If one Contra Costa County home gardener fights "peach curl" with enviro-safe fungicide once a year, a tree is saved. And if one Alameda County resident chooses reusable beverage containers over throwaway plastic bottles, cash piles up and garbage in landfills doesn't.
That's the point of Sustainable Contra Costa's second annual "Sustainability Challenge," a two-county community project culminating in powerful earth-saving acts all happening close to or completed by the weekend of May 18-19.
Last year, Sustainable Contra Costa president and co-founder Tina King Neuhausel said the Walnut Creek-based organization's goal was to gather 350 pledges from Contra Costa residents. When the bell rang on the weekend-long deadline, 997 actions were completed.
"We added Alameda County this year, so we're boosting the goal to 2,000," Neuhausel said two weeks ago, with pledges hovering just above 1,200.
Neuhausel "borrowed" the idea for the challenge from Sonoma County's Trathen Heckman, who initiated a "350 Home and Garden Challenge" that took off.
Ironically, pledging is a huge component in the program's success. Neuhausel said scientific studies she and her six-year-old nonprofit have reviewed show a 90 percent likelihood that people who write their names beneath a pledge will complete the action.
If the science is right, 2,000 weekend warriors planting disease-resistant fruit trees and spraying their trees at the first sign of thick, puckering leaves -- or an entire neighborhood putting the brakes on bottle buying -- well, imagine the impact, she suggested.
"There's something for everybody," insisted Neuhausel, who has a professional background in renewable energy and sustainable technology. "People usually think of what they "probably should do," or they think that what they are doing won't matter enough. My kids are 6 and 7 years old. I think about what things are going to be like for them when we they are 25 and we have 1.5 million more people living in the Bay Area."
The thought causes her to shudder, she said. But the community response to the initiative makes her bold.
"The cities with the most pledges right now are Concord, 204; Martinez, 202; and Walnut Creek, 138. Oakley gets an honorable mention with 28 pledges," she writes in a follow-up email.
More details arrive in list form: Danville's Athenian School, 150 pledges honoring Director of Business Operations Bob Oxenburgh; Concord's Mt. Diablo High School, with students showing off their new, healthy food kitchen facilities; Antioch's Composting Class; Pleasant Hill's Citywide Garbage Sale; Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation's Native Grass Watering and Seed Collecting expedition; and Sustainable Contra Costa's own DIY Greywater Installation Workshop.
If these ideas sound too far-from-home, the Sustainable Contra Costa website has five, easy-to-understand action guides.
Click on a subject and the page refreshes with simple-to-grand actions. Click again and step-by-step instructions, or fact lists, or resource information make whichever plan you select doable. One final click and a simple form means the pledge is registered.
Participants are eligible for discounts from sponsoring business or they can enter to win prizes, like a $250 Navlet's gift card or a $100 gas card donated by Contra Costa Centre Transit Village.
Neuhausel said she's throwing out the competitive gauntlet and bragging at the same time. She's proud to introduce a new initiative, even as this second "Sustainability Challenge" takes off.
"We're adding green building awards to our fifth Sustainability Awards Gala in October," she said.
The annual celebration honors individual, nonprofit, government program, school and business leaders in the community. The new green building awards will be given according to criteria similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and will include four categories: residential, commercial, new and remodel. Architects and builders of buildings in Contra Costa County are eligible.