Climate Leading Communities: Conference Results

The Cutting Edge Resiliency session I co-led with Bryan of Caddis bloomed into a thriving discussion about what strides we all realistically need to take to seriously combat climate change. We agreed that yes, individual numbers are important, but the power of the collective in community living is where cohousing offers the biggest opportunities.

(And speaking of, Compost Nashville helped us with creating a low-waste Conference thru use of their bins at the Keynote dinner and Saturday lunch.The composted waste weight from the event clocked in at 446 pounds! That's over 1 pound per person!)

We first set a framework of challenges communities may face, and which influence how far they can push the green envelope.
- Local politics – Is composting cool? Or even recycling?​ Are there city-organized bin pick-ups? How far do you have to drive to drop off used glass?
- Acreage – Is your property 300 acres or .3 acres?​ How much can you let stay wild on a larger property; how much can you cultivate on a small one?
- Financability – Are there subsidies for solar? CFL discounts?
- Number of residents, scalability of action – Are there 9 or 90 of you? What ages are you; how motivated are you by the threat of climate change?​
- Local climate – Perfect for solar? Summer temps require A/C? Rainy 9 months of the year?

Then we dove in to results from 2 recent surveys. The first, conducted by CRN (Cohousing Research Network) showed the most common green features in cohousing, including 85% with some homes having low-flow showerheads, 87% having composting, 82% having community veggie gardens & 47% also participating in an off-site CSA, for example. Also notable, 74% of communities surveyed are convenient to public transportation and 80% of communities have members involved in environmental activism.

We also shared results from a Climate Leading Communities survey I conducted, which received 37 responses from 28 communities, offering valuable insight on variance of perceptions​. Of these respondents, nearly 90% said their communities valued sustainability on a 4 or 5 level (scale from 1-5).

We featured a few standout communities from our survey, to showcase what's working (perhaps ideas your own community can adopt). To mention a few:

Cobb Hill Cohousing: Hartland, VT
23 families (~65 people) 3 apts, 6 duplexes, 8 single homes 270 acres
STRENGTHS
- Composting toilets plus on-site compost
- Solar hot water, wood-fired heating serve community
- 5 acre CSA farm on site provides community food
- Have sustainability topic/discussions at every community meeting
CHALLENGES
- Rural location makes for car-dominated transportation
- Green committee turned down as “people trying to get others to change their lifestyle”

"To be truly sustainable, we would have to change our lifestyles. We mostly live the modern lifestyle with a lots of green practices. In the end, this is not enough.”

Nyland Cohousing: Lafayette, CO
Moved in 1992 42 homes (~135 residents) 43 acres
STRENGTHS
- City recycling, compost, special recycling done by members (bags, batteries, cloth, etc.)
- Passive solar and solar panels (on 2/3 of rooftops)
- CSA farm on site provides community-used food
- Children active in local waste reduction, food production
- Formal car share of electric car (eliminated at least 4 cars from community lot)
CHALLENGES
- Cheap gas means less motivation for alternative transportation

We hope to inspire communities to seek out sustainable options and opportunities both before and after move-in. Since the Conference, Wild Sage started a carbon footprint group to mine for possibilities to reduce their impact. What green projects and practices has your community embarked on?

View more results from our survey and the session's PowerPoint here or click on the attached below.

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