Ask not what your neighbourhood has done for you, but what you have done for your neighbourhood. We often overlook the fact that human beings do not live in economies — we live in families, neighbourhoods and communities. A few simple selfless acts could make your street a better place to live.
It's time to throw a block party!
You don't have to live on a street of single-family homes either. People in apartments, townhouses and condos can play party host, too.
Get a road-closure permit
Did you know that most cities allow residents to close their streets for block parties? Check out your city's website for road-closure and permit forms. They only take a few minutes to fill out, but keep in mind they make take a few weeks to process. (For three years running, I've held mine during Car Free Day in Vancouver.)
In order to get a street-closure permit, you may need to get signatures from a percentage of your neighbours. This is a perfect opportunity to canvas interest in helping with invites, food, activities and clean-up. A week or two before the big day, drop off invites in mailboxes, put up a few signs and prepare to meet your neighbours!
I've always been partial to a simple potluck BBQ. But, you can pick a theme — my Greek neighbours hosted an olive oil testing and served Greek coffee — or, pool money and purchase what you need. I had a local business on our block — we'll call them Dairy Queen — donate a free ice cream cake!
There's more than one way to throw a successful block party (eHow offers an eight-step recipe). A great way to build community is to tap into the local skills and interests of residents. Whether you have a block-wide yard sale, or build a boulevard community garden, or host a kids' street-hockey game will depend on the unique flavor of your neighbourhood.
Waste and clean-up
Avoid disposable plates and cutlery. Ask everyone to bring their own dinnerware that can be washed and reused. And don't forget to provide garbage and recycling bins.
It's the little things that can help us slow down, even just a little, to check in on the quality of our relationships with family, friends and our community.
What's your recipe for throwing a block party in your neighbourhood?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green