Transition Streets: How to Get Started

What is Transition Streets?

Transition Streets is a community-based project to help individual households save energy and waste right here and now. Program participants meet with their neighbors for seven sessions over a period of several months to build a sense of community on their street, and learn fun and easy ways to practice sustainable habits.

Each session is guided by a chapter of the Transition Streets Handbook. The handbook details actions, tips, and facts to empower you and your neighbors to increase your energy efficiency, cut down on waste, eat fresh and local, save money, and build a stronger community.

Want to see a Transition Streets group on your street? Awesome! Transition Streets is initiated and run by neighbors, so neighborhood leaders like you are the key to “living better together, one street at a time.”

Transition Charlottesville Albemarle has a small team of dedicated volunteers who will help you join or organize a group and get off to a good start. We can help by:

  • Publicizing Transition Streets all over town
  • Providing sample flyers, resources, and a printed handbook for each group
  • Connecting you with a volunteer Transition Street [TS] Facilitator who will answer your questions, cheer you on, and attend your first and last group meetings

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Email and tell us what neighborhood you live in. We’ll connect you with a TS Facilitator who can help with the next steps.
  2. Click here if you want to download a printable version of this Get Started guide
  3. Recruit a friend to help you organize! There’s a bit of work to do, and it’s easier with a team. If we’ve heard from someone else in your neighborhood, we’ll help you link up.
  4. Download the Transition Streets Handbook: Go to For “Your Official Transition Initiative’s Name” enter Transition Charlottesville Albemarle. Your TS Facilitator will provide your group with one printed copy of the handbook.
  5. Start reaching out to your neighbors. You want a group of about 6-8 households. (See below for specific ideas.)
  6. When you have enough people ready to start, set a date for your first meeting. If folks have busy schedules, try using to send a quick survey and pick the best meeting date. Be sure to include your TS Facilitator!


How to Get Neighbors to Join Your Transition Streets Group

Pound the pavement:

  • Knock on doors and distribute flyers (Click here to download a sample flyer)
  • Talk to your neighbors! (talking points below)
  • Put up a poster on your neighborhood bulletin board
  • Get on the agenda of a neighborhood association/HOA meeting
  • Ask for a story in your neighborhood newsletter or blog
  • Distribute flyers to grocery stores, libraries, community centers, etc.
  • Distribute flyers at street fairs, farmers’ markets or other community events
  • Contact institutions with local programs (e.g. churches, senior centers)

Use social media:

  • Send invitations to neighbors that you’ve friended on Facebook
  • Try out, a private online social network for neighbors (many people in Charlottesville are already using this network)

Don’t try to do it alone:

  • Ask a friend or community leader for help
  • Recruit “block captains” to be responsible for recruiting their block
  • Ask neighbors (personally) to ask their next door neighbors
  • Host a sign-up party, barbecue, or potluck with the help of people already interested

Transition Streets Talking Points

  • Transition Streets is a community-based project to help individual households save money, conserve energy and consume fewer resources right here and now.
  • Transition Streets has been tried and tested in over 600 households in the UK & USA.
  • Transition Streets is a community partner of Energize!Charlottesville, the City’s two-year campaign to save energy as a community and win the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize.
  • Program participants meet with their neighbors for seven sessions over a period of several months to build a sense of community on their street, and learn fun and easy ways to practice sustainable habits.
  • Each session is guided by a chapter of the Transition Streets Handbook. The handbook details actions, tips, and facts to empower you and your neighbors to increase your energy efficiency, cut down on waste, eat fresh and local, save money, and build a stronger community.
  • Households save an average of $900/year on bills and expenses and reduce their household carbon emissions by an average of 1.3 tons!
  • But, the best part is getting to know your neighbors and building a more vibrant, connected, resilient and fun neighborhood!

More info

If you have any questions, or want to help us spread the word about this initiative, email us at or call our committee contact person Logan Blanco at 434-327-3571.

More info from Transition United States:

Watch the Transition Streets video:

Live better together, one street at a time!

We’re rolling out the Transition Streets program in Charlottesville. After a successful pilot of the program, a revision of the handbook, and other new resources from the Transition US team, we’re ready to bring the program to your neighborhood.

