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  • Writer's pictureLisa Altieri

Empowering Residents on Climate Solutions in Fremont

Residents play an incredibly important role in creating carbon free communities! In order to meet city and local climate goals, we must bring residents into the conversation and empower them to implement climate solutions in their daily lives. 40-60% of the average city community wide GHG emissions come from 4 basic household activities - electricity, home heating fuels, transportation and waste streams. Great city programs like appliance rebates, bike lanes, compost programs, etc., alone are not enough to create the shift in daily actions we need to tackle climate change. We must inform, engage, and mobilize community members to participate and help the transition to more sustainable practices in

home energy use, transportation, waste reduction and more. These emissions are hard to reach with city policies alone and even when great rebate and sustainability programs are offered, there is often not broad uptake or significant participation. Most importantly, residents want to help! Yale research shows most Americans are concerned about climate change and want to help, but don’t know where to start.

A common strategy to engage residents is through educational campaigns - providing information on relevant programs through newsletters, informational presentations, tabling, etc. The goal is to provide information and rely on people to take advantage of these programs on their own. In recent years, social media and online communications have become another prominent strategy for engaging residents. While these forms of outreach are helpful, research has shown that informational campaigns alone do not translate to significant levels of behavioral change. To produce deeper and more lasting participation, additional strategies must be included.

Community Climate Solutions (CCS) is working with cities and counties across the U.S. on residential engagement on climate solutions. Our mission is to help communities empower residents to take action and create meaningful participation on shifting daily habits towards sustainable, carbon free communities. To accomplish this, CCS is pioneering new strategies for residential engagement that combine innovative tech tools (the BrightAction platform) with movement building and best practices in community organizing. We provide communities a framework to engage residents and make a positive impact. Our model empowers community leaders to drive participation, foster accountability and trust, and provide the space to learn, listen, and share. The CCS approach has the potential to make a significant impact on community-wide carbon emissions.

CCS has partnered with the City of Fremont to pilot our engagement model. Program Manager Patrick Jurney has been working closely with the city of Fremont sustainability team to mobilize community leaders to take action. The main strategy - connect, empower, facilitate. At the end of 2020, CCS began by identifying and reaching out to community leaders and organizations in Fremont. We then conducted initial meetings with dozens of community leaders to start conversations around launching community-led challenges to drive carbon reductions and foster a movement of climate action in the city. In early 2021, CCS worked with community leaders to launch climate challenges with their communities across a wide range of networks including faith communities, Girl Scouts, teachers, youth leaders, service clubs, cultural groups and more.

CCS found that every community we reached out to has a deep and vested interest in sustainability and addressing climate change, however, they didn't’ have a framework or meaningful way to easily take action. Our goal at CCS is to work with groups to empower them with the knowledge and tools to engage their community and take action. We provided a custom tailored approach for each group that fits their community and culture and blends easily into existing group activities and programs.

In the first 6 months of engagement CCS surpassed initial goals. With only 10 hours per week dedicated to the program, the Fremont Green Challenge had over 1,000 new households joining the program, just under 2,000 actions completed and 750 tons of CO2e reduced. The program also showed significant financial, energy and water savings for participating households. CCS is continuing the work in Fremont with new households joining the Fremont Green Challenge to take action, together with their communities. Fremont’s long-term goal is to expand this program into district-wide curriculum, annual challenges, neighborhood groups and youth-led initiatives. CCS is now expanding the program to work with additional communities across the US with the goal of fostering and driving major decreases in residential and community-wide emissions.

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