Climate change is a global issue, and it can be daunting for communities and individuals to grapple with how their actions contribute to solving such a large-scale environmental crisis. Our “Communities Take Charge” program provides a framework that communities and schools can use to encourage residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become more involved in their local climate movement. The Communities Take Charge website is designed like a shopping website, so it is familiar and easy to use.

Focusing on behavior change: We absolutely need to address climate change on all fronts including policy, changes to infrastructure, and through the development of appropriate technologies; however, all of those solutions take time. Individuals can make immediate reductions to greenhouse gas emission and play an important role in accelerating our transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future. In the race to reduce fossil fuel use, every decision matters—from how we heat our homes, to how we get to work, to what we eat for dinner.  In the long term, the more citizens that are engaged and thinking about the impact their daily actions have on carbon emissions and climate change, the better those longer-term goals like changing policies and infrastructure will fare.

Getting started: To start participating in Communities Take Charge, a community member answers a few questions, which help us prioritize energy-saving actions that are most relevant. Next, the community member browses through energy-saving actions. When they find actions they’d like to try, they simply add that action to their shopping cart. Once their cart has three to five actions in it, they check out by answering a few additional questions.

Staying engaged: After a community member selects his or her action, they receive a series of emails reminding them about the actions they selected and encouraging them to complete the actions in four weeks. After four weeks, participants receive an email asking them to report on how successful they were at completing their actions, and the website automatically calculates the participant’s energy savings and adds those savings to the participant’s community total.

Inspiring results: In Corvallis the program has proven to be effective at:

  • Engaging community members: Over 12% of Corvallis residents, or 12,000 people, have participated in Communities Take Charge.
  • Reducing carbon dioxide reductions: We have saved 16,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is like taking over 3,500 cars off the road for a year.
  • Increasing long-term environmental stewardship: 68% of participants report that they “definitely will” maintain the changes they made during the program, and 74% of participants report that they “definitely” or “might” get more involved in sustainability efforts because of their participation in the program.

Educating future generations: Based on the successes and lessons learned from Communities Take Charge, we developed a Classroom Take Charge program that is being used in high schools and middle schools throughout the Pacific Northwest. The program encourages students to reduce their daily energy use and reinforce climate change concepts that students learn in class with CarbonTIME curriculum. Click here for more information about Classrooms Take Charge and CarbonTIME.

Thanks to our funders! Communities Take Charge is made possible by funding from the Student Sustainability Initiative at Oregon State University (2009-2010),  Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (2010-2011), Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Showcase Communities grant (2012-2015), the Bullitt Foundation (2015), and two awards from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Education program (2015-2017).