Piedmont Climate Challenge: Nov. 7 event to feature food, film, and a call to action

If you haven’t heard about the city’s Climate Challenge, or aren’t entirely sure what it’s all about, an event on Thursday will explain everything, its importance, and how you can get on board.

The social, which will feature free food and a screening of a portion of the 2019 documentary “Ice on Fire,” starts at 6 p.m. at Piedmont Community Hall, 711 Highland Ave.

“This is kind of our premier fall event,” said Susan Miller-Davis, a Steering Committee member of Piedmont Connect, the community group that is leading the organizing, promotion, and recruitment for the challenge. “We did have a soft launch at the Harvest Festival, but this is the official launch.”
The evening will start with a social hour that includes sustainable dinner offerings from the Helping food truck (www.helpingfoods.com ) from Oakland.

“It’s designed to have a drop-in flavor where people can learn about the platform, get questions answered and meet our Climate Ambassadors,” Miller-Davis said. “It’s designed to be flexible so we can get as many people as possible to participate. They can come after work and we hope they’ll join us for dinner, a night without cooking at home. They can find out how good a meal can taste even if it doesn’t have meat.”

Even before its official kickoff, the six-month challenge already has significant momentum toward a citywide goal of reducing carbon emissions by 450 tons by next March.

“As of yesterday we had 130 families signed up,” Miller-Davis said last Friday. “That’s about 20 percent of our goal to reduce emissions. That’s pretty exciting.” By Monday participation had jumped to 200 households, aided by the outreach efforts of “climate ambassadors” and challenge co-sponsors with the Piedmont chapter of the League of Women Voters.

“It’s been going up every day. It’s pretty incredible,” said Justin Szasz, a CivicSpark Climate Fellow who is working with the city on its climate change goals. CivicSpark is a program of Americorps.

Courtesy of Justin Szasz

“I’ve been blown away by the dedication of Piedmont residents to do everything they can to combat climate change,” he said.

Participation figures to grow as more residents learn about the effort and how to use the online platform (https://www.piedmontclimatechallenge.org/ ) where they can enlist, discover ways to reduce emissions and track their individual and team progress.

“What we want to do is have a community-wide showcase of the challenge, show what residents are doing and how people can join,” Miller-Davis said.
Once a household signs up, it is asked to take a quick quiz to create an energy profile about their basic lifestyle and calculate a current carbon footprint to use in determining the best ways to reduce emissions.

While the challenge allows individual enrollment, part of its motivation is a team competition. 

“We encourage people to join teams such as their neighborhood or community groups to learn more and share tips about how they can reduce emissions,” Szasz said.

Participants can post tips and information on the platform’s team page.
Miller-Davis and Szasz both noted that Piedmont is unique from neighboring cities, where commercial and industrial activity account for a much larger share of emissions compared to residential. It’s the opposite in Piedmont, where residential activity is far and away the largest source of emissions.

The broad overview of what the challenge is about — the need for decisive action on a global scale — will be explained during a screening of the first 50 minutes of “Ice on Fire,” a documentary directed and narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. “It’s really a visually stunning, uplifting film that highlights the challenges we face, but also offers solutions,” Miller-Davis said.

The screening will be followed by a second social time where residents can mingle to discuss ideas and get to know the Climate Ambassadors, the people leading the outreach work. “I think the partnership is really important. It’s been an enormous volunteer effort,” Miller-Davis said. “They’ve reached out to every community group in town and assigned ambassadors to work with them,” including Scouts, schools, city commissions, and every neighborhood and community group in town.

“It’s a multi-pronged approach to get people engaged,” Miller Davis said.
“The challenge runs through the end of March, so the sooner teams jump on, the sooner they get points,” she said. “We encourage people, if they are thinking about it, to realize the clock is ticking and they have a chance to learn something and take action to help their group or neighborhood to win the challenge.”

The winners will get bragging rights, of course, but every participant will have the satisfaction of knowing they are doing the right thing for the planet and future generations.

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