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

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

Climate Reality Check Coalition

I was sitting on a Climate Reality Check Coalition conference call. They do a monthly conference call to keep climate change activists updated on what is going on around the country. The guest speakers today were Tim Christopher from Bidder70 the movie and Becky Bond from Credo.

Tim gave a 4 year history of the climate change movement from 2009 when the focus went from appeasement to confrontation. Dave Redding and I were supporters of one such event when we did “The Walk for the Grandchildren”. He talked about the shift going to “Climate Justice” from just emissions reductions. Which has moved away from our power people as allies to being inclusive of disfranchised populations that don’t have the voice, and yet are now speaking up. He said the civil disobedience is a educational tool because it spotlights what people are willing to do for the changes needed. Tim also added that the civil disobedience started with the “photo op” arrests then moved to people truly putting themselves on the line and having felony charges and court hearings. These people out front need our support both morally and financially to pay for their defense just like he needed several years ago. Many people shrug off the facts and figures that we throw at them but will relate to personal stories. Natural inclination to understand why people are taking risks.

Becky Bond said there are 75,000 people around the country who have signed onto a pledge of resistance. Activating this pledge would be a last resort event to get President Obama to turn down the Keystone XL pipeline. She further shared:

The 5 top priorities of Credo.

  • Start out asking for what we want (not what you are willing to compromise) and then fight for it.
  • Attack villains, don’t try to align with or partner with them. Let’s not let energy companies help us write climate legislation.
  • Don’t give our friends a pass – hold them accountable even when its uncomfortable.
  • We need to get bigger – ask people to do bigger things
  • We need to step back often and ask what it means to go all in to win and then go all in.

Becky explained that the Climate Bill out of the House in 2009 was so watered down. Credo feels that we can’t accept half way. Back in 2009 there were 500,00 people involved, now 3.3 million. With the 75,000 people signing a civil disobedience pledge she emphasized that the climate concern is being acknowledged as the greatest crisis facing humanity and it is urgent.

She emphasized the need to be real and honest about what is coming, due to the climate problems we are now facing. President Obama has the Executive Action to stop the pipeline and address the carbon in our atmosphere and what else is being poured into our atmosphere.

Tim finished off saying, this is a “Climate Justice” movement, it is about making a “Generally healthy and just world”. (for everyone) 

Music to Change the World

A conversation has been swirling around me lately, everywhere I go. It’s about the transformational power of music and stories… to connect people with each other… to plant and grow the vision of healing our relationship with the earth. I hope some of the songs and links below will inspire you!

* * * * *

At CCAN’s Chasing Ice screening, I heard about two artists who shared uplifting social change messages at Floyd Fest this summer: Ben Sollee (who participated in Climate Ride NYC-DC 2012) and Xavier Rudd.

Ben Sollee performing “A Few Honest Words” at the Lincoln Memorial:

Ben Sollee, “A Change Is Gonna Come”:

Xavier Rudd, “The Mother”:

* * * * *

Charles Eisenstein visited Charlottesville to talk about the space between stories, his name for our collective transition from the “old story” of earth domination and destruction to a “new story” of interbeing.

“A New Story of the People” – Charles Eisenstein at TEDxWhitechapel:

* * * * *

While watching The Corporation at my house this week, we talked about the need for a new wave of activist music like the songs that supported and inspired social change movements of the 60s and 70s. Afterward, Stevo shared a Yes! Magazine interview with Dar Williams about political music.

Dar Williams, “Empire”:

* * * * *

Cville Transitioner Joanie Freeman went to the National Storytelling Conference in Richmond and came back full of inspiration to share environmental stories and songs. Look for events coming soon…. maybe you will see a pop-up hootenanny on a Charlottesville street corner! Please get in touch with Joanie if you’d like to help cultivate this idea – or (434) 987-1026.

Bonus link: “50 Greatest Protest Songs

So… what’s your favorite song for inspiration? Please share!

Strong message from Sierra Club against KXL

This is the strongest message that the Sierra Club has issued against the Keystone XL pipeline. The article goes through each point and details the issues. A good read.

Report: As coal declines, efficiency on the rise

Efficiency appears to be the only way for us to win the battle of keeping our planet from getting too hot! We do not appear to be able to convince our local power companies to develop clean energy, even though the costs are about the same as the costs of using coal.

More information can be found here:


Kudzu Foraging Adventure

For our secondKudzu tea foraging adventure, four intrepid Transitioners headed out to the jungle behind the Meadow Creek Community Gardens.  Turns out that most of that mass of green you see swallowing hapless trees is actually ivy or Oregon grape.  So, our band of seekers took a while to find some actual kudzu.  Once we located a limited number of vines, we harvested the younger, more tender leaves, along with some roots, which meant our harvest was somewhat wee.  Not to worry!  We happily headed back to S.’s apartment (with a pit stop for some ripe wine berries on a public street nearby) for our kudzu feast . . .

Turns out kudzu is pretty tough, and even after steaming it for quite some time, it didn’t really break down to the “spinach-like” consistency we’d been led to expect.  Luckily the kudzu tea was tasty (and the root tea has potential), so it was worth finding out more about this nutritious vine.


We are paying more for climate change than education!

“It is in effect a climate disruption tax, equivalent to a 2.7 percentage point increase in what Americans paid in taxes last year.” Says Daniel Lashof, director of the NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program and co-author of the report.

We spent nearly $100 billion in 2012 on drought-related crop insurance, storms like Hurricane Sandy, floods and wildfires. By comparison the nation spent $95 billion on education last year and just $91 billion on transportation.

Trouble Ahead For Thermal Sector In Europe

Looks like the clean energy folks in Europe are doing such a great job that it is causing problems for the coal fired power plants to borrow money. Hope this problem comes to the USA soon! We could all live “off of the grid”.