Community Greening Through IT

The past few years has seen an explosion in grassroots community movementsusing IT to organize, grow and thrive in a world that’s now more globalthan grassroots. The recent economic crisis has only stressed theimportance of re-localization, and community movements have never beenmore important. The problem: people have become too globally focusedand have lost the social tools to connect locally. IT initiatives andtools are needed more than ever to rediscover local connections andcommunity.

It may sound counter intuitive, but IT can help bring back the localto community movements. I didn’t know many of the folks in myneighborhood until I found and linked to them on Facebook, using the Neighborhoodstool. I know it sounds ridiculous, but moving into a suburb a few yearsago meant that I met the neighbors who surrounded my house, but neverthe ones a block over, or around the corner.  And I certainly didn’tknow who shared my interests. Now, slowly that’s changing.

IT can do much more than reconnect people and interests locally.Community greening requires the community to build knowledge, shareinformation and discuss initiaitives, ideas and plans. It’s all welland good to meet monthly at the local community centre, but changerequires organization. Organization that’s much easier to achieve viatools based in IT than in traditional, *analog* methods. No longer canyou paper a neighbourhood in flyers letting people know that there’s ameeting, or an intiative or a community project that requires supportor inputs. That’s just not economically nor environmentally feasibleany more. Community movements need to use web based tools to achievebroad based engagement.

Community Greening Initiatives are appearing in many municipal agendas. The Town of Aurora has developed a municipal plan that is focusing in reducing urban sprawl – one step towards creating a more sustainable community. The Town of Richmond Hill is supporting a new tool that helps promote carpooling fo residents of Markham and Richmond Hill. Wow! The 404-7 Smart Commute tool matches folks to locations for regular commuting requirements. The tool promotes community greening, reducing our carbon footprint, and individual reliance on fossil fuels – a triple whammy!!

It’s not just organized, municipal programs that are starting totake off, individuals are making a difference greening theircommunities. There’s nothing sweeter than spontaneous initiatives thatmake the angels sing. Want to give away something as opposed to havingit end up in a landfill? Freecyclegives you the tools to find a home for your used articles. Need to boneup on your usable skills, or learn about sustainable living on apersonal level? There’s the Toronto Survivalist group using to engage and promote skills and learning.

Grassroots programs are popping up with a focus on communitygreening – and all are using IT as a method for creating communityawareness, engage residents and even organize local volunteerism. GreenStreets Canada is planting neighborhood trees. Evergreen engages residents, promotes grassroots community initiatives and links folks to actions.

Even global IT greening tools can have impacts at a local level. Zerofootprinthas a slew of green calculators and social media tools focused ateducation, advancement and promotion of reducing our carbon footprints.

There’s method to this madness. Leveraging IT tools to create andpromote grassroots, community greening initiatives is one of the mainways that local sustainabilityis going to be achievable quickly. Linking the like minded to supportchange is one of the critical byproducts of IT innovations. Go ahead -get local.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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