Feeling connected to your neighbors helps create a sense of belonging, mutual support and makes it easier to share with and care for each other.
It’s also a great way to help make the world more sustainable.
In fact, neighborhood-building projects with a focus on sustainability are emerging all around the world. Let’s visit five distinct examples of how people are working to strengthen the health of their neighborhood, as well as the planet.
1. Tomorrow Today Streets
Based in London, Tomorrow Today Streets is an initiative that offers 24 practical kits to help members of a street “make everyday wonderful.” Each kit includes materials, equipment, training , and helpful tips, and are free when at least three members of the same street apply for it. Each kit helps neighbors to grow and cook food (whilest supporting healthier eating and waste reduction), repair clothes as well as bicycles, organize community events, and much more.
Its parent organization, Every One. Every Day, is distributed over five High Street shops, and one large public makerspace called The Warehouse in Thames, where the project’s organizers host regular inspiring and practical events, such as workshops and skillshares, to help people to start something exciting on their street to make life better for everyone.
Click here for further resources and ways to get involved.
2. Transition Streets
Originally set up as an experiment in Totnes, England, the Transition Streets initiative aims to change behavior on the street so as to “to cut energy use, reduce carbon emissions, save money and strengthen your neighborhood.”
What’s more, these changes all require little or no financial investment to move forward.
Focusing on addressing the climate emergency in a fun and friendly way, the program brings neighbors together to connect, collaborate, and care about what matters to them, in their own context, on their own street.
The program encourages seven regular meetings among a group of households, and is guided by a workbook, which offers simple tips on how to review our relationship to food packaging, transport, water, and energy in a more efficient and sustainable way.
Participants report that, at the end of the program, they feel more connected with their neighbors — and on average saved around $760 per year, and 1.4 tons of carbon dioxide per year, for each household.
Click here to learn how to set up a similar project in your area.
3. Cool Block
The Cool Block strategy is to use grassroots organizing, and starts with individuals who are making changes in their own lives. Cool Block shows them how to extend their impact to their household, neighborhood, city — and beyond.
Project founder David Gershon says that communities can start their Cool Block project after staging nine meetings together over a period of about four-and-a-half months. The meetings, he says, “help people learn about carbon reduction, water stewardship, disaster resiliency, livability, and empowering others.”
Want to get a Cool Block project started where you live? It all begins with an individual block leader — a volunteer who is committed to make change right on their block.
4. Instituto Ecobairro
First launched in Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the biggest cities in the world, Instituto Ecobairro — the Eco-Borough Institute, for English speakers — envisions setting up “cooperation networks where creativity, harmony and diversity inspire our actions, in a continuous movement of reconciliation.”
Aiming to help Brazilian towns and cities to become more sustainable and peaceful, this initiative runs programs and events, and provides free online resources. For instance, the project has developed a Portuguese-language manual, “Seeds for a Sustainable and Peaceful Neighborhood,” to help individuals transform their lives, homes, streets, and blocks.
Amid the current global pandemic, Instituto Ecobairro has also released free online resources, such as “A Sustainable Guide to Staying Home” (in Portuguese), providing inspiration and ideas for becoming more sustainable and resilient in times of social distancing and self-isolation.
5. Social Streets
It all started in 2013 with a Facebook group for residents of Fondazza Street in Bologna, Italy, but soon grew to include other Facebook groups for neighbors in other regions.
Social Streets has since become a simple, powerful, and free means for neighbors to build relationships, identify common needs, share expertise and knowledge, and work together on projects that benefit everyone living in the same region.
By knowing each other, neighbors are helping each other out, ranging from organizing children’s playdates to item swaps and movie sessions; independent businesses have created discount programs for local residents to support the local economy; and people are sharing more — things, skills, resources, and time.
Social Streets has proven to be a powerful tool for change, especially when the connections transcend the virtual world, and become face-to-face as a natural next step from online interactions.