Transition Streets – Comes to Sonoma

Do You Know Your Neighbors? Evidently 43% of Americans do not, according to Pew Research.

TRANSITION STREETS  is a pilot program recently launched by Transition Sonoma Valley to see if we can begin to change that, making Sonoma a better, more resilient place to live in the process.

We believe that no amount of nonsense or political gridlock can hold back neighbors who know and care about one another, who want to improve their community, and are ready to work together to make a difference for the better.

Transition Streets is based on a very innovative and successful program first developed by Transition Towne Totnes, a town in the UK about a three-hour drive southwest of London.

With a population of approximately 8,000, Totnes is similar in size to the City of Sonoma. Likewise known for its relatively high proportion of cultural creatives, Totnes is surrounded by the outstanding beauty of the countryside in Devon.

According to a final evaluation report prepared by its initial implementation team,  Transition Streets Totnes formed 58 neighbor groups and reached 468 households from January 2010 to July of 2011. Small groups of neighbors helping neighbors used a workbook full of practical low-cost and no-cost actions to help them reduce their energy use and other household bills. On  average  each  participating household  saved around £570 (currently $USD 810) per year, and 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per year. Perhaps most significantly, only 2% of participants surveyed said they would not keep meeting with their group beyond the last ‘official’ meeting.

In early 2015, fourteen Transition Initiatives all across the US took up the challenge to pilot and localize the Transition Streets curriculum to make it more directly relevant to American lifestyles and neighborhoods.  The results of these US pilots have been impressive with enthusiastic participant testimonials and numerous local actions. For example, the City of Bozeman MT recently hired a neighborhood coordinator whose responsibilities include helping to support these new groups organized under Transition Streets and to increase their number.

After collecting feedback from the 14 US city pilots, the Transition US national hub (based just over the hill in Sebastopol) published a completely updated Transition Streets handbook and just launched a new website to help get the word out. The new Transition Streets handbook is loaded with 100+ pages of actions, tips, and facts designed to empower neighbors to improve household energy efficiency, reduce waste and water use, explore transportation options, and eat healthy, local food. The seven-session handbook includes:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Energy
  3. Water
  4. Food
  5. Waste
  6. Transportation
  7. What’s Next

The new Transition US handbook package also includes an Outreach Guide, a Facilitators’ Guide to each chapter, and of course an Evaluation Form.

For our own local groups, Transition Sonoma Valley has customized and printed a hyper-localized version of this new Transition Streets handbook in a convenient 3-ring binder format, adding additional content on the many local resources and service professionals available to us here in the Valley of the Moon.

Sonoma’s first Transition Streets pilot launched at the end of 2015 with a well-attended east-side neighborhood kickoff meeting on Disaster Preparedness. Initiated by TSV, this Sonoma Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (SCOPE) outreach meeting was led by Joe Morrison of the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority. Attendees learned about numerous risks and safety precautions that in a real emergency could become a matter of life or death. Afterward, neighbors in attendance were invited to continue meeting together in their private homes to review the seven chapters of the Transition Streets handbook.

In response, six households on Third Street East (near Chase) have formed a workable initial Transition Streets group, and several meetings have been held to date in the homes of rotating hosts. Based on feedback we receive from this local pilot group, TSV will continue to support and improve the Transition Streets materials and begin reaching out to launch new neighborhood groups throughout the Valley this summer.

Participation in Transition Streets is entirely voluntary and free. TSV provides one full-color Transition Streets binder at no cost to each household that chooses to participate in their own neighborhood group. All we ask is that you return your binder in good condition after you are done with it, or if you choose to keep it (as most do) that you ‘pay-it-forward’ by making a donation to TSV to cover the direct cost ($25) of printing one new binder for the next participating household.

If you think you might be interested in helping to bring Transition Streets to your own neighborhood or block, come to an upcoming TSV Steering Team meeting and learn more.

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