If you want to change the world, what better place to start than your own neighbourhood?
That’s the concept behind the worldwide Transition Streets program. The global network began in the United Kingdom, has been adopted by neighbourhoods in Newcastle and it’s now attracting Canberra communities.
The Canberra program, overseen by grassroots action group, SEE-Change, encourages neighbours to work together to reduce their ecological footprint.
The “neighbourhood” can be a street, an apartment complex, or even just a group of like-minded friends.
SEE-Change project officer Jennifer Tonna said Transition Streets is about “individuals acting, grabbing back power and making a difference”.
“It can be disheartening for people who want to see change because there’s not much change at the federal level,” Ms Tonna said.
“Projects like Transition Streets maintain hope when we know the federal level is slow.”
Ms Tonna said Canberra residents have the highest ecological footprint in the country. We rely on cars for transport and imports for food, while our cold winters and hot summers lend themselves to a high level of energy consumption.
However, Ms Tonna said minor tweaks to our actions could make a real difference. They could be as simple as draught-proofing our homes and growing our own veggies.
Lyneham resident Jodie Pipkorn is working with her neighbours on a community garden project.
The group has been meeting regularly to discuss how they can live more sustainably.
Transition Streets Canberra’s workbook covers everything from food, transport, energy and water consumption and helps participants calculate their footprint.
“It was a really good structure in which to bring together our neighbours and actually take a few actions to reduce our ecological footprint,” Ms Pipkorn said.
“It’s also a good excuse to get to know the neighbours better.”
The first 15 eligible neighbourhoods to start a community activity can receive up to $200 from SEE-Change.
These activities could include a bulk-buy of water tanks or electric bikes, a chicken coop or a neighbourhood garden.
The Lyneham neighbourhood has built wicking beds from recycled fence palings.
They have been designed to consume less water than a traditional garden bed and will provide communal vegetables for the complex.
Bernadette Thompson, who is also involved in the Lyneham project, said the project has helped her to connect with her neighbours and reduce her energy bills.
“It’s empowering being reminded of the little things you can do that can make a difference,” Ms Thompson said.