Join Us in Creating Our First Resilient Neighborhood in Vallejo!

By Kassie Munro, Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager

Do you want to be a part of a pioneering new effort in Vallejo, and learn how we can make our neighborhoods more resilient?  

Join us Saturdays May 25 through June 22!

Our first pilot Resilient Neighborhoods team has been selected, the design process is underway, and we are excited to begin scheduling our educational installation days in the coming weeks.  For the first time, we will be working with a team of four homeowners to begin transforming their street into an environmentally and socially resilient community hub. Using landscaping elements of our Sustainable Backyard program as a foundation, this new program will build in additional resiliency elements focused on temperature regulation, restoring ecosystem functions to the urban environment and strengthening community networks. The design will treat the homes as part of the same ecosystem, linking them together through shared services and planned diversity, like providing shade in communal areas and producing a varied supply of food. Over time, we plan to work with this established team to bring additional neighbors and community organizations into the hub as part of a larger movement to transform our cities into more regenerative, equitable and resilient places to live.  

Working with four unique homes simultaneously provides a new opportunity for us to showcase how permaculture techniques can be applied to a variety of landscapes to enhance climate and social resilience.  Permaculture is an adaptive approach and methodology, and the diversity of our homes in this pilot will allow us to demonstrate how the same core principles can be applied to a variety of homes to achieve outcomes that are tailored to the individual members of the Resilient Hub, and the team as a whole. This pilot is an opportunity for us to expand our demonstration gardens not only in scale, but in scope.

Join us as we explore:

Heat Mitigation and Biomimicry

The urban heat island effect is a challenging consequence of our changing climate, felt most dramatically in urban areas with extensive paved surfaces and little vegetation.  We will be exploring how to use shade trees and structures to help keep our homes and outdoor spaces cooler in times of extreme heat, as well as the impact that evapotranspiration from greenery has in helping to cool the air.  Our partner Richard Fisher will also be working with us to pilot innovative biomimicry techniques throughout these installations that explore additional ways to help mitigate temperature extremes, as well as restoring other valuable ecosystem services back to our built environment. Biomimicry is guided by and aims to mimic Mother Earth’s methods for providing important ecosystem functions. For example, an old tree log can be used to capture, store and cycle water in a yard, similar to the role it would play in a forest setting.  You can read more about biomimicry and Richard’s approach here.

 

Integrating Permaculture into Existing Landscape Features

Creating a dramatic transformation from water-hogging lawn to lush, water-wise edible foodscape is a powerful and compelling demonstration.  But for many of us, our yard isn’t a blank canvas and the thought of needing to strip things down to a clean slate to transition to a permaculture landscape can be daunting.  Through these installations, we will be highlighting how to work within your existing landscape features, both hardscape and established plants, to integrate permaculture techniques and begin the transition to a more sustainable, regenerative and productive landscape.

 

California Native, Ultra-Low-Water Showcase

One of our Resilient Neighborhood homeowners is a passionate California native plant enthusiast.  We will be working with her to design a unique backyard landscape that will serve as a pollinator oasis and embrace California native and drought-tolerant plants.  Within this garden, we will also be building a bridge between native and permaculture-based designs by including soil building and water capture techniques like bioswales, and incorporating small amounts of food forestry through fruit tree guilds, berry bushes and edible perennial plants.

Along with these new features, we will be holding workshops on all of our foundational sustainable landscaping elements, including:

  • Roofwater capture
  • Bioswales
  • Edible landscaping
  • Laundry-to-Landscape greywater systems
  • Sheet mulching

Check our calendar for individual installation dates to register for upcoming workshops. By signing up for our newsletter, you can be sure you’re the first to hear when events are scheduled.

Register for Day 1, on May 25, here!

We hope to see you there!

The Resilient Neighborhoods program is funded through a grant from PG&E.

Interested in Sustainable Landscaping and Community-Building? Tell Us!

By Sustainable Solano

Have you ever wondered how Sustainable Solano makes the connections that lead to our involvement in the community? Whether it is the planning and planting of a sustainable garden, the installation of a greywater system, urban forests to bring food and shade to residents or bringing local communities together around these sustainability efforts, the process to find sites can be a long one.

Now, you can help! We know that the best way to find the perfect site for a future project is through the people we meet. That’s why we’ve created a quick and easy form for Solano County residents to let us know how they want to get involved and help us identify where programs and projects are needed.

We want to hear your vision and look for opportunities that Sustainable Solano can support. We’ll use this information to identify which of our current programs best fit your interests, and it will give us insight as we expand our programs and help to shape future initiatives.

We are seeking both private residents and public sites to be part of our green infrastructure programs that take a restorative approach to our environment and include Sustainable Backyards, Solano Gardens and Urban Forests.

