Sprinting Beyond the Summer


While our Summer Sprint was just six weeks long, the lessons it teaches us and the habits it instills can last a lifetime. 

Summer is the season when life slows down enough to give many Charlottesville residents a chance to devote a little extra time and energy to the planet. It’s the perfect occasion to set yourself up for success: create that rain barrel, invest in that metal straw, and learn the bike routes and the bus system while school is out and life isn’t so crazy. Then, come September, climate action can be flawlessly incorporated into your daily routine at no extra cost (read: additional savings).

A Summer of Success

The campaign was a fun and straightforward opportunity to adopt an eco-smart lifestyle. Even someone with zero background in climate action or environmentalism could easily join and find manageable actions to complete each week. For our extra climate-conscious participants, the Summer Sprint may not have included many revolutionary tasks, but was instead the personal deadline they needed to kickstart a new climate action process. Even the most eco-savvy citizens can always grow and improve!

Sometimes, even when the sentiment is there, the motivation is lacking. Before the Sprint, I already knew that straws were bad for the environment and had been asking for coffees and drinks without them for months, but there were still occasional times when straw use seemed inevitable. If you’ve ever tried to drink a strawless smoothie on the go, you understand.

The Summer Sprint was the encouragement I needed to add a reusable metal straw into my daily necessities. Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Metal straw in case I get a smoothie or a coffee at some point in my day? Check. It’s amazing how much of a difference you can make with such ease once you’re pointed in the right direction!

In other cases, you might be extra incentivized, but have no clue where to start. My roommates and I are constantly trying to decrease our energy bill, but we had no idea about “vampire energy” before I started my internship and the Summer Sprint. Once I learned that electronics and appliances pull energy unless they’re unplugged, I completely changed the way I operate. My lamp and chargers are plugged into a power strip that I turn off every time I leave the apartment, and I’m now in the habit of always unplugging my kettle and blender after making tea and juice.

Overall, I’ve developed quite a few sustainable habits because of this summer that I know will carry into the year and beyond. Many of the weekly climate actions taught Charlottesville residents about the ways we can shop, travel, exercise, and live sustainably all year round. Participants were directed to Charlottesville’s plethora of stylish thrift stores, useful public transportation systems, and locally sourced food products. To further expand the potential impact of the Summer Sprint, we included climate actions that can (and should!) be completed anywhere and everywhere. You can use a rain barrel, a metal straw, and a reusable water bottle no matter where you may find yourself around the world

Despite the obvious added bonus that comes with new sustainable daily routines, some of our favorite Sprint actions were not habitual at all and instead involved specific Charlottesville Summer events. These types of actions allowed us to engage with our awesome community and do things that aren’t available to residents every season. As locals, we got to utilize the City Market, the bike routes, and the public gardens that our area has to offer. A large goal of the Sprint was getting people out and about, teaching them about the incredible seasonal opportunities available to them.

Of course, there were certainly actions that I can’t see myself doing periodically throughout the year. While the unplugged evening was super fun, I realistically will be using wifi, lights, and my laptop every evening as a college student trying to tackle homework and exams. Still, even one-time actions like the unplugged evening can teach us a lot about our carbon footprints and deepen our awareness of our personal impacts.

What Comes Next?

Did you complete the entire Summer Sprint? A few actions? Are you just hearing about it now? No matter how your summer unfolded, it is never too late to get involved in some climate action and help us take sustainability to the streets. We are now kicking off the Season Three of our Home Energy Challenge. It’s a fun and practical way to reduce your carbon footprint with home and lifestyle changes with the support of a team! You can visit our Home Energy Challenge info page here and email claire@cvilleclimate.org to sign up!

Page Dabney