Groups of five or more households within a neighbourhood (i.e. easy walking distance from each other) commit to the ten month project, which starts in June. At its most basic level, this will entail taking part in a number of activities which are planned for all Greener Neighbourhoods. These include a project launch, ecological footprinting, No8 Wire Week workshops, a civil defence challenge supported by the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office, a waste audit, a nutrient recycling workshop, a water conservation workshop and a home eco-audit workshop.
Beyond these however there is plenty of scope for groups to pursue their own interests and projects, assisted by Council staff as necessary. Over the course of the project your neighbourhood will have access to assistance with gardening, water conservation, energy conservation, travel planning, biodiversity, surface water management, waste and recycling. As groups of five or more households, Greener Neighbourhoods are able to apply to the Waste Reduction Grants for Community Projects and book free group consultations with the Green Gardener. Other Council grant pools, such as the Community Fund and funding assistance for rain/greywater systems may also be available for group and/or household projects.
Benefits of participation for individuals and communities:
A full discussion of the benefits and outcomes of the preceeding competitions can be found in a report, Building Sustainable Communities: Kāpiti Coast’s Greenest Street competition 2010-12. The report is available on the Council website. It is expected that many of these will recur in the model, including:
Health and wellbeing. Healthy lifestyle changes can have positive effects on the physical wellbeing of participants (e.g. warmer homes, homegrown food, and active modes of transport such as walking and cycling). Improvements to the health of the natural environment, such as air and water quality and having quality natural spaces to enjoy, also impact on human health.
Sharing skills. By working collectively, participants expand the range of skills and abilities available to them, make more efficient use of their resources (including time and tools), and provide each other with support and encouragement.
Creating community resilience and social cohesion. Resilience can be hard to assess until a crisis arises, but evidence suggests that improved social networks and community involvement can make a crucial difference to our ability to cope in a crisis situation and may be a literal lifesaver.
Disaster preparedness. Against the backdrop of the Christchurch earthquake, local examples of strong communities faring better in the aftermath reinforce the benefits of well-functioning communities.
Wider community benefits. While the project focus is firmly on neighbourhoods and households, projects may produce benefits for the wider community. This could be in the form of a new community resource or by implementing a positive change on behalf of the district. Examples from preceeding Greenest Street competitions include Wellington Road’s rat-trapping project and community composting facility; Rainbow Court’s community garden; Kakariki Street’s partnership with Chill-Ed, a local community education initiative; Alexander Road’s bid to remove polystyrene trays from local supermarkets; and Grange Park Ave and Kakariki Street’s community mulchers.
Less directly, the types of activities participants engage in, such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, tree planting, composting, carpooling and food growing, have positive spillover effects for the district. They reduce the demand for natural resources, reduce pollution and enhance biodiversity.
As the participants’ activities are publicised it is likely that the direct and indirect community benefits will multiply as non-affiliated neighbourhoods and households are encouraged to implement similar positive changes and projects.