The United Nations launched its Cool Cities Challenge at the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting in 2022 to encourage cities to enhance the number of nature-based cooling solutions within their boundaries because cities are warming twice as fast as the global average. In California, the Empowerment Institute issued a challenge, and the City of Irvine was chosen as one of three cities, along with Los Angeles and Petaluma, to participate in this ground-breaking program to reach community-wide sustainability. After this initial pilot, each city was able to create and develop a dynamic program in each respective city that continues to make an impact to this day.
What has been achieved in Irvine is truly breathtaking. The initial pilot program in 2022 resulted in:
30% average carbon reduction per household.
71 Cool Blocks
210 Participating Cool Households
1,734 Actions Taken
2,457 Actions Pledged
727,516 Total lbs. of CO2 Reduced (equivalent to taking 71 cars off the road for a year)
The Cool Irvine program started with more than 200 volunteer residents to spearhead this effort supported by the City of Irvine, Mayor Khan, and a coalition of partner organizations. After training, these volunteer block leaders invited their neighbors to join their Cool Block team where they learned about creating planet-friendly households, disaster preparedness, and building community in their neighborhoods. Topics they learned about included reducing their household carbon emissions, water stewardship, energy efficiency, federal and local incentives to go green, plant-based diets, emergency response plans, and community building. After this impressive start, the initiative will spread block by block as new teams form every four months. In addition to the block program, Cool Irvine runs an annual sustainability fair as well as quarterly events and webinars on dealing with planet-friendly living.
With the success of this pilot program, an independent local nonprofit, Cool OC, was created to replicate this program in other Orange County cities. Below are just a few of the exciting stories of different neighborhood groups led by remarkable volunteers.
Nancy Colocino, who lives in the Deerfield community of Irvine, was one such resident who volunteered to be a block leader. After going through the brief training, she invited her neighbors to an informational session and six households joined her Cool Block team. Her team met several times to learn about the various topics and grew closer as neighbors as a result. Even after completing the program, this group continues to meet and reach out to their community about the program. They recently organized an event to help their neighborhood understand the new SB 1383 Organic Food Waste law and how to comply. In addition to many other changes to their homes and lifestyles, two households in the group installed solar panels to convert to clean energy and save on their electricity bill. Nancy is a retired director of a community drug prevention program. She continues to mobilize her group to educate her neighborhood on sustainable living.
Angie Dickson is a former Air Force nurse who personally witnessed the impact of climate change on the environment and human health in her travels. When the call for volunteer block leaders went out, she jumped at the chance because of her personal passion for protecting the environment. She was in the first cohort and among the first to complete the pilot program. Her household took 46 actions, reduced their carbon emissions by 119%, equaling 35,304 pounds of carbon. Under her leadership, her team canvassed their community to identify individuals with disabilities who might need extra help in the event of an emergency. When their community experienced a 5-hour power outage, they were able to check in on those neighbors and offer assistance. Her team also went Christmas caroling together during the holidays.
After the pandemic, students were also in need of community after years of isolation. Graduate student and climate activist, Ari Jong, was another block leader who created a cool block group in her graduate housing community at UCI. As renters, they adapted the program for their unique living situation and performed tasks relevant to them as students. As they learned how to reduce their carbon emissions together, they created a close-knit group bonded by a common interest and mission. Together, they had social events such as attending trivia night at a local restaurant. They also created innovative solutions such as purchasing a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box and sharing it since one box for one household alone was more than was needed.
Cool OC understands that the burden of addressing the climate crisis does not rest on the individual. The goal of Cool OC with programs like Cool Irvine is to increase awareness of the impact of today's lifestyle on the climate crisis, to provide tools and resources to reduce our impact, and to create a sense of community in our neighborhoods so that we can preserve our earth together. It will take the collective efforts of government, industry, businesses and individuals to address the climate crisis. We therefore invite you to join the program as a participant or leader to increase your awareness of this very important issue. As individuals understand the climate crisis better, we can put pressure on other important entities such as government and business.
Join this exciting movement by getting on the interest list for the next cohort by going to www.cooloc.org/#sign-up
The Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club welcomes your participation in its century of involvement in the enjoyment and protection of our planet's environment. The Angeles Chapter spans Los Angeles and Orange Counties in Southern California, with an extensive program of hikes/hiking, national and international travel, local conservation campaigns, political action, and programs for people of all ages.