HOW have some Novocastrians responded to the challenges of living more sustainably?
Five streets in Tighes Hill, Islington, The Hill and Cooks Hill have been exploring what they can do as individuals and a community through the Transition Streets Challenge.
The Challenge, organised by Transition Newcastle, supported groups of households through a program exploring water, food, energy, transport, waste and consumption.
Guided by a workbook, groups of neighbours met regularly to discuss each topic and share what was working for them.
The workbook provided suggestions for action, fun, thought-provoking challenges, further resources such as films and websites, and ideas for how to involve children.
Individuals volunteered to become a co-ordinator in their street, and to invite others in their immediate neighbourhood to be part of the Challenge.
These co-ordinators were supported by a team of people from Transition Newcastle, with resources and get-togethers with all street co-ordinators.
Graeme Stuart, the convener of Transition Newcastle, said one of the benefits of the program was the relationships that developed in the streets.
‘‘People who took part in the Challenge really got to know their neighbours much better,’’ he said.
Streets held street parties, a pedal-powered film night, dinners and garage sales.
Three projects received Place Making grants from Newcastle City Council.
With the support of one of these grants, and in partnership with the Islington Village Community Group, the Islington street group worked with students from Islington Public School to create scarecrows promoting local food outlets.
‘‘Since receiving the Council Place Making grant more people have joined the group, and the sense of community is growing,’’ said Jo, a co-ordinator from another street.
‘‘I hadn’t expected it to be so much fun,’’ another co-ordinator said.
Residents involved were brought together on the common issue of living more sustainably. And it spread.
People wanted to join in once they saw what was happening with homes in their street.
‘‘We knew it was important for the streets to have the freedom to take the Challenge where they wanted, but at the same time to provide a structure through the workbook for those who wanted it,’’ Mr Stuart said.
Participants in the Challenge could ‘‘work through every area of their house, think about their lifestyle, and find that simple changes could make a big difference,’’ he said.
Streets can participate in a range of workshops, film nights and special events provided by Transition Newcastle, Newcastle City Council and Hunter Water.
After the success of the first Transition Street Challenge – it was highly commended in the NSW Sustainable City awards and a semi-finalist in the Environment and Landcare category of the Regional Achievement and Community Awards – Transition Newcastle is looking for streets who would like to participate in 2014.
Mr Stuart hopes local people will once again embrace the Transition Streets Challenge.
‘‘The Challenge offers the opportunity to come together with your neighbours and support each other to take control of your energy and water bills, learn about growing your own food, reduce waste, and build a more connected neighbourhood,’’ he said.
‘‘We know that when people who are passionate about something come together, amazing things can happen.’’
For more information, go to transitionnewcastle.org.au or phone Emily on 40169484 or Will on 49673231.
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