Neighborhood Fun at the Transition Streets Pilot Project

By Logan Blanco and Ann Mercer

Transition Streets is a grassroots, community-based project to encourage and help individual households reduce energy use and consumption right here and now. Ann and I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Transition Streets USA Pilot Project, being one of 13 groups in the US. The idea is simple: We gathered a group of eight households in our neighborhood who were willing to meet seven times over the course of a few months to talk about consuming fewer resources, saving money, and building a sense of community. The content of each meeting was guided by a workbook which includes chapters on using less energy, waste reduction, sensible water use, transportation choices and eating locally.

The experience was better than we ever imagined. We call ourselves the Little Merri Woolie Jeffs. Many of us are already recycling, composting, and watching our water use. Half of us are commuter cyclists.  Some in our group had already invested in home solar panels. We all like growing veggies and herbs.

Little Merri Woolie Jeffs

During this Pilot Project, we each took turns hosting and facilitating. We talked, learned and shared information that wouldn’t be considered small talk by any means:

“Do you flush the toilet every time or when it’s yellow let it mellow?’

“Do you shower every day?”

“Do you throw out a perfectly good washing machine for an energy saving one or wait until it breaks and then switch over?”

“Did you know that walking to IY is an option?”

“Do you know how much energy a vacuum consumes? A toaster? “

Some of us catch the cold water that precedes the hot before doing dishes or showering and using that water to flush the toilet or for watering the house plants.

Some of us use the water from rain barrels for washing hair.

One person had lots of experience in setting up rain-barrels and offered to help others.

The revelations and ideas flowed non-stop. We all had something to offer and we all had something to learn.

Then we developed and shared our personal action plans:

“We’re going to check out getting attic insulation.”

“I’m definitely getting new lights on my bike.”

“We’ve started collecting food scraps from a couple of our neighbors who haven’t been composting.”

“Shawnee and I are going to check out new water-saving toilets and the city rebate program.”

“Next time I’m missing that one essential ingredient for a recipe, I’m going to try borrowing from a neighbor instead of jumping in the car to go to the store.”

The workbook often mentioned that the Transition Streets initiative was a means of saving money. But what our group experienced was something far more. We got excited about sharing ideas and helping each other. We loved seeing other people’s houses, sharing food, and playing together. We started using the word “community” a lot. AND we chose to open up our group to other neighbors and continue meeting monthly for various neighborhood activities like garden tours, project work, social events at our local eatery the Firefly (they serve locally sourced food), community meals, and even having speakers come and talk to use on topics such as advanced directives and community emergency response training.

The plan going forward, is to get more groups of friends and neighbours to do as we did.

We had a lot of fun doing this pilot project! We not only learned how to conserve energy and consume less, which is both good for the planet as well as our wallets. We also learned how to Doodle Meetings, stay in touch with each other through the Nextdoor social networking website, and how to create a more connected, resilient, and fun neighborhood!

Transition Streets is an initiative of the Transition movement, a world-wide, vibrant, grassroots movement that seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as climate change, resource depletion and economic instability.

Transition Streets Charlottesville is being coordinated through Transition Cville, our local Transition Town organization offering monthly pot-luck gatherings, skill-sharing workshops, and a local Transition newsletter.

Transition Streets is also one of several community partner involved in the Energize Charlottesville project: Charlottesville is one of 50 communities that have been selected to compete for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national $5 million competition to rethink the way American communities use energy. Let’s do it!

Transition Streets will launch soon in Charlottesville and Albemarle. Want to learn more? Please email

April 14: Tell Dominion to Stop Polluting Our Climate & Our Democracy!

From Glen Besa, VA Sierra Club –

WHAT: Protest against Dominion and its ALEC partners outside VA Chamber of Commerce “Dirty Energy” Conference. Bring your signs, banners and props.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 148:00 AM to 9:30 AM, as participants are entering the conference.

WHERE: On the sidewalk outside the Richmond Convention Center, E. Marshall and N. 5th Street (500 E Marshall St, Richmond, VA 23219)

RSVP HERE-Let us know you’re coming!

energy protestBACKGROUND:

Dominion Resources doesn’t just pollute our air, water, and climate. The company pollutes our politics too.  And it’s not acting alone. Dominion is a member/supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as are two other big Virginia coal-burning carbon polluters—Appalachian Power/AEP and the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) (through its participation in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association).

Join us Tuesday April 14 at 8 AM to Demonstrate Against Dominion and its ALEC partners outside the VA Chamber of Commerce’s Orwellian-named “Energy and Sustainability” Conference.  A conference panel discussion on the EPA Clean Power Plan includes representatives from ALEC supporters Dominion, AEP and ODEC and no clean energy representatives.  When coal-burning ALEC supporters dominate a conference on sustainability, it’s time for the people to stand up and say “enough.”

As the biggest corporate political campaign donor to Virginia Republicans and Democrats alike, Dominion can rely on a majority of state legislators to vote the company’s way.  Dominion’s and ALEC’s hands are evident on the recent amendment to the new state ethics bill that would allow big polluters to fly legislators around on private planes to ALEC conferences and other events while excusing the politicians from even reporting the gifts in some instances.