Green Grannies Performance and Press Conference

9:30am Saturday, July 18 at Charlottesville City Market, 100 E Water St.

Program coordinators will introduce Transition Streets and explain how residents can get involved. The Green Grannies choir will sing environmental songs set to familiar tunes.

Launch Party

6pm-7:30pm Wednesday, July 29 at Ecovillage Charlottesville, 480 Rio Rd. E

Join us for refreshments, info, and fun. Meet new friends, explore the Transition Streets program, and leave with all the resources you need to start or join a group in your own neighborhood!

What is Transition Streets?

Transition Streets is a community-based project to help individual households save money, energy and waste right here and now. Program participants meet with their neighbors for seven sessions over a period of several months to build a sense of community on their street, and learn fun and easy ways to practice sustainable habits.

Each session is guided by a chapter of the Transition Streets Handbook. The handbook details actions, tips, and facts to empower you and your neighbors to increase your energy efficiency, cut down on waste, eat fresh and local, save money, and build a stronger community.

Is your neighborhood ready for a change?

Join us on July 29th from 6:00PM – 7:30PM at Ecovillage Charlottesville for a launch party to learn more about the program and get the resources you’ll need to get started. You don’t need to have your other neighbors committed yet, just come out, enjoy some refreshments, learn about the program, and decide if you’re ready to start the transition.

More info

If you have any questions, or want to help us spread the word about this initiative email us at

More info from Transition United States:

Watch the Transition Streets video:


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

A Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water

Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.

Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

Study Finds Methane Contaminated Wells Near Fracking Sites

Looks like we are getting more data about the real dangers of fracking. Additionally the US Bureau of Land Management has decided to use the standards written by ExxonMobil and supported by ALEC.


Pale Blue Blobs Invade, Freeze, Then Vanish

Methane is trapped in ice but when the ice thaws it bubbles up to the surface.  We then have a big problem. Methane 30x worse than CO2 can cause a run-away greenhouse effect. Read this article. 

Transition Cville VISION 2013 – Part 1

Thanks to everyone who shared their visions at our January Transition Town meeting! We collected 10 huge pages full of ideas on Energy, Economy, Transportation, Housing, Food, Water, Reduce/Reuse/Recycle, Family, Health, and Community. Our small group conversations led to some immediate project initiatives and lots more possibilities for the future.

What’s the next step? Look for it in your inbox next week.

The next step is to build a detailed strategic plan for 2013-2014 and identify folks who are ready to step up and help turn these ideas into reality. On or around Feb. 13, we’ll send an online survey to the local Transition community: which parts of this vision should become our top priorities, and what are YOU willing & able to work on this year? …or, what are you already working on that we can support and amplify? We’ll follow up on the survey results at our next monthly Transition Town meeting on February 25.

Don’t wait for the survey, or the February  meeting, if you want to get involved right away! Leave a comment below, or you can reach me at annmarie.hohenberger (at) gmail (dot) com or (434) 981-2004. I would love to hear about your project idea or put you in touch with a group that needs you.

Folks around town are already working on our vision. Thanks y’all!

Another piece of this vision process is to connect our efforts with work that’s already being done locally. The Transition Cville “Initiating Group” (our steering committee – currently me, Joanie, Dave, Stevo, Lorrie, Glenn, and Dana) will examine our community inventory of allies and brainstorm ways to support instead of duplicating.

Two of our most important potential allies – sometimes overlooked – are City and County government. They’re working hard to create a new Comprehensive Plan, and many items match beautifully with what Transitioners want to see in our community. Public involvement in the Comprehensive Plan process has been low (although Joanie and Dave have faithfully attended many meetings). In the coming months, let’s resolve as a Transition community to support and encourage our elected officials and public staff who are working toward sustainability.

