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Community Climate Collaborative seeks change

Local nonprofit focuses on improving sustainability efforts amongst businesses in the Charlottesville area

<p>In Charlottesville, less than five percent of the greenhouse gas emissions are from government facilities, and this is reflected in the group’s commitment towards focusing on motivating residents and business owners to reduce emissions.</p>

In Charlottesville, less than five percent of the greenhouse gas emissions are from government facilities, and this is reflected in the group’s commitment towards focusing on motivating residents and business owners to reduce emissions.

Community Climate Collaborative is a nonprofit based in the Charlottesville area dedicated to addressing climate change through advocating for local action. C3 focuses on advocating for climate action amongst businesses and homeowners in addition to lobbying for environmentally conscious legislation in the city of Charlottesville. 

C3 was founded in 2017 after Grey McLean, Class of 1995 alumnus and Charlottesville resident, developed the idea for a climate advocacy group located in Charlottesville. At the time, Charlottesville had few policies that supported sustainability.

University students have the opportunity to engage with C3 through its internship program. The program is a valuable aspect of C3, as it connects the organization to the University as well as supports the education of those who will continue to advocate for sustainability in the future. This year C3 has four student interns from the University.

“Because C3 is a relatively young and small nonprofit, we as student interns are much more plugged into the core of C3’s work than an intern for a large company who might find herself making copies or buying coffee,” third-year College student Emma Karnes said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “Each intern works directly with their department head and contributes important work that helps keep their respective program running.”

Across all of its local programs, C3 is specifically interested in carbon emission reductions. In Charlottesville, less than five percent of the greenhouse gas emissions are from government facilities, and this is reflected in the group’s commitment towards focusing on motivating residents and business owners to reduce emissions while supporting policy that mandates environmental commitments. 

“We think that the carrot is more powerful than the stick,” said Teri Kent, C3’s director of programs and communication, when asked whether government mandates or merely encouraging companies to become more sustainable would lead to more long-lasting carbon reductions. 

Rather than the government prohibiting certain practices, C3 advocates for government incentives that encourage private investment into implementing more sustainable practices from local businesses.

The organization’s Better Business Challenge is a central part of its efforts to motivate local businesses to adopt environmentally friendly practices. Participating businesses are provided with a list of ways that they could become more environmentally friendly. The competition lasts the better part of a year with C3 distributing awards in November. The challenge has, according to Kent, saved Charlottesville businesses over $500,000 and reduced carbon emissions by 4,300 tons.

“The Better Business Challenge is an exciting way that businesses assert their climate stewardship, community leadership and commitment to strategic growth,” Karnes said.

Recently, C3 brought on Director of Climate Policy Caetano de Campos Lopes, who is dedicated to analyzing data to find areas in which C3 can target policy in order to have the most significant positive impact. Lopes previously worked in Buenos Aires, the first city in Latin America to set a carbon neutrality goal by 2050, where he led the city government’s evaluations of potential clean energy projects. At C3, Lopes leads the effort to develop the organization’s Energy Burden Map, which visualizes the proportion of each household’s income that is spent on energy each month. 

“We have been analyzing neighborhood-level data to develop a map of our most relevant energy burdened hotspots and pinpointing how different housing-stock features and households’ characteristics relate to energy burden levels,” Lopes said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.

The high energy burden placed on many residents within Charlottesville has always been an area of interest for C3, and the Energy Burden Map is a crucial part of the organization’s commitment to promoting environmentalism, especially in low-income areas of the city. 

“Our ongoing programs and projects under initial development could have a significant effect on enabling, multiplying and activating climate action to those that did not know how to contribute,” Lopes said. “[It tells them] what to prioritize and what would be the real economic and environmental benefits of their actions.”

In addition to developing the Energy Burden Map, C3 is actively lobbying for the development of a city fund dedicated to supporting sustainable practices, particularly in low-income communities. Albemarle County currently has a $500,000 fund, and C3 envisions a similar program implemented in the city. 

C3’s initiatives enjoy great success and have championed progress towards a more sustainable Charlottesville, but the work is not without its own set of challenges. When asked where climate policy factored into the city’s priorities, Kent said that “[climate policy] did not make the list.” 

Currently, within the Charlottesville government, there is one person whose role is devoted to sustainability. This presents challenges as C3 advocates for climate policy, but it also emphasizes the importance of having an organization like C3 supporting sustainability alongside the city government. 

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