As long as Dominion can buy our decision-makers, it can keep building dirty energy projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (and new gas generating plants to justify it).  Dominion’s electricity generation plans provide for a 30% increase in carbon pollution over the next 15 years. And that doesn’t count methane releases from the company’s growing fracked gas transmission and distribution operations.

As an ALEC member, Dominion supports Koch brothers-financed efforts to deny climate change, block EPA action on climate, and support voter suppression of young people, minorities, and the elderly. Visit for more details.

Dominion’s energy plans are Too Risky and Too Costly for Virginia! But driven by short term profits, arrogance and greed, Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell is pursuing a massive new fracked gas pipeline, new gas power plants and a new nuclear reactor near an active earthquake fault line.  Dominion continues to block independent energy efficiency, solar and wind investments, touting its own small, token clean energy projects while it invests heavily in new dirty energy facilities.

Join us April 14, when Sierra Club and other groups gather outside the Richmond Convention Center to make some noise!  We will be demonstrating against Dominion and its ALEC partners outside the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s “Dirty Energy” Conference where Virginia’s biggest polluters will be inside trashing the US EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Glen Besa, Director
Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter
422 E. Franklin St, Suite 302
Richmond, VA 23219



Virginia Climate Fever – Author Stephen Nash Speaks Weds. 3/25

From Superstorm Sandy to Typhoon Haiyan, climate change is already causing extreme weather, sea level rise, droughts, and more – all around the globe. In his book Virginia Climate Fever:  How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests, environmental journalist Stephen Nash details the current impacts and future threats of climate change in our very own state.

Stephen Nash will speak on Virginia Climate Fever at Charlottesville’s Central Library on Wednesday, March 25, at 7pm in the McIntire Room. You are invited to join the Sierra Club for this important discussion. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, please contact Suzanne at (434) 245-9898 or or

Virginia Climate Fever – The book we’ve been waiting for.

Book Review by John A. Cruickshank, Chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club

A group of fifteen activists met four times this winter to discuss how climate change will affect the Old Dominion during the 21st century.  To provide a framework for our discussions, we all read Virginia Climate Fever by Stephen Nash.  This recently released book provides a detailed description of the climatic disruptions we can expect in Virginia and the steps needed to adapt to these changes.  Nash warns that Virginia has made little progress in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are a major cause of climate change and is not making the necessary preparations for the challenges we face in the decades ahead.

Climate change has already come to Virginia.  Average temperatures have risen, flora and fauna across the state have been affected, and our coastal areas are experiencing significant flooding.  Nash allows the research to speak for itself.  His book provides essential data with easily understood maps and charts.  He describes his many conversations with respected scientists, government leaders, and Virginians who are now dealing with climate disruption.

During most our meetings the participants examined what is happening in our own community. We discussed actions citizens can take to reduce our carbon footprint and prepare for the inevitable problems ahead.  Most of us will not live to see the worst effects of climate disruption, but we are concerned that our children and grandchildren’s lives will become more difficult because of the actions (or inaction) taken today.

We recommend that everyone read Virginia Climate Fever.  It brings home the seriousness of this issue that will affect the lives of Virginians for many years to come.  It is available at the library and local book stores.

Our book group was organized by the Sierra Club, 350 Central Virginia, and Transition Charlottesville Albemarle.  To become involved and learn more about what you can do to prepare our community for climate disruption, please go to the websites of these local groups.

TCA Women’s Resilience Retreat

Womens_RetreatCome walk together as we rejuvenate, strengthen our resilience, and fire up our creativity in these changing times. We’ll provide time for laughter, contemplation, and opportunities to learn more about living lightly on the earth. Enjoy a fire circle, drumming, story-telling, conscious breathing, and more!

Transition Charlottesville Albemarle’s Women’s Resilience Retreat
Friday evening, Sept. 19 through Saturday evening, Sept. 20
@ EcoVillage Charlottesville, 480 E. Rio Road.

Rejuvenation * Skill Share * Meditation * Empowerment * New Friends

Sign up or find more information on Facebook or contact Joanie Freeman at 434-987-1026 or

$45 for campers/$60 for inside accommodations

Please join us

Green Building Extreme: Meet Charlottesville’s Recycled House

Recycled House ExteriorDebra began with an old outbuilding she was curious about renovating and renting out.  When that plan fell through she decided to recycle the beautiful, aged materials into a new structure.  Before long she was collecting scrap and second had materials from all over town: beams from demolished buildings, scrap materials from countertop builders, knick-knacks and furniture from eBay and auctions. All these materials, along with a bit of creativity, make a stunningly beautiful and unique addition to the city of Charlottesville.

The Recycled House teaches us an important lesson: that reducing, reusing, and recycling does not mean living with less.  Its construction certainly took time, effort, creativity, and patience, but the result is a beautiful house and home that will be treasured by all those living in and around it.  When modern architecture provides so many examples of ugly, utilitarian department stores, cookie-cutter homes, and other throw-away structures, the Recycled House stands out as a real gem.  Imagine if our whole city was built with this love, care, and attention.  And it all started with one ordinary home-owner with a dream.