Inspiration from the VISION meeting

At the end of our January 28 meeting, each person shared one thing they would take away from the Vision activity:

  • Explore reuseable technology that can facilitate tool libraries, time shares
  • Look at making a Cville mutual fund to aggregate financial resources for micro enterprises.
  • How can Transition Cville host an internship for youth?
  • Meet with local food hub to see how can work with them.
  • Contact Meredith Richards to “fan the flame” for warehousing capacity.
  • Look at steps for creating an energy cooperative.
  • Cheerleader for Better Business Challenge; encourage businesses to compost and have reuseable to go containers.
  • Tool Library, starting with Transition group.
  • be “Mr. Recycle”
  • Look at first steps for starting a local energy grid or wind farm.
  • Think about community being self contained and self sufficient.
  • Already working on generating cooperative businesses; going to Cleveland, Ohio to visit Evergreen’s energy cooperative, with a focus on low income.
  • Focus on Dominion Power and generate grassroots movement working with other groups to work together.
  • Not be miserable about the now! Also, buy more in bulk.
  • Women’s clothes swap. Writing letters for energy reform.
  • Raise awareness about Dominion Power and lack of renewables.
  • Convince a financial group to create a mutual fund for local investment. Involve young people in Transition – put together a curriculum package to offer to HS students.
  • Don’t need a refrigerator.
  • Take back your power (in all ways).
  • Integrate alternative healing modalities to bring together health, community and family – create a wellness bus or traveling herb kitchen.

And here’s a video from Transitioner Bob Fenwick that captures the spirit of the meeting and shows what we did.

A Critical Time for Stormwater Management

The Rivanna Conservation Society has, for more than 20 years, been concerned about the impact of the runoff that occurs after major rain and or snow storm events. With each storm, pollution is washed from the land surfaces into the rivers and streams that flow in our lovely community. Working with the UVA Conservation and Environmental Law Clinic and the Southern Environmental Law Center, RCS and its partner submitted recommendations to the various governmental jurisdictions, many of which have been implemented. Click here to see the Stormwater Reports
Now the City of Charlottesville is proposing to increase its focus on stormwater management and has a stormwater program that will come before the City Council of February 4, 2013. This program is needed because as Charlottesville has developed, large areas have been covered with impervious surfaces – (surfaces that do not absorb water). These hard surfaces account for over 105 million square feet, or about 37%, of the city, which is enough to cover almost 2,000 football fields. RCS is supporting the proposal to improve the City’s stormwater systems and the utility being developed to support it. Here’s why…

We hope you’ll take the time to learn about this important issue.

Jack Brown, Board Chair
Roberta (Robbi) Savage, Executive Director

Rivanna Conservation Society
108 5th Street SE
P.O. Box 1501
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
434-97-RIVER (434-977-4837) 

Now is the time for a Stormwater Utility!

  1. The City of Charlottesville is facing increasingly more stringent, onerous, and costly Federal and State water quality and stormwater regulations.
  2. The recent requirements to develop and implement pollution reduction plans to comply with the federal mandate to restore the Chesapeake Bay will be particularly challenging and expensive.
  3. The City has stormwater infrastructure that is aging and in many cases is at or nearing the end of its useful life, as well as historic and serious drainage problems that need to be addressed.
  4. The City has made serious commitments to environmental stewardship and sustainability over the past several years. Current levels and sources of funding are not adequate or stable enough to meet these challenges. All of these issues must be addressed in order for Charlottesville to meet its vision of becoming a Green City.

Stormwater Utility Ordinance to City Council

Help repair and protect our local waterways! Public hearing Tues. 1/22, 7:00 p.m. at City Council Chambers, City Hall, 605 E. Main Street.

We will be presenting the Stormwater Utility Ordinance to City Council at 7pm on Tuesday, January 22. That presentation will include an overview of the Water Resources Protection Program and associated Stormwater Utility, followed by a public hearing on the proposed ordinance. 

I can make myself available by email or cell phone (989-8999) if anyone needs to reach me between now and January 22.


Kristel F. Riddervold
Environmental Administrator
City of Charlottesville, Dept. of Public Works

305 4th Street N.W.
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Phone: 434-970-3631
Fax: 434-970-3659


Storm drains funnel pollution into our waterways (image from

Rain provides critical water to Charlottesville creeks, ponds, lakes and rivers, natural irrigation for gardens and lawns, replenishes safe drinking water supplies and recharges groundwater aquifers. Paradoxically, these same rain events imperil local and regional water quality and river health through direct transmission of the wastes of our combined land uses and daily activities. Automobiles, pet waste, fertilizers, construction sites and pesticides each pose a threat when mixed with rainwater and snow. 

