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.   www.transitionus.org

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. www.transitioncville.org

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! www.energizecharlottesville.org

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

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  1. […] 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, […]