Ashland is the kind of town where you can live for years without meeting the folks who live two houses down from you. We've had the great pleasure to form close relationships with a couple of our neighbors, but for the most part, we have a respectful distance from the people on our street. We have exchanged pleasantries with some, talked with a few about kids and dogs, but there are many people on our short street whom we've never met. There seems to be an unspoken rule not to get too close. I mean, you do have to LIVE near these people. What if it didn't work out? Heck, they might even need you for something, which would be downright awful. This unfortunate status quo may be why the Transition Streets concept is so appealing to me.
The simple concept is this, Transition Streets brings neighbors together over time to increase their sustainability and build community.
A street group involves 6-8 neighbors who live in close proximity to each other.
The group meets a total of 7 times over a period of 3-4 months.
At each meeting, the group reviews information in the Transition Streets workbook (sample available here), the themes of the workbook are as follows: Energy, Water, Food, Transportation and Waste. The group discusses the information and each household may choose which recommended actions to take on before the next meeting. Most of the steps are low-cost or no-cost.
The group meetings provide a place for sharing knowledge and supporting each other in the actions. There is an incentive for participating in order to save resources and money, however the majority of participants in the program said that their reason for participating was to build good relationships with their neighbors. Most participants said they would continue to meet after the program ended.
The Transition Streets program in Totnes, UK has been very successful. The town has a population of 7,444 people. In the town 468 households formed 56 groups more than 2/3 of the groups continued to meet after they completed the program.
For more information on the outcomes of the program, you can view this project report.
From the report:
Top 5 most popular ‘new’ actions:
- Know how much energy you are using (monitor your usage in your home)
- Be a real turn off (always turn things off at the wall when not in use)
- Buy local & seasonal foods
- Control your heat (know how to use your heating system and thermostat)
- Know how much you are using (monitor your water use at home)
Bottom 3 least popular ‘new’ actions:
- Use car clubs (a car club has only just started in Totnes)
- Get on your bike – cycle don’t drive (though this is highest ‘plan to do this’ item)
- Loft insulation (most have already done it)
Top 3 ‘already done’ actions:
- Recycle (food, glass, plastics, tins…everything!)
- Minimise food waste
- Washing clothes (full loads, low temps, wear clothes longer)
Top 3 ’I plan to do this’ actions:
- Get on your bike – cycle don’t drive
- Draught proofing (we are now running some Draught-buster workshops)
- Grow your own
Finally, this video summarizes some of the unique projects the Street Groups created together to meet the needs of their neighborhoods.
If you would like to get involved in helping a Transition Streets program in Ashland, or just on your street, please contact us.