Facing a challenge is often easier when you’re not doing it alone.  Whether it’s dieting, dealing with substance abuse, or building homes for Habitat for Humanity, a group brings support — and maybe some friendly competition — to make the process more enjoyable and celebrate reaching milestones and goals.

Similar to trimming excess weight or overcoming an addiction, climate change can seem too large to take on personally. As an individual, what’s the best way to go? Cue the Climate Challenges underway in Bay Area communities, which let participants see how their efforts, and those of others, really do add up to significant steps toward resilience and sustainability.

Climate Challenges can supply the link between a community’s Climate Action Plan and residents who are supportive but don’t know how to connect with it. Lisa Altieri, president of Community Climate Solutions, shared her experience as a city staff member at a recent webinar, “Empowering Residents to take Climate Action on a Community Scale”, organized by the Local Government Sustainable Energy Coalition (LGSEC) and the California Climate and Energy Collaborative (CCEC). Altieri was eager to use the incentive to buy a heat pump water heater when it was offered in her city, but found that she was one of the few takers. Although residents were concerned about climate change, many didn’t know of the incentive program, or were put off by unfamiliarity with the appliances.

Fossil-fuel power transmitted along powerlines threatens vineyards and other green landscapes they traverse. Photo: Spencer Demera.

Community Climate Solutions now offers the BrightAction platform to support community Climate Challenges. The website tells users that it’s easy for them to help, because “40% of US carbon emissions come from 5 basic household activities we do every day.  The great news – we now have affordable solutions for all 5”.

Participants create an individual account. From a catalog of actions known to reduce climate impacts, they choose which ones they feel they can commit to doing. They can use a dashboard to track the impacts of their individual actions, and the cumulative effect if they are part of a group challenge.

Communities with BrightAction challenges now include Fremont, Piedmont, Albany, San Jose, Cupertino, Livermore (just starting) and Contra Costa and Napa counties. Challenges can be for an entire city or county, or they can be done by smaller groups, Altieri wrote in an email. “We have worked with many local groups in our participating cities including the Girl Scouts, Rotary, schools, faith communities and more.  We have developed custom programs for each.  Some of these are expanding; we now have a program for the Girl Scouts in Northern California.”

The Bay creeps up to San Francisco’s doorstep along the Embarcadero. Photo: Sergio Ruiz

In San Jose, the city’s Climate Smart Challenge includes neighborhood GoGreen Teams, where neighbors collaboratively learn about climate solutions, emergency preparedness and resilience. They work together to take action in meetings that include videos, activities and discussions and networking sessions for team leaders. According to information provided at the webinar, 25 GoGreen teams are already finished or almost finished with their Challenges

Community Climate Solutions received a 2022 James Cary Smith Community Grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to work on air pollution in San Jose neighborhoods identified by the state’s CalEnviroScreen as environmentally-impacted. Altieri explained that this grant was “specifically [for] education on sources, impacts, solutions and opportunities for advocacy.  Since the solutions to air pollution overlap with climate solutions, we focus on many of the actions included in the BrightAction program.” The BrightAction platform has been redesigned for greater inclusion and is now completely available in Spanish. San Jose’s program also pays a promoter, someone with the skills to work in under-represented communities, for outreach in the environmentally-impacted neighborhoods to involve residents.

For Bay Area residents ready to jump in on their own, Altieri pointed out that “anyone can use the platform, it is available for free nationally at BrightAction.app.”

Top Photo: San Jose’s sprawling neighborhoods are organizing at the community level to combat climate change. Photo by the_tahoe_guy.