Raise your hand if any of these statements are true for you: 1) I love my street, but I wish I knew my neighbors better; 2) I worry about a disaster, but I’m not very well prepared; 3) I want to prevent climate change, but I don’t know where to start. Hands still up? Ours are too. That’s why we were excited about the Cool Block Program in Palo Alto, which aims to address all three of these dilemmas.
Cool Blocks: a grassroots approach to climate change
The Cool Block program is part of the Cool City Challenge created by the Empowerment Institute, a consulting and training organization that aims to reduce the carbon footprint of cities. Cool Blocks engage a group of neighbors to work together on three goals: reducing energy and water usage, preparing for disaster and forging community connections. Check out this video to see more about the Palo Alto pilot program.
The City of Palo Alto rolled out its ‘alpha’ group of Cool Blocks in spring 2016 and it was such a positive experience that a new cohort of 20 block leaders was trained this winter to implement the program as a ‘beta’ phase.
Cool Blocks are part of the City’s strategy for carbon reduction
The Cool Block program is a key strategy in the City’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP), explained Sandra Slater, who is heading the Palo Alto effort. “The City of Palo Alto has made a commitment to reduce carbon consumption by 80% by 2030, and reaching that goal will require engagement from citizens on a grassroots level,” she said. “The Cool Block groups in our alpha phase both reduced their carbon consumption and forged new bonds with their neighbors. We are excited to support our next group of block leaders this spring.”
Knocking door-to-door to recruit neighbors
To recruit neighbors, Cool Block leaders eschew email and social media and knock on doors in person. While it sounds intimidating, this old fashioned approach works for motivating people to get involved. Neighbors from over 15 households came to the introductory meeting for our Crescent Park Cool Block group and 10 committed to be part of the three month program.
Kicking off the Cool Block with enthusiasm…and laughter
At our kickoff meeting this week, and the enthusiasm was high and neighbors said they were excited to share ideas for reducing energy and water use, support each other to prepare for disasters and forge stronger community and social connections. A bonus? It was really fun!
In a world that seems a bit crazy and out of control at times, the Cool Block program offers a unique way to work together to make a difference, one block at a time. We’ll report back about our progress as the Crescent Park Cool Block group moves into action this spring.