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So, you want to make your neighborhood better, but they’re telling you it’s too expensive and and there are other projects ahead of you on the list.

Well, it turns out there still may be something you can do about it.  Some cities have programs that allow regular folks to put in the sweat equity to get the job done, which means lowered costs and faster turnaround.

Seattle, Washington, calls it Neighborhood Matching Fund, and in Austin, Texas, it’s called Neighborhood Partnering Program.  The idea is that the city will help you out with the planning and equipment and then the residents and business owners get together and make it happen.  And that is pretty damn fantastic.  I know, maybe it’s not ideal, considering people have full-time jobs, kids to raise, and errands to run, but hey, as anyone who has put in volunteer time knows, this kind of thing can actually be fun.  Ugh, that looks lame when you write it out loud like that.  But whatever, it’s true.  It’s also a great way to socialize and get to know your neighbors, which is important for things like reducing crime and generally growing to love where you live.

And here’s another idea:  You know those fitness groups and clubs?  What if all that energy went into giving something back to the community.  Let me be clear here, there is nothing wrong with getting together with some people, getting in shape, making some friends, and enjoying being outside.  And heading out to the lake for a swim by yourself is also fantastic.  We don’t have to have a product as the reason for our efforts.  But…

If we could get the same experience we get at fitness boot camp AND provide something for the community, maybe we should do that.  At least once in a while.  Is it so outrageous to design a fitness regimen that creates a contest out of hauling rocks and pushing wheelbarrows to create an inner-city farm that will feed people who are hungry.  Just imagine all those amazing people who are training for triathlons and that racing in the mud thing, and putting that tremendous energy into clearing out a blighted part of town for a park or building homes with Habitat for Humanity for people who right now have no home.

But again, exercise on your own or with friends, just for the sake of exercise is great.  If you’re doing that much, good for you.  Just consider that all that effort can be converted for a greater good.  Think of it this way:

“A typical group cycling class with about 20 bikes has the potential to produce up to 3.6 Megawatts (3,600,000 Watts) of renewable energy a year. This is equivalent to the amount of power needed to light 72 homes for a month while also reducing carbon emissions by over 5,000 pounds.” —Green Revolution

I’m just sayin’.