This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but all the typical ways we would celebrate -- local Earth Day fairs, park clean ups, school projects -- are not possible during a time of COVID19 social distancing. And it’s not just Earth Day events. Communities large and small are kicking off or in the middle of community engagement efforts for sustainability, climate action and resilience plans.
The show must go on.
And we've captured here some of the ways to keep momentum going on these important issues -- including Livestreaming, virtual meetings (with breakout rooms, polling and more), social media content, storymaps, and more.
We're looking forward to seeing all the creative ways local governments and nonprofits are engaging people in virtual events and activities on Earth Day and beyond.
Shout out to Nashua, NH, for letting their residents explore all the renewable energy installations in town virtually. We worked with them to add this "storymap" feature to their newly revamped Livable Nashua Dashboard utilizing the Knight Foundation's free StoryMap tool. Click on the image below to check out how Nashua is showcasing their clean energy progress in an innovative way.
We also love what our client West Palm Beach pulled together for Earth Day -- a tactic that can be used year-round or for other themes like Energy Action Month in October. Check out their #OneGreenStep social media campaign.
Here are a few more ways you can proactively, virtually engage with your community and continue to make progress on your sustainability and climate goals even in a time of social distancing.
One thing that people miss about the real world? Hanging out. As people carry out more of their lives indoors, they are looking for ways to pass the time with other people. Governments have a unique opportunity to connect whole communities through chat and a shared experience delivered via livestream.
When you host a livestream, you offer not only the content you are streaming, like a Q&A or nature documentary, but you allow residents to share their opinions with one another directly. This can also be a great way to get feedback during a public engagement process. Until town halls and libraries are open again, why not invite people to a new public forum online?
Check out our guide on how to set up a Facebook livestream, plus ideas of what to stream even if your staff is camera-shy.
We have been busy working with our client Encinitas, CA, on their first livestream for Earth Day and will share their results!
If you don’t want to put together your own stream, there are also several large streams you can host from your own channels, such as:
Move Meetings Online
Raise your hand if you’ve done a video chat for work or fun via Facebook, GoogleChat, Facetime, Zoom or other in the last month? Yep, pretty much all of us.
This is easy to do with small teams, but what do you do with project kickoffs and public engagement sessions where there are 10 participants? Or 20? Or 30? Before you reach for the “reschedule” button to push meetings back until June, consider holding your meetings anyway. Many teleconference platforms, like Zoom, offer the ability to create “breakout” rooms, which allows for people in a large central meeting to have branching conversations about different topics. This is not so different from having people interact at different tables or stations just like you would in a usual engagement session.
We’ve done this with several clients recently including Dedham, MA.
"I am thrilled by how well that went – thank you all so much for the effort you put into making that engaging and meaningful." - Virginia LeClair, Environmental Coordinator of Dedham, MA, after an online kickoff meeting with over 25 participants.
You can also make online sessions more engaging by using things like live polls and Q&As where questions are taken from the chat.
Plus, don’t forget to record your session, including your breakout sessions! Although holding large meetings online may feel like a dramatic shift, the ability to record meetings and keep feedback perfectly intact can be a huge benefit to any engagement process.
What People Can Do at Home
It’s not exactly breaking news that most Americans are stuck at or close to home for the foreseeable future. Some are slammed with work. Others are out of work with plenty of idle time and who want to feel productive and contributing to the community. Many are running dishwashers more frequently and powering lights and devices around the clock -- with the potential for higher utility bills. Still others might be considering more sustainable choices even by default -- more neighborhood walks, cooking at home, taking up gardening, etc.
That all means there are plenty of opportunities for you to share actionable tips leading up to Earth Day and beyond that people can easily do at and around their homes and that highlight your community initiatives. You can do this via email/e-newsletters, social media,
- Try a new vegan recipe or institute Meatless Mondays to reduce your food footprint.
- Eating all your meals at home? Get a handle on food waste by testing out composting.
- Plant a garden. Think about what herbs and fruits/veggies you can grow, pollinators and native species. No yard? Try some windowsill pots or herbs to grow in the kitchen.
- Support local farms. Lots of communities are running pop-up style markets with safe, curbside pickup.
Water and Energy
- Order and install a rain barrel for your home.
- Use online tools to conduct a home energy audit or calculate your water footprint and identify ways you can save water and energy. (this is even more fun if you have the kids help with it!)
- MAYBE ADD AT LEAST ONE MORE BULLET HERE- LOWER/HIGHER the THERMOSTAT (depending on their location)
Personal and Environmental Health
- Tune up your bike and start riding around town.
- Go for a walk and take gloves and a bag with you to collect trash.
Get your affairs in order
- Unsubscribe from junk mail. ADD LINK HERE
- Sign up for email alerts from local environmental groups and start following them on social media.
- Read a book.
- Talk to neighbors and family about something other than the coronavirus.
Teach Yourself Tuesday
Take Action Thursday
Fridays for Future
Curate Content for Parents, Teachers and Kids
Raise your hand if you’re a teacher trying to navigate the new e-learning space. Or a parent figuring out a homeschooling regimen. Or a community leader trying to engage youth in your sustainability and climate initiatives. You need simple, free lessons and activities to keep your kiddos learning and engaged in something productive.
Fortunately, educators around the globe have been delivering the goods, especially on the topic of sustainability. Entire curriculums are appearing across the internet, like this Virtual Climate Camp we found from a nonprofit in Charlottesville, VA, which includes educational and DIY projects like constructing a solar oven.
Other resources we’ve found and liked:
Teach your kids effective listening and debate strategies around an issue they will be discussing for years.
“Climate Literacy” covers the basics of climate change, how it happens, how it compares to history, and what people can do about it. Plus, find more lesson plans and introductory lessons at the same link.
Finding plans suited for younger students isn’t easy, but this collection includes tons of hands-on activities that will have yours measuring energy consumption, temperatures and more.
For the littlest ones, why not turn to one of sustainability’s bedtime classics? This is a great, animated recording of The Lorax!
These resources are just the tip of the [rapidly melting] iceberg, so please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have others resources, best practices or examples to share.