a greater sense of community in their building, but found they shared a number of barriers to energy and water-efficiency and collectively came up with a list of suggestions and requests for their landlord.

Door-Knocking

Neighborhood coordinators have told us more than once that simply knocking on your neighbors’ doors is one of the most effective ways to invite participation in Transition Streets. Today that strategy was affirmed by Logan Blanco from Charlottesville: “One of our greatest successes has been finding people who are brave enough to go knock on their neighbors’ doors and invite them to join Transition Streets. Of course, they need to have the time and willingness to go door-to-door. We’ll even go with them, but we won’t do it for them. They need to be willing to go out and talk to their own neighbors.”

Outreach Strategies

In addition to door-knocking, participants shared a few innovative outreach strategies for engaging people in Transition Streets:

1. Host a Transition Streets info session and focus on the energy chapter, which is rich in money-saving activities.

2. Give a pitch for Transition Streets at the end of a related event focusing on the “problem,” where people are thirsty for solutions.

3. Print Transition Streets window signs or stickers for participants who have completed Transition Streets to display in their home.

4. Let people know Transition Streets is a credible, proven project—part of an international movement—and point them to the beautiful Transition Streets website as a resource.

The Magic of Meeting Your Neighbors

Once again we heard that what people value most about Transition Streets is getting to know their neighbors. The Transition Streets pilot group in Charlottesville that first started meeting over a year ago has continued coming together to share skills and learn together, next month hosting a speaker on emergency preparedness..

Are you interested in bringing Transition Streets to your neighborhood? Learn more by visiting transitionstreets.org and email info@transitionstreets.org with any questions.

Images (from top): screenshot of Transition Bozeman, MT local news coverage; Launch of Transition Streets in Sacramento, CA (courtesy of Joshua Shepherd).

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