It only takes 5 minutes scrolling through Instagram to realize that the current sustainability movement has an enormous scope. There are so many opinions on what the “right” way to approach climate solutions looks like. Somehow amongst all of those narratives, there are still so few people talking about how we can come together and build community, from a regenerative lens.
Going beyond what we choose to consume or not consume and becoming more regenerative means we’re not only planting seeds in our backyards but also in our communities. It includes the seed that we are planting, not only in our backyard, but also in our community. Co-creating a safer environment with our neighbors is an essential part of our activism. It helps to ensure that we are matching our lifestyles with our words, and practicing the alternate realities that can exist outside our current throw-away system.
It can be overwhelming to think of having to juggle yet another responsibility. It may feel like regeneration already asks us to change so much, without having to worry about other people. The truth is, when we all share the load, we can get so much more accomplished. That is why community building is so important. Here are 5 ways you can get started building (or deepening) your community.
- Join your local “Buy Nothing” group. Did you know you can join groups on Facebook to give and receive used items for FREE? There are a multitude of names for Facebook groups such as these, but the most common is the “Buy Nothing Project”. The mission of these groups is to connect people who are looking for items, with people who may be looking to pass along those things. These groups are hyper localized which make them a perfect conduit for community building. As you are on your regenerative journey you may find that you need or want to pass along items that you no longer need or get enough use out of. Instead of donating to Goodwill where your item might make it to the shelves and into the hands of someone who wants or needs it, consider gifting that item directly to someone who is looking for it. Gifting on free groups is so easy, and helps to connect people with similar passions, interests and in the same neighborhoods. It’s easy to start up a conversation with neighbors and work together to co-create lasting community change. No such group in your area? Start one! You’d be surprised how many people will join.
- Host a clothing swap. Clothing swaps are events hosted by businesses or individuals with the intention of finding new homes for clothes that folks no longer want. In 2018, the EPA found that 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfill. That’s a lot of trash. The harsh reality is that donating our clothes to thrift stores like Goodwill is not enough to keep them out of landfill. About 80% of all donated clothes end up in the landfill anyway! Hosting a clothing swap can not only take clothes out of the throw-away cycle, but it is also an amazing conduit for community building. It’s hard to organize change with people that you may not know. But everyone wears clothes. And at some point or another we’ve all ready to give our wardrobe a refresh. Hosting a clothing swap allows you to do both. By creating a space where people in your community can access free clothes that they want or need, you are also opening the door to meet other like minded individuals. Host a few clothes swaps and you may find that you’re cultivating relationships with your “frequent flyers”. Deepening your relationships with others only enhances your regenerative impact.
- NextDoor App. If you’re not already on the app, NextDoor is a great place to tap into hyperlocal resources in your community. It’s a social media site, where you can see posts from other people in nearby zip codes. NextDoor app has loads of cool features including a shop tab where you can browse listings and giveaway free things to people in your neighborhood. There are groups, pages, and resources to help you get connected with people in your community on multiple levels. The NextDoor app is a great all-around resource to tap into the goings-on in your neighborhood. Want to start a book club to read Aja Barber’s new book Consumed? Curious to see who else is thinking about regeneration near you? You can share the excess you have in your home, and help someone in your community all in the same place.
- Attend your City Council meetings. City Council meetings are crucial to developing more regenerative laws and policies. City Council meetings are where the most impactful decisions are made for you and your neighborhood. If you’re not already going, consider attending the next meeting. Since COVID-19 many municipalities have been hosting their meetings online which helps make them more accessible to more people. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find when and where the next meeting is in your neighborhood. Being a part of City Council meetings allows you to directly influence the rulings that your local government is making and even give you the opportunity to push forward regenerative laws and policies. When we all get together in local law making spaces we can take collective steps towards statewide and even federal regenerative laws.
- Volunteer. And of course always consider volunteering with your local community garden, food justice project, or even food pantry. Volunteering within your neighborhood is an amazing way to deepen your connection with other community members while also taking part in actions that help heal the planet. Volunteering can be as simple as handing out flyers at the community center’s next event or as rigorous as organizing the a clothing swap or book swap! Whatever your schedule allows is super helpful and allows and supports the continued work of organizations fighting for more equitable futures. When deciding where to volunteer, be sure to do so in a way that benefits everyone involved. Going out of your neighborhood to volunteer is a nice gesture, but may not accomplish your goal of deeping your community. Be sure that wherever you’re volunteering you allow those who are most impacted to take the lead. Individuals most impacted know exactly what their needs are, and it is our jobs (as allies) to support individuals to reach those goals. That can look very different depending on the situation; Volunteering at organizations lead by Black, Indigenous, Asian (Including Middle Eastern), Latin, Queer, Disabled, and otherwise historically excluded peoples, is a great place to start.
Remember that as with everything, regeneration is about putting back into the Earth and ourselves not taking away. Consider trying one or all of these tips so long as they are also supporting regeneration within you and your household. Carrying the load of healing the planet is heavy when you’re all alone. Sharing the load with others ensures that everyone has their needs met, even the planet.