How Many Hats Does One Wear to Make a Difference?

Don’t let my tongue twister of a title fool you–this isn’t about cats in hats, or fashion even, (though you can expect a blog on one of the two in the future, I’ll let you guess which one). I’m talking about the hard hats of responsibility, the roles we take on when we find issues that we’re passionate about, and how a resource-stressed community can produce innovative results through shared responsibility.

COMM CivicSparkers 2015 05It’s recently been many a days on the road for the SBC Climate Planning team. After developing Energy Action Plans for the cities of Jackson, Plymouth, Sutter Creek, Nevada City, the Town of Loomis and the Counties of Amador and Mariposa, we have been hard at work assisting these jurisdictions with implementing the EAPs. This has involved hosting Title 24 energy code standards trainings, setting up energy efficiency resource web pages on their local government websites, and providing educational materials at different community events. So many of the communities we work in are beyond-stressed for resources, so seeing the different ways residents and government officials bear the responsibilities has been inspiring to witness. 

Recently, we trekked down to Mariposa County to host a Title 24 training on residential codes and standards for plans examiners and building inspectors, followed by a working group meeting for the implementation of the County’s Energy Action Plan. While it’s admittedly been a bit of a challenge rallying people together, we had a full room of community members who are already quite involved in Mariposa and wear many different hats in order to get things done in their community. It was inspiring to see them all readily dive into the world of energy efficiency, inspired to spread the word about the importance of being energy and water efficient and incorporate this message into their conversations with family, friends and others in their circles.

In Mariposa County, sharing the weight of responsibility has led to a number of community-led initiatives. There is a lot of forward-movement around water issues, including the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning group who have been tasked with coordinating water management practices across the Yosemite-Mariposa watersheds and enhance quality and supply for the state. Mariposans have also taken it upon themselves to expand the community’s knowledge base of grey water and rainwater catchments systems, thanks, in large part, to workshops put on by the Master Gardeners and encouragement from the County Environmental Health department. Progress is out there and change is happening; sometimes you just need to know where to look, or who to talk to.

The most common sentiment we have come across while bringing together community members to be part of the EAP working groups is that there is so much to be done, and not enough people to do it – when one considers all of the other problems local governments and residents alike are trying to solve, any additional efforts can seem like too much to bear. In the face of big tasks ahead, such as carrying the torch of implementing an Energy Action Plan, I am reminded of the permaculture mantra: “Do the best you can with what you’ve got in the time that you’re given.” This is where those many hats really come in.

If a community can come together and agree to share the weight of responsibility, positive change will follow. We may not be able to save every kilowatt-hour from being spent, but we can identify overlap in other areas of community interest, we can collaborate to create messaging that educates on more than one issue, we can accept that incremental change is change worth pursuing. The important thing is that no matter how heavy the hats may weigh, we keep moving forward.