Virginia Energy Sense interviewed Center for Sustainable Communities Managing Director Garry Harris to discuss how his organization is playing a role in encouraging energy efficiency and environmental stewardship in Virginia. Please provide a short summary of what the Center for Sustainable Communities is and the work it does. The Center for Sustainable Communities is a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure communities are made greener, cleaner, healthier, safer and more climate resilient through an equity and environmental justice lens. While the Center for Sustainable Communities is based in Atlanta, GA, the organization conducts a wide range of activities in southeastern Virginia, such as Hampton Roads. How is the Center for Sustainable Communities helping Virginia meet its goal of reducing energy consumption? The Center for Sustainable Communities is helping to reduce energy consumption in a number of ways:

  • Participating in events and activities to provide input for the Virginia Energy Plan, including energy efficiency.
  • Organizing and mobilizing grassroots organizations to participate in neighborhood level canvassing activities “Street Teams for Energy Efficiency and Climate Resilience.”
  • Advancing equitable development based on Equity, Resilience and Climate Action that create change at the neighborhood level with a focus on resource restoration (reducing pollution through energy efficiency).
  • Mobilizing for policy initiatives that reduce carbon emissions and promote more energy efficiency practices.
  • Promoting faith-based initiatives that aid in making houses of worship more energy efficient and motivating congregations to engage in similar practices.
  • Advocating for sound climate policy such as ED-11 that promotes use of energy efficiency.
  • Hosting a series of conference calls through the Southeast Climate and Energy Network over a two-year period of time to stakeholders throughout the southeast including Virginia promoting clean energy and energy efficient solutions.
  • Advancing the VA Environmental Justice Collaborative – a twenty-member organization that focuses on equity and environmental justice including reducing energy burdens for minority populations.
  • Participating in national initiatives like the 100% Clean Energy Plan for advancing energy efficiency at the city level.
  • Hosting neighborhood level workshops in communities of color to educate residents on ways to reduce energy.
  • Creating and hosting the Hampton Roads Sustainability Forum – with a focus in part to convey ways to mitigate climate through energy efficient practices with an emphasis of educating at the community and neighborhood level.
  • Promoting the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 10 Climate Action and Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.

CSC1 What are some ways in which your organization has encouraged environmental stewardship?

  • Creating and advancing more than twelve (12) advocacy groups for conservation and stewardship in the FOREST Circle (environmental justice and forest conservation) and 1.5 Degree Patrol (climate advocacy) and Just Energy Circle (energy burdens reduction).
  • Promoting faith-based initiatives such as Living the Change and the Sustainable Living Leadership Program which encourage individuals to make a difference through personal behavior changes and commitment to climate change (i.e. Green Faith, Interfaith Power and Light).
  • Extensive participation in environmental justice and advocacy through grassroots organizing and mobilizing, convening of key stakeholders, advancing policy (i.e. National Environmental Justice Academy and the VA Environmental Justice Collaborative).
  • Creation of the National Environmental Justice Academy to educate grassroots organizations on collaborative problem solving and collective impact (i.e. Environmental Justice Academy).
  • Organizing large scale mobilizations for Climate, Justice and Jobs through the People’s Climate Movement (i.e. Global Day of Action, People’s Climate Movement).
  • Advancing scientific investigation through basic and applied research such as the Advanced Atmospheric Monitoring and Research Station (i.e. AARMS Project-Advanced Atmospheric Monitoring and Research Station).
  • Creating the Institute for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to advance development and implementation energy efficient and renewable energy applications (i.e. Institute for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy).
  • Broadening access to workforce development opportunities in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors through vocational training and entrepreneurship.
  • Advancing broad scale sustainability through advocacy; project and program development (i.e. Hampton Roads Sustainability Forum).
  • Preventing pollution through advocacy for aggressive policies and local and regional measures.
  • Participation in active working groups to foster innovation in approaches to conservation and mitigation of environmental issues (i.e. Climate Equity Convening).
  • Advancing citizen science-based efforts to help in ground truthing scientific investigations to help mitigate the impacts of climate (i.e. Catch the King Tide).
  • Moving communities through equitable development strategies from “striving to thriving” ensuring distance scale sustainability (i.e. ECO Districts Hampton Roads).
  • Founding a center for advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals to help advance global prosperity for all and a reduction in factors contributing to climate change (i.e. UN Regional Center for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development).
  • Promoting K12 and college level education to expand the knowledge of young people to ensure on environmental issues at an early age through scientific discovery (i.e. GLOBE).
  • Promoting clean safe energy and energy efficiency to lower income households and vulnerable populations and reducing energy burdens and promoting the use of solar energy (i.e. Southeast Energy Education Initiative).
  • Promoting advocacy on climate issues through direct action including public hearings; marches; gatherings and other measures (i.e. 1.5 Degree Patrol).
  • Ensuring communities of color are best prepared for severe weather impacts including hurricanes and tornadoes and sea level rise (i.e. Building a Weather Ready Nation for ALL).
  • Working with advocacy groups across the Southeast to advance equity, reduce energy burdens, promote clean energy, environmental justice and prosperity for all (i.e. Southeast Climate and Energy Network).
Lesson Plans
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Get your students energized about responsible energy use! In partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, we’ve created fun, multi-day, Lesson plans to help you teach your students how to understand and conserve energy! They’re classroom-ready and free to use!