What can my community do to help solve for climate change? This week’s blog post can help you answer that question. Drawdown Georgia’s 20 climate solutions provided inspiration for Sustainable Newton, a grassroots non-profit organization that promotes climate action and sustainable living in Newton County, Georgia. Read on to learn how this community group has built community and driven progress on climate in their corner of the state.
Credits were rolling on-screen, and I was wondering how 300 people could be so quiet. Well, not entirely quiet. Sniffles in the darkness around me reassured me that I wasn’t the only one trying to wipe away tears before the lights came up.
The film was Chasing Coral, and this was our first event as Sustainable Newton – a new grassroots organization determined to do something about climate change in our community. Partnering with Oxford College of Emory University, we hosted a dinner, screening, and panel discussion for the 2018 Atlanta Science Festival.
Watching coral die was hard. But far more painful was the agony on the faces of young scientists, filmmakers, and environmentalists helpless to stop the destruction of an ecosystem.
My cofounders and I formed Sustainable Newton precisely to avoid the feeling of overwhelming helplessness in the face of a globally daunting challenge like climate change. And yet, the film left me questioning our prospects. It seemed hopeless. I could accept science linking coral bleaching to warming oceans and to greenhouse gases my fellow humans and I are putting into the atmosphere. But reversing it on any meaningful scale felt impossible.
As a debut, our screening was a rousing success. But now what?
When we formalized our non-profit in early 2019 with bylaws and a board of directors, I was uneasy in the unexpected role of president. We had launched a community Solarize campaign, so we put our energy into registering homeowners for our photovoltaic solar bulk purchasing program. We had modest success: 16 systems, 85 kW capacity, and 13.5 kWh of battery storage. But it was something to focus on.
Still, wondering how to make a difference on a broad enough scale weighed on us. I bought Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown, and it helped to have a list of proven climate actions. But 100 solutions – many complex and costly – was still a lot to wrap our heads around. At the Georgia Climate Conference that Fall, we heard for the first time about Drawdown Georgia, and it sounded like what we were missing. When the program launched officially in October of 2020, with a whittled-down list of 20 solutions across five sectors, a light bulb went on for us. (An LED light bulb, of course!)
In our first two years, Sustainable Newton never stopped working to inform friends, neighbors, and local officials about the climate crisis and the urgent need for action. In addition to the Solarize program, we hosted other film screenings, like Paris to Pittsburgh, The Human Element, 2040, and The Story of Plastic. In 2019, we organized four counting events for the Great Georgia Pollinator Census. And, in the pandemic year of 2020, we took those virtual with a webinar featuring the UGA Extension Service.
But Drawdown Georgia wove the pieces into a cohesive whole. It has enabled us to move from education and awareness to action and enablement. Project Drawdown Executive Director Dr. Jonathan Foley wrote in a recent blog post: “Addressing climate change is like playing chess. We need to use all the pieces, employ multiple strategies, and see the whole board. But, unlike chess, we have to play this game collaboratively to win.” Drawdown Georgia gives us solutions, measurable objectives, and a collaborative network for playing that game to win.
We used Drawdown Georgia solutions as our roadmap for planning and communicating our impact this year. We kicked off 2021 with a virtual conversation featuring Ray C. Anderson Foundation Executive Director John Lanier, explaining Drawdown Georgia and the legacy of John’s grandfather, Ray, to our members and followers.
In the Electricity sector, we revisited our Solarize program with a webinar this month featuring solar industry experts and homeowners who installed rooftop systems courtesy of ours and another Solarize program.
In Transportation, we sponsored two consulting projects this past year for the City of Covington with students from the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at Georgia Tech, helping the city develop a “greening the fleet” plan for alternative fuel vehicles and identifying opportunities to boost public adoption of electric vehicles. In March, the city deployed the first of many planned EV charging stations.
Regarding Land Sinks, Sustainable Newton is engaged with Covington and Oxford on conservation efforts and greenspace preservation.
Last, but not least, in Food & Agriculture, we hosted a virtual civic dinner in December with 34 participants, featuring local organic farmers who shared recipes and stories of their personal journeys into regenerative agriculture. Next month we’re hosting multiple virtual events to educate households and small businesses on composting.
At Drawdown Georgia, the tagline is “We’re bringing climate solutions home.”
At Sustainable Newton, we want to bring those solutions even closer -- directly to the people, businesses, and local officials in our community. It’s great to be active participants in “the first state-centered effort to crowdsolve for climate change.”
Sustainable Newton is also part of our Groopit crowdsolving community where Georgians connect and share about projects, progress, and challenges. Visit our Take Action page to learn more and join today!