Climate change is such a big problem that it can make us feel helpless and alone.
But if the past decade has taught me anything, it’s that we are neither of those things. We can and do make a difference in reducing climate change and preparing for its impacts.
In 2011, I started a pilot that eventually grew into Resilient Neighborhoods, a program to help Marin households cut their carbon footprint, live more sustainably, and build resilience. Now a decade later, I was proud beyond measure when we tallied the annual carbon dioxide pounds reduced by our latest graduating team and found that the total reduced by all our teams exceeded 10 million pounds of greenhouse gas per year.
Are we helpless? Absolutely not. That huge reduction is the equivalent of 1,375 Marin homes switching to solar and wind power, instead of burning the fossil fuels that drive climate change. That is why the Resilient Neighborhoods program is incorporated into all our cities’ climate action plans. It’s also an endorsed solution of MarinCan, the county’s program aiming to reduce Marin’s net gas greenhouse emissions below zero by 2045, meeting the United Nations’ goal five years early.
San Rafael’s Sustainability Manager Cory Bytof is a supporter.
“Resilient Neighborhoods is the most impactful program I know of,” Bytof said. “The actions people take in these workshops really make a measurable difference in helping municipalities meet their climate goals.”
Our successful behavior-change program works because 75% of Marin’s greenhouse gas emissions come from residents — from our daily choices about how we heat and cool our homes, how we get around, what we eat and whether we put compostables in our green carts.
Are we alone in confronting climate change? Absolutely not. More than 1,880 people have graduated from Resilient Neighborhoods so far and I feel like we’re just getting started, because concern about the climate crisis is growing.
We see it in the wildfires and smoke that darken our skies for weeks each summer and fall, in the droughts that kill trees and threaten wildlife, in intensifying floods and in the record heat waves that force us to shelter inside.
More people are ready to start taking household actions to address the climate crisis. For example, Marin’s Rotary clubs are joining in and challenging members to reduce 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide this year through the program. So far, Ignacio, Novato, Terra Linda, Ross Valley, San Rafael, San Rafael Evening and San Rafael Harbor Rotary Clubs are participating.
The Resilient Neighborhoods program is free to residents. In five classes conducted over 10 weeks, households figure out their baseline carbon footprint, learn what reductions they can make and then take actions like trimming energy use and waste, reconsidering purchasing and food choices, conserving water, and choosing low-carbon ways to get around. People also save money on fuel and utility costs, learn about cash incentives for energy efficiency, prepare their family for emergencies and take actions to build a stronger and safer community.
Climate change is the most important and impactful issue of our time. What we do about it in the next decade will determine the health of the living world and the quality of life for ourselves, our children, and generations to come. Please don’t sit this one out, because each of us has a part to play.
The biggest difference we make is the example we set. Our individual actions show others, including our elected officials, that we are willing and able to confront the climate crisis. Our individual actions inspire us to imagine and catalyze the larger civic actions needed to fully solve climate change. If individuals can do so much, think what we can accomplish together as a community.
If you’re a graduate of Resilient Neighborhoods, thank you for helping us to achieve this milestone and more. If not, we invite you to become part of the climate solution by visiting ResilientNeighborhoods.org to sign up for a team.
Tamra Peters, of San Rafael, is the founder and director of Resilient Neighborhoods.