Without the support of the community, your Climate Action Plan will sit on a shelf. So the fourth step is about engaging all sectors from the beginning.
Communicate and publicize to inform and encourage community involvement: This can serve to educate and inform the public about the issues, help gain support for your efforts, and identify those who are willing to help.
Set up a Green Section of your town’s website: This allows the committee to communicate what is happening on the Climate Change front – both globally and locally, share news with the public, post press releases, accomplishments, results of the inventory, green tips and info about upcoming events. See examples from: Greenburgh, Bedford and Cortlandt.
Develop a Town Pledge: A simple pledge can commit residents and businesses to take action in their own lives and invite them to participate in the town’s reduction goals (see Bedford's Twenty by 2020 Pledge).
Utilize local press: Invite reporters to committee meetings, write press releases and letters to the editor to publicize progress, news and events. Ask your local paper for a committed section for a weekly column or green tips.
Collect email addresses: Do this at every opportunity and communicate often via email and e-newsletters.
Identify key stakeholders in your community and invite them to a community leaders’ summit on climate change: Invite the leaders of the various organizations in your town, including leaders of the business community, schools, religious, political and civic organizations.
Present an overview of climate change: Focus on the likely impacts in Westchester County (see relevant section in the county's Action Plan) and challenge leaders in your community to take what they learn back to their individual organizations to continue the conversation among their constituents.
Develop a PowerPoint or other presentation and offer to bring it to any organization that wants to learn more: Involve every sector in the community and get everyone talking and acting. It is important to provide multiple points of entry for various members of the community. Outreach efforts should be varied in order to appeal to as many different members of the community as possible.
Stress the importance of additional benefits: Link your committee's work to multiple goals and issues to gain broader community support. This is about much more than reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is about saving money, reducing energy use, protecting natural resources, improving air and water quality, improving health. It is about creating jobs, energy security and breaking our dependence on foreign sources of oil. Not everyone is concerned about the same issues, but most care about at least one of these.
Every community has its unique assets – resources, stakeholders and priorities – for meeting its individual climate change and sustainability goals. There is no one way to reach those goals and Westchester County municipalities are at various stages in their efforts.
Sustainability Forums, held during the Summer and Fall of 2009, offered an opportunity for all municipalities to connect, communicate and share ideas and best practices. The county encourages the continued exchange among towns, as we all have much to learn from each other.