Volunteers can have a significant impact on their communities simply by "showing up" and speaking up in public meetings. That was the message of a March 14 Cool Cities workshop, "Building Climate-Friendly Communities: General Plans and Green Building Policy," which trained volunteers to ask local governments to implement policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This workshop, the second in a series of Chapter workshops, trained volunteers to advocate for inclusion of climate protection language in a city's General Plan. The General Plan sets goals, policies, and programs that guide each city's long-term development and growth in five areas: land use, transportation, housing, conservation and open space. To help volunteers approach city planners and commissions, Chapter volunteers and the Greenbelt Alliance developed a "toolkit" entitled "Climate Change in General Plans: Sample Language and Policies for Activists," that provides sample policies and language that can be included in a General Plan.
Workshop leaders spent additional time discussing housing, which is a crucial element of any General Plan. Creating affordable housing that incorporates energy-saving technology is critical for "smart" development of our communities.
The presentations and the handouts from this event can be found at: lomaprietaglobal warming.sierraclub.org/team_resources.php This event was co-sponsored by the Greenbelt Alliance, the Planning and Conservation League, and Silicon Valley Leadershiop group.
Two more workshops are planned for later this year. The next workshop, to be held later this spring, will focus on effective organizing techniques for the Cool Cities teams themselves. The following workshop, coming this fall, will examine ways to green existing buildings.
Even if you missed the first two workshops, the Cool Cities effort needs you! Volunteers can get involved in many ways, including attending meetings and advocating on behalf of climate-friendly policies. Building relationships with local city staff and commissions can be very valuable. Some Cool Cities teams have partnered with other organizations, such as neighborhood associations and Acterra, to accelerate change. Others have utilized public pressure: gathering signatures, issuing a Low Carbon Challenge, and publicizing events in local newspapers, in order to gain support for Cool Cities policies. For example, the Chapter's "Cool Cities Local Government Climate Action Survey 2008" was particularly useful in influencing city councils and guiding sustainability coordinators in cities such as Burlingame. Finally, volunteers can serve on local Plan Advisory Committees.
The Cool Cities teams look forward to welcoming you at their next meeting, or at the spring workshop.
Nicole Kemeny is a Global Warming Program volunteer for the Chapter.