Picture this… Isla Vista and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) are carbon neutral in 2025, four short years away. Your peers, kids, colleagues, grandkids, and everyone else in your life is asking you what you were doing when this happened? Do you want to proudly say that you were a part of this world-leading initiative? Then come and be a part of it with Cool Block, an organization that aims to drastically minimize carbon emissions, prepare neighborhoods for disasters, and bring communities together.

Within the Cool Block process, households form relationships with their neighbors and their local communities. During meetings, the groups work through eight topics: i. Energy-Resilient Homes, ii. Disaster-Resilient Homes, iii. Cool Lifestyles, iv. Cool Homes and Cool Wheels, v. Water Stewardship, vi. Safe, Healthy and Green Blocks, vii. Resourceful and Community-Rich Blocks, and viii. Living as a Cool Block. Each team member is responsible for planning which household actions they will take, and then they reconvene at a later date to talk about their experiences. Some of the topics within Cool Block have a number of priority actions that members are highly encouraged to take. Likewise, each potential action may include a number of local resources that members can use to help them achieve their goals. 

My name is Chloe Ortiz and I am a junior Environmental Studies and Communications double major. I am currently the UCSB Carbon Neutrality Initiative Ambassador, which means that I am working towards further informing and engaging the UCSB student body and faculty on the UC-wide Carbon Neutrality Goal of 2025. As a part of my internship, I am participating in Cool Block! This article follows the experiences of the current Cool Block groups at UCSB through the first two topics, Energy-Resilient Homes and Disaster-Resilient Homes.

For the first topic, we identified a number of actions to prepare our households for energy blackouts. The priority actions included: preparing and storing enough food to last several days, securing basic water needs, developing communication systems for an emergency, and creating alternative light sources. Through the Cool Block program, participants have access to a list of local resources in their area that will help them achieve all of their Cool Block goals! Some of the local resources available in our area include: the Associated Students Foodbank, ReadySBC Alerts, UCSB Alerts, SBC Radio Ready, Unite to Light, and more. 

What has been really fascinating about the experience so far is finding out that everyone has their own creative ideas on how to tackle the given problems. A large part of the process is realizing that your entire household must be in the plan, including all family members and any pets, all of whom have different needs. Lily Mendez, a sophomore studying Environmental Studies, talked about how she needed to identify ways to communicate the reality of potential disasters to her younger siblings so that they understood the gravity of the situation without frightening them. 

Everyone gets inspired in different ways when completing their tasks. For example, Tarun Kumar, a freshmen Physics major, was inspired by the movie The Martian, and decided to put potatoes in his food reserves due to their long shelf life! On the other hand, Piper Lovegreen, a junior studying Physical Geography, described how she had to pack special equipment, like a water container, for her dog!

The next topic was to create a “Disaster-Resilient Household” to ensure that each of our households are prepared in the case of any natural disaster. The priority actions for this topic include: creating an evacuation kit, developing a communication and evacuation plan, preparing a first aid kit, and preparing for a fire. Some of the local resources that Santa Barbara County residents can use include: the IV/UCSB Emergency Checklist, UCSB Emergency Services Contacts, IV/UCSB Local Radio, UCSB First Aid and CPR Training Courses, and UCSB Emergency Flipchart

Stay tuned for the next article to see how the UCSB Cool Block students tackle the next topics: iii. Cool Lifestyle and iv. Cool Home and Cool Wheels!