One way to make a change in your community and make it more sustainable is to go to the people in charge. When it comes to public matters, local government officials have the power to get things done.
As an individual, though, getting them to listen to you or even notice you can feel impossible. Navigating the red tape is a challenge, and your message may get lost before it gets where you want it to go. Following these tips can help you make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
Although being worried about the environment or the eco-friendliness of your community are valid concerns, focusing on more specific ideas often brings about more tangible results. Your representative may agree with you that your neighborhood should be more sustainable but won’t likely do anything about it unless you give them a specific proposal.
Before you talk to a government representative, document the problem you want fixed, outline a potential solution and provide evidence for how your idea would be beneficial. Once you’ve done that work for them, the local government will likely take your request more seriously.
Do Research Ahead of Time
Yes, you should research the problem you want addressed and potential solutions before presenting your thoughts, but if you can’t get your message to the right people, it won’t matter. Finding those people is often trickier than it appears.
Rather than going straight to the top or calling a general phone number, search online or in public documents for information on who’s in charge of your particular issue. Say you want more trees to be planted. Is there a committee responsible for that? Which office is that duty assigned to? Once you’ve found the right people, write them a letter, give them a call, send them an email or meet with them in person.
Find In-Person Opportunities
Writing and calling can be effective, but meeting with someone in person will likely leave the biggest impression. It also puts more pressure on them to answer your questions and take action in a timely manner.
Most local government officials have hours when you can schedule time to talk to them. Check online or call their office for their hours. They might have busy schedules, but keep trying to get a meeting. You could also check the calendar for scheduled public meetings, roundtable discussions or other events.
One person can make a change, but a group of people united around a cause is more likely to have a stronger impact more quickly. Talk to people in the community and see how many people you can get to join your cause.
Encourage them to contact their representatives as well. To take it a step further, create a petition and start collecting signatures or organize an event to make your voices more likely to be heard.
Green Ideas for the Community
Want to help your hometown go green but unsure about how to get started? Here are some ideas you and your neighbors can use:
Most communities already have a recycling program. If not, it’s high time it started one. Even if you do have one, though, it may be able to be improved.
See if you can start collecting a wider range of materials, such as more types of plastic or electronics. Making the program more accessible to everyone could be another top priority.
2. Use Renewable Energy
A few of your neighbors might have solar panels on their roof, but organizing your community can help create a more widespread change.
A community solar project can provide renewable energy to multiple homes or businesses in your area. These projects involve setting up a small solar array that produces enough energy for multiple households.
3. Reduce Your Energy
If green energy isn’t an option, there are many options for reducing the energy consumption of current government buildings or schools. These types of improvements to existing buildings are known as retro-commissioning. Retro-commissioning allows buildings to maximize their resources and energy-efficiency, without the extra expense of new construction.
By encouraging local leaders to reduce energy use and emit less carbon emissions from buildings, you’re not only lowering your taxes, but also setting a good precedent for future construction.
4. Plant Trees
Planting trees makes your neighborhood greener, both literally and figuratively. Planting more trees and other vegetation makes outside areas more enjoyable and will make people appreciate the outdoors more. You could even try to get a new park designated.
Trees also clean carbon dioxide and other potentially harmful gases from the air and release oxygen. They improve air quality and can, in a small way, help to reduce global warming.
5. Buy Local Food
Eating local food reduces the emissions created during transportation and boosts the local economy as well. Advocate for a farmers’ market or community garden to encourage eating local. If the produce is organic, it will provide even more environmental benefits.
Sparking change in your local government can seem like an insurmountable task. It is possible, but it will take some hard work and persistence. Don’t be discouraged if your efforts seem fruitless at first. If you do your research, find the right people to talk to and organize your community, you will likely eventually see some improvements start to take shape.