Call it Block Power.
A group of volunteers working with city government is making plans for a competition to name Berkeley’s most sustainable block. The winner will get a catered block party.
By mid-summer, 10 blocks had already signed up to say “game on.”
The original schedule called for a September competition. Now, with interest and logistics growing, the competition has been re-scheduled for sometime in spring 2011, said organizer Jose Figueroa.
Stay tuned and stay sustainable.
The organizers are hoping to throw a spirited and sustainable party in Berkeley to replicate in other cities around the country, said Figueroa, a pastor at a Berkeley Presbyterian church and director of community development for Project Peace, an East Bay nonprofit group working for sustainability and justice.
The organizers approached city government. It was a natural to dovetail with the city’s Climate Action Plan outreach, said Nils Moe, assistant for environmental issues to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. The plan, adopted last year, calls for the community to reduce by 2050 its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 2000 levels.
Berkeley’s Block Power will require city blocks to demonstrate reductions in carbon footprint, contributions to the neighborhood’s environmental aesthetic and bettering the “social capital” of the block – a fancy way of saying people on the block have gotten to know each other better.
When Figueroa talked it over with his Berkeley neighbor, he received encouragement and financial and technical support from Ian Fraser, a founder and leader of The Go Game, a San Francisco company. The Go Game stages competitions that are team-building exercises for companies and organizations all around the world.
Several Go Game employees live in Berkeley and are contributing ideas and effort to Block Power, said Moe.
Go Game exercises often have contestants making their way around a city, using cell phone GPS and digital cameras to document their success in finding clues. “They’re like cyber treasure hunts,” said Moe.
When he moved to Berkeley in 2007 from Miami, Figueroa looked for activities to connect with neighbors. “I’ve always been a community organizer, a neighborhood organizer,” he said.
“It’s really interesting to see how a nonprofit can look at our community and how to make it more sustainable,” said Figueroa. “This idea came out of that. What if we had neighborhood blocks compete against each other to reduce their carbon footprint, make a better environmental aesthetic, increase the social capital – you know, figure out ways to connect more.”
The city is contributing staff support. The volunteers are soliciting companies, utilities and organizations to donate money and effort to Block Power, said Figueroa.
“We are making different connections,” he said.
The winner will get a catered block party with a band playing and an official proclamation from the city, said Moe.
Lance Howland can be reached at email@example.com