This tainted brew of infectious bacteria, stream-clogging sediment, algae-nourishing nutrient pollution and toxins is, in fact, “stormwater” — the fastest growing source of water pollution in Virginia. While no community can control rainfall volume, intensity or frequency, we can—for better or for worse—manage its influence on our environmental and public health, which is why the federal and state governments are requiring local governments to take action to solve their stormwater pollution problems and why the City of Charlottesville is holding a hearing on January 22, 2013, to solicit public comments.


Twentieth century urban engineering designed our impervious (non-porous) city streets, rooftops and parking lots to shed rainwater as quickly as possible by crafting expensive networks of storm drains, gutters, culverts and ditches. According to government agency documentation, our “World Class City” is blanketed by more than 105 million square feet of impermeable surfaces. These surfaces do not absorb, retain, slow or purify water. Rather, they quickly funnel contaminated runoff into our local creeks. The impact of these massive runoff torrents can be seen during any short drive or walk through Charlottesville. These highly engineered stormwater systems generally function well to address the devastating effects of upland flooding to our homes and businesses. At the same time, these practices have literally transformed Meadow Creek, Moores Creek, Schenks Branch, the Rivanna River and James River into pollution conveyances – eventually ensuring each of these public waters an unwanted spot on the EPA “dirty waters” list.

From even a single rainstorm event, tremendous volumes of pollution- laden waters course through our waterways with such velocity and energy that the streams are literally eroded “from the inside out”. Steep, heavily eroded streambanks are not a rare sight on a stroll through Charlottesville. It is likely that you have seen this for yourself, at Riverview Park, Darden Towe Park, or at the Free Bridge on Rt. 250. It’s hard to miss the muddy brown soup of dirty water that follows each heavy rain storm. The visible effects of erosion are both remarkable and alarming.


Modern green infrastructure and engineering design techniques can remove pollutants which currently run across our city and are discharged into our streams, in a reasonable and cost effective way. The results can be impressive and far-reaching. Charlottesville City Council is currently considering establishing a stormwater utility not unlike those enacted in Lynchburg, Richmond and numerous “World Class Cities” throughout the nation. The citizens of these communities receive the benefits of cleaner, safer local streams and rivers, and in our region, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

Help repair and protect our water system! (Rivanna River image from wikipedia)

Charlottesville contains the most urbanized and impaired streams in the Rivanna River basin. As a result, Charlottesvillians stand to gain the most from a dedicated stormwater utility. Many communities in our Commonwealth have made the commitment to establish stormwater utilities in order to improve environmental and public health, economic well-being and quality of life. These communities have also adopted innovative incentive measures whereby property owners may receive stormwater fee reductions for installing rain barrels, rain gardens, creek side vegetated plantings and other runoff controls.

The Rivanna Conservation Society, the James River Association and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, along with a host of other nonprofit and for profit organizations, strongly support the proposal for a Charlottesville stormwater utility to provide a dedicated source of funding to address the city’s runoff problems. Such a funding source would allow the city to take advantage of the $35 million in state matching funds proposed by Governor McDonnell in pending state budget amendments. We urge the Charlottesville City Council to move forward and approve a stormwater utility – for better! 

For more information please visit

Drought watch in our watershed

Rainfall amounts more than 55 percent below normal, stream flows 75 to 90 percent lower than previously recorded flows, and low levels at reservoirs in the region: folks, this ain’t normal.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued a drought watch advisory for the middle James River basin region, which includes the Rivanna River watershed. The advisory has been issued according to the state’s drought assessment and response plan.

“Lack of rainfall, along with continued low ground water levels and stream flows, have caused drought impacts in the James River and New River basins in central and western Virginia,” Bill Hayden, spokesman for the DEQ, said in a statement.
The advisory includes Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna and Nelson counties and the city of Charlottesville.