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Community & Individual Action
Updated June 2013

Sustainability Best Practice Area

Providing reliable and objective information helps residents understand the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. Involving the public in the development of climate change policies and programs builds community awareness and support for local actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the co-benefits of actions that reduce climate change.


  • Develop and implement a community climate change education program that provides community members with basic information about climate change.
  • Host informational workshops to educate residents and businesses about sustainability opportunities, such as those from energy efficiency and water conservation.
  • Develop information and positive messages about activities individuals and businesses can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Inform the public about the environmental, community and financial benefits of actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Create a sustainability handbook, available online and in hard copy, that outlines the steps residents and businesses can take to go green, such as by reducing energy and water use, recycling and using alternative transportation.
  • Issue a sustainability edition of the agency newsletter.
  • Include information in local agency mailings, websites and other media about actions that individuals and businesses can take to address climate change.
  • Share progress with community members on the implementation of agency and/or community climate action plans and sustainability policies.
  • Use the agency’s social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Nixle and Notify Me, to inform the community about sustainable activities in the community.
  • Work with ethnic media to engage non-English speaking groups in the development of sustainability programs and policies.
  • Develop public service announcements and/or talk shows related to sustainability.
  • Distribute give-away items, such as reusable bags and compact fluorescent lightbulbs, to encourage environmental responsibility.
  • Distribute maps showing the community bicycle and walking trail systems to encourage reduction of vehicle miles traveled.


  • Survey businesses and residents to understand attitudes and behaviors related to sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change; use this information to develop and implement community wide sustainability action items.
  • Create ongoing opportunities for community members to provide feedback on proposed sustainability policies and programs, such as through surveys, online or public forums and at stakeholder meetings.


  • Create a community sustainability commission to help with the development, implementation and tracking of a climate action or sustainability plan.
  • Host a green leadership summit for community leaders, school groups and private entities to gather and share experiences, expertise, strategies and ideas for the development of a healthier and more sustainable community.
  • Involve diverse stakeholders, including such groups as ethnic chambers of commerce and neighborhood groups, in developing sustainability policies and programs.
  • Include sustainability and climate change-related projects as part of youth commission activities.
  • Provide programs and/or incentives to individuals, groups and businesses that adopt practices that reduce their carbon footprint. Incentives can be financial or non-financial, such as official recognition of participants’ efforts.
  • Challenge community members to go on a “carbon diet” to promote individual action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


  • Invite community members, organizations and other local agencies to participate in ongoing conversations regarding future growth plans and policies.
  • Collaborate with local utilities to create and publicize energy efficiency opportunities for residents and businesses, such as through an energy showcase home or model sustainable landscape projects that reduce water and energy.
  • Collaborate with schools to educate students about opportunities to be more energy efficient and to reduce, re-use and recycle.
  • Develop a sustainability or community climate change outreach and education program that enlists participation from schools, museums, service groups and business organizations, such as local chambers of commerce, neighborhood and homeowner associations and other community partners.
  • Partner with the local community college and grade schools to develop classes or workshops with an environmental focus.
  • Collaborate with high schools and community colleges to provide students with internship opportunities related to sustainability.
  • Collaborate with other local government agencies to share information about climate change and best practices to reduce greenhouse gases.
  • Partner with other organizations to implement a bulk purchase discount program for such items as energy efficiency equipment and photovoltaic solar systems.
  • Create an inter-agency local or regional climate action partnership and/or action plan with one or more agencies or neighboring jurisdictions.
  • Initiate a community climate action partnership with a global sister agency.


  • Participate in the CoolCalifornia Challenge which challenges local agencies to engage residents in taking action to reduce household energy and vehicle miles traveled.
  • Sponsor a program to assist local business in adopting sustainable practices.
  • Host one or more events to highlight and promote sustainability programs, such as an e-waste drop off, plant a tree, bike to work day or buy local campaigns.
The Institute gratefully acknowledges the following individuals who reviewed this best practice area and offered their comments:
  • Dave Peterson, Assistant Planner II, City of Santa Clarita
  • Pat Stoner, Local Government Energy Efficiency Statewide Coordinator, Local Government Commission

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