RE: Environmental values
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 22:23:08 -0800 (PST)
I like this idea for how to sort out values into actions. I find it useful for a group to have a beginning list of actions often by category because it saves some time, can get people to think about it more before hand and ends up with better results because everyone thought outside of their often limited understanding of the options. I think it would be great to collect a list of such actions from different communities.

For example, Muir Commons in Davis used some of its community set-a-sides for future repairs to invest in photovoltaics on the common house. How many members would support doing this when the funds are available?

Some of the things that we do in common at N Street turned into questions for a list of possible environmental actions.

Car sharing.
Would you let community members drive your care so that fewer cars can be owned overall in the community?
        Would you join in a car share on a high mpg hybrid?
        Will you join car pools to work or school or shopping when possible?

        Will you add your kitchen and yard waste to the compost?
        Would you help turn the compost?

Will you buy organic for community meals except when much more expensive.
        Will you cook vegetarian options?

        Would you not use pesticides around your home except for termites?
        Will you garden organically, with chemical fertilizers?

Free Space
Would you have a problem with a freecycle zone in front of the common house?

Air pollution
        Would you agree to no wood burning except when it is rainy or windy?
        Would you use the push and electric lawn mowers and not gas?

        Would you take care of the chickens one month out of 18?

        Would you support permacultural gardens around the common house?

Solar access
Would you agree to limit any additional construction on your house so that it doesn't block the solar access of your neighbor to the north? (part of the Planned Development)

Would you have concerns with neighbors adding second units to their homes or converting their garages to room additions? (part of the Planned Development)

Energy efficiency
Would you support the community paying more for the higher efficiency appliances such as refridgerators, washers etc? Would you have concerns about people hanging their clothes out to dry where they can be seen from the common spaces?


One of the ways to clarify values is to define them in terms of actions.
Measuring, doable things that people either sign up to do or not. For
example, you could brainstorm up a list of actions that show Caring for the
environment, then have people commit to them by putting there name next to
the action that they are willing to do and be held accountable for.  You
give people a set of tiny sticky notes, and have them write their name on
them. For example, one such action might be recycle my paper and glass.  On
that posted item people who are willing to do that place their name sticky.
I have also done this with different colors for support and non-support, so
for example a green sticky means yes I will do this, a red sticky means no,
I will not. You can find all kinds of sticky notes, tab stickers and such at
Office depot, or other such stores. Another action would be, not owning a
car. Again this might not be highly supported, but you will readily see this
by the commitment stickies. You can do this in a shelter scale format by not
having names show up, but paper slips, with yes or no on them. You can then
tally the results by color markers to make a graph that shows support or
non-support which does not identify any individual. I think this is less
powerful but it shows the community clearly where people stand in terms of
the actions.

Then sort through the list of actions that have the most support and those
become your community value of, Caring for the environment.  You can also
set this up so that values are not mandatory, but reflect the will of the
community. In this way, if one or two people out of the community are not
willing to do the action and be held accountable they are simply standing
aside, but they will clearly see, by the number of names involved, that the
action itself is a community value.  You will also see actions which are
clearly not well supported, and these are not community values, but personal
ones, which of course can also be supported and admired, but the majority
will choose not to be held accountable to them.

Being held accountable should be a personal statement of acceptance, not an
invitation to nag or judge those who do not follow through.

Rob Sandelin

-----Original Message-----
From: Maggi Rohde [mailto:maggi [at]]
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2005 6:03 PM
To: Developing cohousing - collaborative housing communities
Subject: [C-L]_ Environmental values

Our community is beginning to consider our values surrounding environmental
concerns.  We had a successful weekend retreat in which we made a list of
our values, but although "caring for the environment"
was on the list, we are having trouble nailing down exactly what this means.

I am interested to hear what other communities have done to identify common
environmental values.

-Maggi Rohde
  Touchstone Cohousing, Ann Arbor, MI

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