Written by Jessica Isaacs   

With the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice, many people are feeling disconnected, unsupported, and isolated. Finding community in 2020 has been nearly impossible, as if we’re all playing an expert-level game of Where’s Waldo, only for adults ages 16 and up.

While this sense of lost community may be a new experience for many, it’s not a new phenomenon. Social scientists have long reported a “loneliness epidemic” sweeping America. (To blame: capitalism, urbanization, individualism, and materialism). Community has been missing from American life for too long. 

Maybe my fascination with community comes from the fact that I grew up in the very large, very dispersed, and sprawling city of Los Angeles, watching Gilmore Girls and holiday movies with my mom – mesmerizing stories that created this nostalgic fantasy of slow small-town life centered around community. For years since, I’ve dreamt of opening up a quaint eco-village – an off-grid, tiny-home community where people gather together to grow food and share meals, practice yoga or spend time outdoors, learn to make their own soaps and creams and fermented drinks, engage in social and environmental activism, and practice slow, healthy, intentional, and sustainable living in community.

Considering how long I’ve dreamed of living in this kind of community, you can imagine how shocked I was to learn, just recently, of a movement quietly sweeping the globe that centers community, that centers creative local solutions and sustainable living, that centers independence from fossil fuels, and that centers joy and possibility and resilience to a changing world, and that is happening right here in Colorado.

So, without further ado,  Reader, meet Transition Town.

Transition Town, meet Reader!

Transition towns are playful and innovative in developing local solutions and no two transition towns look alike. 

The transition town movement is a community-centered, solutions-focused grassroots response to deepening climate change, peak oil*, oil dependency, and western consumerist lifestyles. A new transition town often starts from one or two or twenty people coming together and saying, “Okay,  none of this is working for the people or for the planet. What can we do to fix this?” For one community, it may be as simple as growing a public urban garden in a previously unuseud lot to meet local food needs. For another commnity it could be a full overhaul of existing systems, a reclamation of the economy and entrepreneurship, and the development of a fossil-free, alternative way of life.  Transition town communities work together to rebuild and boldly reimagine systems (including food, transportation, energy, business) for the better.  It is a sort of “DIY” politics of doing sustainability here and now, rather than waiting for the government or technology or big industry to fly in with capes to solve the problem. The transition movement recognizes that people have a greater impact when they act in community, rather than individually, and that everyone and everything benefits when people have the opportunity to give back and meaningfully contribute to their communities. 

The transition town movement is based on local solutions for transitioning to a radically different society based on low-carbon living. It is also about an inner transition, transforming our perspectives and values, to support a new way of life that is more meaningful, joyful, community-centered, and protective of people and the planet.

“Transition is the first thing that I came across that said our problem is not about carbon, our problem is not about energy, it’s not about inequality, our problem is a whole worldview that creates a system of thought that creates outer systems and inner systems that are about separation and division and competition and so on.” Ushi Bay, 2013

Transition towns call for an appreciation, not just a tolerance, of frugality, simplicity, and non-material sources of life-satisfaction. Transition towns call for a liberating shift in perspective to see that a good life does not rely on continued economic growth and that money isn’t the only thing we should value. By doing less and by owning less, your life opens to more – to more living, more happiness, meaning, purpose, connection, and to more being present in the moment and caring for those in your larger (human and ecological) community.

The transition town movement is like a whole community pressing the brakes on non-sustainable, untethered economic growth growth that will ultimately lead to total systems collapse: collapse of ecological and biogeochemical systems, collapse of social systems, and collapse of economic systems. Transition towns invite communities to challenge deeply entrenched capitalist, consumerist, and supremacist thought and to embrace a new imaginary for society based on the values of ecological justice, social justice, abundance, sharing, and collaborating. 

Here are some solutions you might find in a transition town that you can bring into your own community:

Local food systems

Permaculture and urban gardens, farm stands, or community-owned grocery stores that support local economies and food security, delink food and fossil fuels, limit food miles, and reduce reliance on petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides that cause pollinator decline, soil depletion, chemical runoff, and contamination of water and ecosystems. 

Interested in learning more about local food solutions? Check out 350 Colorado’s local food and regenerative agriculture page or sign up to get involved!

Energy programs

Cooperative community-owned renewable energy programs and energy descent plans to support energy autonomy, energy security, and independence from fossil fuels.

Interested in learning more about renewable energy? Check out 350 Colorado’s promote renewables page or sign up to get involved!

Alternative banking and currencies

Public banking, co-operative businesses ownerships, timebanking (where service hours are used as an alternative currency), and non-market activities like trade, barter, and sharing, and local currencies that can only be spent locally.

Interested in learning more about public banking? Check out 350 Colorado’s public banking coalition page or sign up to get involved!

Transportation solutions

Carpooling, public transit, and design-changes to make the town more walkable and bikeable help limit personal transit and can support a sense of place and community.

Educational, reskilling, and inner transition programs

Workshops on zero-waste living and for building self-sufficiency skills and trades that have largely been lost in our transition to the industrial era (e.g. beekeeping, sewing, cobblering, gardening, canning, carpentry, repairing).

Join your local transition town movement

Boulder, Louisville, Fort Collins, and Manitou Springs all have budding transition towns. If you’re outside those areas, check out the transition town movement’s websites here and here for more information and resources to get a transition town started in your community! Or, connect with your 350 Colorado local team to host a film screening or to discuss bringing transition town solutions to your local community. 


*Peak oil refers to the age of cheap oil that skyrocketed economic growth and that has also caused irreparable harm to earth’s climate and to human and more-than-human communities. Modern human society has based its entire way of life – its industries, settlements, transportation, food systems, technologies and materials, economic models, and indices of wellbeing – on cheap oil and the assumption of its perpetuity. Sixty-five of the ninety-eight oil producing countries, including the U.S. (including Colorado) have passed their oil extraction peak. The founder of the transition town network, Rob Hopkins, has boldly claimed, “Our degree of oil dependency is our degree of vulnerability.” Without adaptability, the fall from peak oil will lead to economic disaster. Transition towns offer a solution to oil dependency and vulnerability through building local resilience.