The Sustainable DC Ambassador program trains Washington, D.C. residents to engage with their communities and make sustainability accessible and relevant for everyone, while tracking data on the results of the engagement.

The Challenge

Without strong community buy-in and subsequent action, the District will not be able to reach its sustainability or climate goals. By training a diverse pool of outgoing residents from across the city on the importance of sustainability and climate programs, along with specific action residents can take, the District has been much more successful in engaging the broader community and making progress towards its goals.

 

The Solution

The Sustainable DC Ambassadors Program is a community volunteer program in the American capital. The program trains District residents to talk to their neighbors about the importance of energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, and sustainable materials management, and how these issues impact their daily lives. Through its online tracking program, Ambassadors’ outreach is recorded to ensure that messages are being spread to as many people as possible, and that a diverse array of neighborhoods, particularly disadvantaged communities, are reached. In 2013, staff and volunteers had 6,320 conversations and 127 community events; the next year, they spoke to 8,030 people at 132 events. The program is on track to increase its numbers even further in 2015.

With a strong emphasis on underserved populations within the city, the 60 trained Sustainable DC Ambassadors of the 2015 program engage their communities in meaningful conversations about sustainability at a level that is not possible when delivered by government representatives alone. The program helps the city achieve its 2032 climate goals, such as reducing water consumption by 40% and reducing waste generation by 15%.

 

Environmental Benefits – City-wide renewable energy use increased from 11.4% in 2012 to 13.2% in 2015, supported by Sustainable DC Ambassadors.

Social Benefits – By specifically targeting underserved and minority populations, the program aims to bring the entire city into the discussion of sustainability and remove any elitist associations with the term.

Economic Benefits – Promoting energy efficiency in homes has the added benefit of lowering monthly household energy bills.

Health Benefits – With the help of the Sustainable DC Ambassadors, the District achieved a 15% and 14% increase in commuting by bicycle and walking, respectively, between 2012 and 2014.

 

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.