See the full tour at the Recycled House Website.

Recycled House StoveRecycled House KitchenRecycled House Patio

Pop-up Clothesline Party for “Fire Your Dryer” Initiative

Lorrie with her clotheslineLet it all hang out at Transition C’ville’s Pop-up Clothesline Party!  Firing our dryer is about more than reducing our carbon footprint.  Using a clothesline cuts our energy bill, gives us time to spend outside and socialize with out neighbors, and gives us wonderful sun-kissed sheets.  Join us this Friday on the downtown mall to celebrate and promote the simple joy of line-drying our clothes.  We’ll have a juggling unicyclists, the wonderful Green Granny choir, Better World Betty, clothespin games for kids, laundry soap making, and an umbrella clothesline raffle.  The event will take place 5-7pm near the downtown fountain (near Zocalo and the future Landmark Hotel).  Drop by and discover how easy it is to harness free, renewable energy!

Special thanks to Charlottesville Earth Week for co-sponsoring this event.


Ecovillage “Coming Out” Party a Huge Success

A perfect sunset crowned the hill over the Lochlyn House last night as it hosted Ecovillage Charlottesville’s “Coming Out” party.  Situated at 480 East Rio Road, the Lochlyn House property was recently purchased to serve as the future home of Charlottesville’s very first ecovillage.  The event included tours of the property, a presentation by the newly formed Ecovillage Board, a sumptuous dessert bar, and lively conversation amongst all the guests.

Ecovillage board presentation

The Charlottesville Ecovillage Board presents to a full house. Community members from all walks of life attended the meeting to express interest and support the project.

The event celebrated all that had been accomplished in the two months since work on the property began. Volunteers have been busy cleaning, furnishing, decorating, and planting to help realize their dream of a Charlottesville ecovillage.  The Lochlyn house is the main house on the property and will serve as a bed and breakfast (to raise funds for the ecovillage) as well as a community  space for meetings, house concerts, parties, and workshops.  Downhill from the Lochlyn House lies a smaller cottage which will serve as a Healthy Living Center, offering classes and workshops in meditation, yoga, nutrition, parenting, and much more.

Community members touring the property.

Community members tour the property of the future Charlottesville Ecovillage.

Within five years the board hopes for dwellings to be well underway and for residents to have moved into the community.  For those living there, the ecovillage will serve as a safe and supporting space in which to practice a different kind of lifestyle; one that is intentional, sustainable, and ecologically and socially regenerative.  But don’t think this is just another neighborhood. The board members all make it perfectly clear: Ecovillage Charlottesville has a critical role to play in the community if we are to face the converging crises of our time.

We’re all aware of the unprecedented problems we face: economic collapse, climate change, and resource scarcity.  By ourselves these problems are unsolvable and all too many of us react by simply ignoring them.  Even our politicians are at a loss and encourage us to simply “keep on shopping”.  But these problems are solvable!  It won’t be an easy road, but by working together, pooling our collective genius and offering each other support along the way, we can start addressing these problems and building a better world.  Ecovillage Charlottesville will serve as a laboratory for exploring sustainable living and as an emotional haven to support us as we leave behind our individualistic and high-consumption lifestyle.  What happens there is only the beginning, as the lessons learned, techniques developed, and friendships made extend into the wider Charlottesville community.

Getting Involved

The supportive, communal, and collaborative spirit which characterizes the Ecovillage was in full swing last night.  People from all walks of life came together to meet one another, make new friends, and support a shared dream.  You too can join that dream!  There are many ways to get involved:

  • Attend the ecovillage’s weekly work parties.  Work starts every Sunday at 1:30pm and ends with a potluck dinner at 5:00pm.
  • Lend your talents.  The Ecovillage is looking for hands and minds skilled in:
    • Communications, Networking, and Marketing
    • Architecture, Engineering, and Design
    • Financial and Legal Management
    • Organizational Development, Facilitation and Mediation, and Group Process
    • Fundraising
    • Strategic Planning
    • Education
    • Event Organizing
  • Join the board (more details coming soon).
  • Visit the ecovillage, schedule your next meeting there, or come for a picnic.
  • Spread the word!  Tell your friends and family about this exciting opportunity coming to Charlottesville.

To contact the Ecovillage you can email them at or visit them on Facebook.  To schedule an events, contact Joanie Freeman at 434-987-1026.

Tom Tom Founders Festival Energy Talks

Great experience sitting in on the “Flipping the Switch” and “The New Energy Ethic” talks at City Space today.  The first panel had well over 30 people in attendance, and then the second, with Sandy Reisky and Cynthia Adams, was standing room only, probably 60+ people.  I know it’s ubiquitous now, but I still love to see all the interest that renewables generate!   Still a long way to go to get us to a sustainable future, but on a day like today I feel quite hopeful.  I particularly liked that while Sandy championed all the great technologies that will help us, Cynthia balanced the discussion with some common sense approaches that included conservation:  “be your own power plant” by not placing as high a demand on the system.  Good stuff.