How You Can Build a Green Community

By Cheryl Conklin

Are you interested in improving your community? Do you understand the importance of building sustainable neighborhoods? If so, you may consider advocating for green buildings in your city.

What Is Green Building?

Building “green” means considering environmental impacts when designing structures. It also means finding ways to reduce adverse effects while creating positive ones. Green buildings emphasize sustainability while preserving natural resources.

Green buildings can include:

  • Waste-reduction measures such as recycling and reusing materials
  • Efficient use of resources such as water and electricity
  • Non-toxic, renewable building materials
  • Healthy indoor air quality

A green building also considers its occupants’ quality of life. It pays respect to local customs and the needs of its users. It also factors in local climate and environmental situations.

According to statistics, green building uses 25% less energy and 11% less water than conventional construction methods.

Green Building Benefits

Green buildings reduce waste, use fewer resources, and lower environmental impact. They help reduce energy bills, making them less costly to operate and maintain. They are designed with user satisfaction in mind — large windows and open floor plans are appealing and maximize natural daylight. Ideally, they offer comfortable environments and have a high resale value.

Green Building Feature 1: Eco-Friendly Lighting

Energy-efficient lighting is an excellent addition to green buildings; you can install it without compromising safety. It’s vital to install lighting in areas that need to be well-lit, especially walkways, stairwells, and vestibules. Good lighting is essential in parking garages.

Pedestrians and drivers depend on the increased visibility good lighting provides. It adds a layer of safety so that people can easily see where they’re headed. It also deters criminals.

An ideal eco-friendly lighting system automatically senses and adjusts light levels to increase energy savings without squandering safety.

Green Building Feature 2: Green Materials

Building green means using natural and renewable materials when possible. Recycled content, prefabricated products, moisture-resistant materials, and low-VOC products all fit the description.

It’s ideal to buy materials locally to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.

Green Building Feature 3: Water Reduction

Green buildings focus on the need to reduce water consumption. This feature is a vital consideration in drought-prone areas.

Water-reducing features include:

Artificial groundwater recharge is another green-building feature that’s becoming more significant. It involves redirecting water to replenish groundwater levels by:

  • Using sprinkler systems or irrigation furrows
  • Injecting water into ground subsurface
  • Creating ponds, infiltration surfaces, or canals

How To Influence Sustainability in Your Community

Creating a green community is a task that requires all hands on deck. You may be wondering how you and your cohorts can make an impact. The answer lies in getting local businesses and lawmakers on board.

  1. Define your outcome: Clarify your message — building a green community — in a brief statement. Next, create a well-defined, measurable goal.
  2. Target your database: Find the people in your area who can help you reach a broader audience and support your message. You can boost your success by pointing out how they can benefit.
  3. Execute your plan: Once you have assembled a team, you can begin an email campaign, circulate petitions, raise funds, lobby politicians, and carry out other aspects of your campaign.
  4. Refer to examples: Look to Forest Unlimited for guidance from other successful campaigns if you’re unsure where to begin.

Advocating for green building can be challenging, but it is possible. Creating changes in your community, such as energy-efficient lighting, is real progress. It’s also very satisfying for the people who work so hard to make an impact.

Bikeable Santa Rosa

If you live in Santa Rosa California, you know that biking is not safe nor convenient yet.  Bikeable Santa Rosa is working to change that.  They are organizing “slow rides” to make biking more visible, advocating for protected bike lanes and pathways and having fun in the process.  They are pushing the Santa Rosa City Council to lower speed limits in town, fix dangerous intersections and build better safe bike infrastructure.

If you live in Santa Rosa, consider joining Bikeable Santa Rosa and participate in their slow rides.

Support California Asembly Bill 1789

A new bill in the California Assembly would make wise, dedicated investments in the state’s recreational trails and help meet the growing demand for trails and outdoor spaces in the Golden State—but your legislator needs to hear from you to make it happen.

Write your Assemblymember now in support of dedicating millions of dollars for California’s natural surface trails.


Take Action–AB 1789

AB1789  would make wise, dedicated investments in the state’s recreational trails and help meet the growing demand for trails and outdoor spaces in the Golden State—but the Governor needs to hear from you to make it happen.  Our partner Rails-to-Trails has made it easy.

Write your Assemblymember now in support of dedicating millions of dollars for California’s natural surface trails.

Trail use is the most popular outdoor activity in the nation, according to surveys by the Outdoor Industry Association—and the pandemic has only increased the need for more access to parks and trails for everyone.

Yet, California has chronically underfunded natural surface recreational trails that support hiking, cycling, hunting and other outdoor activities. The federal Recreational Trails Program provides less than $2 million per year for non-motorized trails in the state, leaving hundreds of important projects unfunded.

But Assembly Bill (A.B.) 1789, authored by Assemblymember Steve Bennett of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, addresses this historic funding shortage and establishes a recurring $15 million per year dedicated fund for natural surface trails, as well as a one-time investment of $75 million in the coming fiscal year.

Tell the Governor to support California’s recreational trails.

These investments will help meet the growing demand for trails and outdoor spaces and ensure that everyone has access to the pathways we all love. Forty percent of grant awards from this program will be guaranteed for under-served communities, and the bill creates and staffs a Recreational Trails Commission to coordinate statewide efforts to promote and develop recreational trails.

The pandemic spurred significant demand for trails and outdoor spaces. It’s time for California to make the necessary dedicated investments to maintain and create more of the pathways we all need and love.