Ten ways to build community

It’s time to ask not what your neighbourhood can do for you but what you can do for your neighbourhood!

When you build community, you help lift people out of their own little worlds — where it’s all too easy to slip into being overwhelmed — and encourage them to be part of something much bigger than themselves.

A few simple, selfless acts will make your neighbourhood a better place to live. Chances are good that you’ll make a difference.

These little things can help us slow down, even just a little, to check in on the quality of our relationships with family, friends and community.

Ten ideas to fire up your commitment to the people and places you love

A block party at sunset

1. Host a block party

Slow down, even just a little, and meet the neighbours! Most cities will issue road-closure permits and many offer grants, too.

Synchronize your event with things like the annual Car-Free Day and maybe add a garage sale, potluck, plant swap, battery recycling drop-off and music. You could also plant a pollinator garden on the boulevard, collect towels for the local shelter and get food or prize donations from local businesses.

Tap into the local skills and interests of residents. Canvass interest in helping with invites, food, activities and cleanup. A week or two before the big day, drop off invitations in mailboxes, put up a few signs and prepare to meet your neighbours!

An assortment of garments at a clothing swap.

2. Host a clothing swap

Invite friends and co-workers. You can even swap kids’ clothing. Spring and fall are both great times, but get creative (maybe a Halloween costume swap?). Donate leftover items.

Refresh your wardrobe for free!

Walking a dog

3. Host a skill swap

Share your clever skills and get services you need while saving money, reducing consumption and building community.

People donate a skill, set a minimum bid and post a sheet (paper or online). The diversity of skills makes it fun: bike tune-ups, dog-walking, salsa dance lessons, hemming pants, songwriting…

It’s great for workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods. It could even be a birthday party theme! Celebrate mad skills and connect with each other more.

Doing repairs in a workshop

4. Host or join a repair café or “fix it” event

Repair cafés may help fix our throw-away society. Skilled volunteers fix your household items, so you don’t have to toss them and buy new ones. Most of the fixers are hobbyists who enjoy helping others and want to keep items out of the landfill. Fixers can repair computers, toasters, lamps, chairs, clothes, jewellery, books and more! Search for one in your city or download the startup package by Repair Café Foundation to host your own.

Man and woman eating together

5. Start a food sharing club

Gather co-workers or friends for meals and enjoy waste-free, home-cooked food. A food circle can help a family member, co-worker or neighbour. It’s the best baby shower gift ever and a kindness for someone going through a difficult time.

Build community through food

Green cleaning workshop

6. Host a green cleaning or nontoxic cosmetics workshop

Tried our DIY recipes? Plan your “make and take” as part of an evening with friends, baby shower or lunch ’n’ learn at the office. Invite your family, neighbours, friends, co-workers, parents from your kids’ school or the book club.

Use these two green cleaning recipes from these favourite nine or make deodorant and lip balm or toothpaste! Supply the ingredients (buy bulk), and ask people to bring jars or containers to fill. Maybe apply for a local community grant to cover your costs or pitch to a local community centre.

(Photo: FotoMediamatic via Flickr)

Books donated to a toy swap

7. Organize a toy swap

Drowning in a wave of toys? Toy lending prevents clutter, curbs consumption, builds community and entertains the kids! Enlist families you know and choose toys that are age-appropriate and easily washed. (Exclude your favourites and delicates.)

Choose a theme like musical instruments, wooden blocks or dress-up. Label toys, take a picture or attach an inventory list to the cloth bag. Set a loan period and write a thank-you note. It’s that easy.

Citizen activists take soil sample

8. Become a citizen scientist

Find meaningful ways to contribute to fun projects that help restore and reclaim local biodiversity. Join backyard bird counts, find a bioblitz near you, remove invasive species (like English ivy), plant trees or clean up shorelines, etc. Find groups active in the community or start your own. Many cities offer grants for citizen stewardship projects.

Join our citizen science projects today!

Children play in hand-me-down clothing

9. Hang a tree swing

Kids need to play outside! Choose a healthy branch (200 millimetres or more in diameter and at least 1.8 metres long) of a hardwood tree. Ensure the rope, carabiners and hardware are rated for the maximum weight. Reuse a tire, buy a used option or create your own wooden seat. When properly installed you won’t damage the tree.

Note: Backyards are a great location but to meet the neighbours and add to local social capital, put it on the front boulevard!

Take the Suzuki Superhero Challenge

Connecting youth with nature children doing school work outside

10. Write love letters to express gratitude to nature

What do you love most about nature? Hide your note or letter for someone to find — around the house or at your local library, community centre or school. Enlist your kids or pitch the idea to your daycare or school. (Share the child art you’re hoarding!) Do it at work, covertly. Hide your letter inside the office or outside in a courtyard or garden. Or invite colleagues to participate. Provide markers and paper, then showcase the letters for everyone to enjoy. Create a gratitude tree on the front boulevard or in a public park. Find more inspiration at The Love Lettering Project.