We’re also actively starting our search for the first Resilient Neighborhood site in Vallejo. Our vision for the Resilient Neighborhoods program is to unite neighbors to work collaboratively, with the support of the greater community, to install low-cost, low-tech sustainability elements that restore valuable services back to our built environment, like producing food, filtering air and cycling water. Let us know if you are interested in exploring this opportunity in your neighborhood — or let us know what other programs fit your interests.

Filling out the interest form is the first step. Become part of the conversation on sustainability and building community. We hope you’ll take a moment to fill out the form yourself and share it with neighbors and friends.

Download the form here and send your completed form to nicole@sustainablesolano.org

Or fill out our interactive online form here.

New “Resilient Neighborhoods” Program Launches in 2019!

By Kassie Munro

Representatives from Sustainable Solano, Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance met with PG&E at the JFK Library in Vallejo on December 21st to celebrate the launch of the Resilient Neighborhoods Program

We can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our 20th anniversary than with the announcement of a new program that will help to expand our work in improving social, economic and environmental justice in Solano County: Resilient Neighborhoods.

What is “Resilience”?
You may have noticed the term “resilience” popping up more and more in the environmental community, and increasingly in mainstream conversations.  The Community & Regional Resilience Network defines community resilience as “the ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.” In short, resilience is about surviving and thriving, regardless of the challenge. It’s easy to understand why this topic is garnering so much attention today, as we face the reality of our changing climate – from droughts to heat waves, to the devastating fires that have ravaged our state.  There is an urgent need to strengthen our cities’ capacity to adapt to these stressors, and we see this as an inspiring opportunity to develop a new holistic sustainability program that aims to help our cities better serve the needs of our residents today and into the future.

 

The Resilient Neighborhoods Program
The Resilient Neighborhoods program will drive the restoration of regenerative ecosystem services in our urban landscape to improve the social and environmental resilience of our communities.  This program introduces a concept of shared solutions and collective actions to the community, in which a few nearby houses cooperate to install and enjoy various sustainability elements. Utilizing low-cost, low-tech measures, these clusters of homes will transform into a Resilience Hub. Informed by leading edge sciences, including biomimicry (which you can read more about here) and permaculture, we will facilitate the installation of sustainable solutions that can help transform our built environment from a resource sink, into a functioning producer of ecosystem services. This program has the potential to demonstrate that, block by block, neighborhoods can produce clean air, maintain clean water, create healthy soil, sequester carbon, reduce heat, and support biodiversity. These environmental benefits have a cascading effect into health and wellness and economic prosperity. In addition, when implemented in a cooperative model of shared services, they provide the framework for social benefits like disaster preparedness and community support networks.

The Resilient Neighborhoods program will be a collaborative effort with community partners, from city leadership to like-minded organizations, and, most importantly, the residents.  This work is about empowering our citizens to take an active role in the stewardship of their local environment.  By providing education, skill building, and much-needed resources, we hope to foster local champions that will help expand grass-roots movements and create more resilient cities across our county.

 

The Vallejo Pilot
The inaugural phase of this program will be launched this year in Vallejo, made possible by generous funding from PG&E and support from our partners at the Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance. Over the next twelve months we will complete two demonstration installations, each consisting of a small cluster of three to five residences in traditionally disadvantaged communities in need of revitalization. Each pilot Resilience Hub will receive a suite of sustainability measures tailored to its unique composition, addressing both the individual homes and surrounding communal areas.

Example measures that will be utilized to create these Resilience Hubs include: 

  • Laundry to landscape greywater systems
  • Roofwater diversion & capture
  • Bioswales
  • Tree planting
  • Shade structures
  • Edible landscaping
  • Adopting “cool” building colors
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Solar power
  • Water efficiency measures
  • Disaster preparedness

By linking our Resilience Hubs with nearby community organizations we can also encourage engagement and collaboration within the larger neighborhood.  Incorporating the same sustainability measures applied to the residences, these “Resilience Centers” will have the potential to serve as an oasis of shade and moisture during heat waves, offer a community garden space, facilitate disaster response and preparedness, and act as a central point for organizing neighborhood resources and communication.

All installations will serve as free educational workshops, open to the community at large. The work will be completed entirely by the community, for the community. The completed pilot Resilience Hubs will also serve as public educational platforms for years to come.

We have formed a skilled Advisory Board comprised of local experts and passionate partners to help us carry out this pilot program in Vallejo.  The Board will provide guidance as we continue to hone our vision, aid in selecting locations and participants, and support efforts to build our capacity for expansion.

We will begin holding collaborative planning discussions with Vallejo residents in early February, and look forward to working with our neighbors to create meaningful change in the community. 

Onward and Upward
These installations will demonstrate the social, environmental, and economic impact possible through small-scale collective action, and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to show proof of concept for this approach to community resilience, which we hope to expand across Solano County.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager, Kassie Munro at kassie@sustainablesolano.org.