Community-level sustainability initiatives are on the rise! According to the book “Blessed Unrest” by Paul Hawken, there is an enormous surge of grass-roots initiatives happening globally right now. And although they are relative disconnected, together they wield huge influence.
I see this happening daily, from my home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, where no fewer than 150 NGO’s are working on sustainability and related environmental projects. The power of groups like these is growing. In many towns in North America, local level by-laws are being re-written to exclude certain types of development based on sustainability principles and frameworks, such as “The Natural Step” or “Transition Town.”
Transition Town is a movement that supports communities with creating carbon emission reducing initiatives. It already has about 300 towns on board and is growing rapidly. Salt Spring is one of them and has already made headway locally, helping set carbon reduction goals. At the heart of a Transition Town is an energy plan the community develops to help them move off of fossil fuels. This can occur through setting up food co-ops, electric car co-ops, pressuring the local government to set carbon reduction goals or exclude certain types of industrial businesses, etc.
Communities can now take advantage of data freely available on the Web to inform them of what governments, NGOs, and businesses are doing in their region. That is the first step to understanding a town’s carbon footprint and where to put the bulk of the effort.
Going one step further, using community planning software, collaborative decision-making can occur in a community between all groups to help identify goals, metrics and what the trade-offs are so that everyone can agree to a local energy reduction plan.
As community interest in quality-of-life and resource management issues grows, what impact do you think this will have on the practice of EHS Management? What is your company doing to engage community-level stakeholders?