In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    Well-crafted local policies can make a significant impact on a community's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And often, taking steps to cut emissions brings other benefits, such as financial savings through reduced energy costs and improved air quality through reduced vehicle usage.

    Green Building

    In the United States, buildings account for two-thirds of total electricity consumption and almost 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Local governments can improve the energy and resource efficiency of their community's built environment by incorporating green building principles in their building codes and policies.

    Local governments are pursuing a variety of strategies to promote green building practices, such as the following:

    For more information about green building benefits, principles, practices, success stories, and related issues, see the Smart Communities Network's Green Building webpage and the EPA's Green Building website.

    Zoning and Land Use Management

    The growth pattern in many communities has been one of low-density development and sprawl, leading to increased dependence on automobiles, more air and global warming pollution, and loss of open space. Communities can reverse this direction with zoning policies that encourage high-density, mixed-use, and in-fill development, transit-oriented design, and urban growth boundaries that limit suburban sprawl.


    The transportation sector is one of this country's largest sources of GHG emissions. Planning strategies that address sprawl can also help reduce automobile use. Other effective measures include making communities more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly; encouraging mass transit use, telecommuting, and car sharing; restricting idling at public facilities (e.g., schools); and purchasing more fuel-efficient and/or smaller municipal fleet vehicles.

    See the Smart Communities Network's Sustainable Transportation and Land Use Planning webpages for key principles, strategies, and success stories.

    Waste Management

    By reducing the waste stream, waste prevention and recycling decrease landfill methane and transportation-related emissions. Best practices include establishing or expanding recycling programs and setting aggressive recycling targets; implementing collection and composting programs for organics and yard waste; establishing programs for reusing or recycling construction and demolition materials; and incorporating environmental considerations into purchasing policies.

    Energy Efficiency

    By implementing energy efficiency measures, communities can make a significant dent in both their energy bills and their GHG emissions. Local governments are installing energy-efficient street and traffic lights, purchasing only ENERGY STAR appliances and office equipment, upgrading heating, cooling and ventilation systems, installing green roofs, implementing time-of-use/peak demand electrical energy pricing, and initiating low-income weatherization programs.

    Green Power/Renewable Energy

    Some local governments are taking steps to purchase a portion of their electricity from renewable sources. In some markets, they can choose a provider offering electricity generated from local renewable sources. In other markets, the local utility may offer "green pricing," an optional program for customers willing to pay a premium to cover the above-market costs that the utility incurs in acquiring renewable energy resources. Local governments may also purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs), which represent renewable electricity generated and delivered to the power grid elsewhere.

    Local governments are also installing solar energy systems on municipal buildings, investing in wind turbines, and offering incentives to homeowners and businesses to encourage the installation of on-site renewable energy systems. A Berkeley, CA, pilot program, for example, allowed property owners to finance the installation of solar photovoltaic electric systems through a special tax on their property tax bills, to be repaid over 20 years.

    Key Resources