Becoming a Sustainable Neighborhood - How to Start
In our "Sustainable Neighborhood of the Year" program, we've been able to learn directly from our winning neighborhoods some of their strategies to promote sustainability in their neighborhoods.
But first . . . what does it mean to be a sustainable neighborhood?
Sustainability is generally defined in terms of a three-legged stool – Environmental, Economic, and Social well-being. All three are dependent on each other – without one of the legs the stool will fall and the neighborhood will not thrive.
Within neighborhoods, the environmental leg of sustainability relates to supporting ecosystems, protecting our natural resources, developing native plant and animal habitat, and reducing carbon footprints. Economic sustainability relates to protecting from incompatible development and infrastructure encroachments, achieving walkable retail, school, and work place accessibility, and preserving and protecting property values. And social sustainability relates to quality of life, safety, education, and cultural connections - how we support and relate to each other in our neighborhoods.
So how do neighborhoods get started on a path to sustainability?
Start small. Start with committed people who are doers. Rally some neighbors, set up some activities, see what works, and gain more buy-in for next time. Make sure to always have "doers", not just "talkers". The word will spread and interest will grow.
Join the board of your neighborhood association and work toward opportunities to create a priority of sustainability oriented actions in your neighborhood.
Set up a Facebook closed group for your neighborhood so residents can post invites for functions, curb giveaways, sharing fruit and vegetable harvest surplus, sharing tools, babysitting needs, questions, news, and announcements. All four of our finalist neighborhoods have a Facebook group.
Create an email neighborhood newsletter and include a link to it on your neighborhood Facebook group.
Distribute a paper newsletter periodically – a strategy all four of our champion neighborhoods have adopted. Indianhead Lehigh’s twice yearly newsletter is hand delivered by a team to every residence – what a great way to meet people and get them involved! Woodland Drives has an emailed newsletter once or twice a month, and once a year delivers a paper newsletter to every home in order to connect with every resident.
Establish a neighborhood community garden. Both Leon County and the City of Tallahassee have support programs for community gardens. Also, encourage neighbors to set up front-yard gardens. It’s not an odd idea at all and can blend harmoniously in a manicured landscape. Raised beds along a yard's border can be beautiful. And it’s a great way to connect with neighbors.
Set up periodic neighborhood meetings and bring in some outside expertise on a sustainability topic, such as several of our neighborhoods have done with Leon County’s Office of Sustainability and the City of Tallahassee’s Neighborhood Services. The extension agents at Leon County Extension are superb resources and they are happily available to the citizens of our community.
Establish an EcoTeam – tailor it to suit the interests and needs of your neighborhood. Three of our four 2018 finalist neighborhoods have created an EcoTeam, and each has structured it differently. There is an EcoTeam page on our website that you can use as a guide and for resource materials.
Utilize the services and support of Sustainable Tallahassee. We’ll bring our expertise, enthusiasm, and commitment to your neighborhood. Contact us at admin@SustainableTallahassee.org.