It takes a village to make change

Irecently had an opportunity to work with a great organization in our community, the Uplift Foundation of Nevada ( It happened at the second annual Las Vegas GiveCamp, where local Web designers, graphic artists and others with technical skills spent a full weekend working with 26 local nonprofits, helping improve their online presence and effectiveness.

The event brought together many disparate Southern Nevada groups, united by one common goal: to help improve the lives of others in our community. It was a richly rewarding experience. It is safe to say that by the end of the weekend, after much hard work, everyone was a winner.

Helping others is really what green living is all about. Some of the benefits of a green lifestyle bring immediate rewards, but some of the deepest and most meaningful results will be experienced by others we’ll probably never meet. When we build resilience into our communities, we protect ourselves as well as those who will follow.

Preparing for the challenges of peak oil (which translates in many ways to peak everything) and the effects of accelerating, irreversible changes in climate is no small task. If we are to succeed, it is vitally important that every citizen is informed, involved and committed, regardless of the neighborhood they happen to live in.

I recently wrote about the concept of walkable “villages,” pioneered by the Transition Movement and the Transition Streets model. These programs bring neighbors together at a very local level, block by block, to learn about our greatest global challenges and what can be done about them. Behavioral change happens as action is taken.

Creating more resilient communities can reduce energy consumption and save homeowners money; increase local food production; save water and other essential resources; build a stronger local economy; and greatly reduce carbon emissions. Participants often develop a greater sense of community and connection with their neighbors. What better way to build community than to unite under a common goal that is so vital to our collective future?

At the moment, global sustainability seems like a far-off pipe dream. Sustainable cities are more easily imagined, but still present organizational challenges that seem daunting or even unattainable.

But break it down into smaller groups, carving virtual villages out of our suburban sprawl punctuated by individual blocks where people come together face-to-face to meet, learn from, and help each other. That is something we can wrap our heads around and work with. It is doable.

There are key people in the community with vital knowledge to share. With a bit of training, individuals can become leaders with vital skills to pass on to others.

Weatherizing homes, creating gardens, improving efficiency, and the sharing of tools, skills and other resources create local communities that are better equipped to meet future challenges. We can transform the disconnected experience of auto-centric suburbia into groups of people who care about their neighbors and who are less dependent on oil from far-away lands or deeply fracked aquifers.

Call me an idealist. I’m fine with that. I want good things to happen to lots of people. I admit to being quite a dreamer: Just look at the name of my company, GreenDream Enterprises. I am also a realist; my concern about the future is rooted in scientific fact and years of study.

Taken together, idealist, dreamer and realist, one might say I am an idrealist. It’s not a bad word actually. Why not strive for the ideal, using dreams to fuel our vision, while creating results in the real world? It seems many have achieved success using that formula.

This “green thing” is not just about middle-class white people who drive a Prius and eat organic food. No matter what kind of home you have, where it happens to be located or the color of your skin, we must all come together to face these challenges. As in nature, our racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic diversity represents strength not weakness.

We all have something to bring to the table and we all have a considerable amount of “skin” in this game. Just like GiveCamp, no one really wins unless everyone does.

If you are interested in connecting with others or to learn more, visit my website at and be sure to share your ideas or questions in the comments. Let’s get the conversation going.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet.