Transition town

Totnes, Devon, England: a transition town

The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroot community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil,[1] climate destruction, and economic instability.[2] The Transition Network, founded in 2006, inspired the creation of many of the projects. A number of the groups have officially registered with the organisation.[3] The first initiative to use the name was Transition Town Totnes, located in the United Kingdom. Transition initiatives have been started in locations around the world, with many located in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and Australia.[2][4]


The term, "transition town" was coined by Louise Rooney[5] and Catherine Dunne.

The transition model can be applied to different types of places where people live, such as villages, regions, islands and towns. The generic term is "transition initiative", which includes transition neighborhoods, communities, and cities, although "transition town" is in common usage.[6]


From Kinsale to Totnes

Permaculture designer Rob Hopkins in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about Transition Towns.

In 2004, permaculture designer Rob Hopkins set his students at Kinsale Further Education College the task of applying permaculture principles to the concept of peak oil. The output of this student project was the ‘Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan'.[7]

This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture as a "road map" to a sustainable future for the town. Two of his students, Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne, developed the Transition towns concept. They then presented their ideas to Kinsale Town Council. The councilors decided to adopt the plan and work towards energy independence.

Hopkins moved to his hometown of Totnes, England, where he and Naresh Giangrande developed these concepts into the transition model. In 2006 Transition Town Totnes become the first Transition initiative.[8]

Transition Network founded

Between late 2006 and early 2007 the Transition Network was founded as a UK charity by British permaculture educator Rob Hopkins. It trains and supports people involved with Transition initiatives. It disseminates the concepts of transition towns.[9]

2008 to present day

In 2008 the number of communities involved in the project had increased with many localities in the process of becoming "official" Transition towns.[10]

The initiative spread and by May 2010 there were over 400 community initiatives recognized as official Transition towns in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile. The term transition initiatives become common to reflect the range and type of communities involved - e.g. villages (Kinsale), neighbourhoods of cities (Portobello, Edinburgh), through council districts (Penwith) to cities and city boroughs (Brixton).[11][12]

By September 2013, there were 1130 initiatives registered (462 Official, 654 Muller) in 43 countries.[13]


Influences include permaculture concepts as described in Bill Mollison’s Permaculture, a Designers Manual (1988) and David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2003),[14] as well as David Fleming's work on community, culture and resilience.[15]


Each Transition town or initiative has a high level of autonomy. However, to be called an official initiative certain criteria must be met. Additionally, there is nothing to stop an 'unofficial' initiative using ideas inspired by Transition towns. Further, there are various 'hubs' to co-ordinate work at a regional level.

Transition Network

The Transition Network is a UK charity founded between late 2006 and early 2007. It was set up to disseminate the concept of the Transition towns. It has published books and films, trained people and facilitated networking.[9] The network's website contains a listing of the initiatives that have registered there.[16]

Some of the material has been translated and adapted to other languages/cultures, including Portuguese, Danish, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese and Irish.[17]

Transition US

In the United States, Transition initiatives have been started in many communities. Transition US is the national hub. Its stated vision "that every community in the United States will have engaged its collective creativity to unleash an extraordinary and historic transition to a future beyond fossil fuels; a future that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient; one that is ultimately preferable to the present".[18]

Transition US is a resource and catalyst for building resilient communities across the United States that are able to withstand severe energy, climate or economic shocks while creating a better quality of life in the process. They are accomplishing this mission by inspiring, encouraging, supporting, networking and training individuals and their communities as they consider, adopt, adapt, and implement the transition approach to community empowerment and change.[19]

A large number of state sites have also been set up using the Ning social networking platform. These state sites, under the umbrella of a national Ning site, were set up to help facilitate, network, inform, monitor, and house regional and organizational Transition initiatives. Thus, furthering the spread of the Transition Movement while networking related organizations, projects, ideas and activities. In addition, many Transition initiatives can be found on the WiserEarth community.[20]

Guidance for new groups

Some projects use the TN's guide the '12 ingredients', or the 'revised ingredients', when setting up their group.[6][21]


The Transition Network (TN) promotes awareness of sustainable living and building local ecological resilience.

Peak oil and local resilience

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resiliency by Rob Hopkins provides much of the framework behind the Transition Initiative and outlines ways for local Transition Towns to get involved.[22]


Communities are encouraged to seek out methods for reducing energy usage as well as reducing their reliance on long supply chains that are totally dependent on fossil fuels for essential items (see environmental calculator).

Food production

Food is a key area for transition, sometimes the slogan "Food feet, not food miles" is used. Initiatives so far have included creating community gardens or replacing ornamental tree plantings with fruit or nut trees, to grow food.[23]

Waste and recycling

Business waste exchange seeks to match the waste of one industry with another industry that uses that waste material, sometimes referred to as industrial symbiosis. Repairing old items rather than throwing them away is looked at.


The Transition Network proposes an alternative from business as usual, or from 'shocked/doomladen' reactions to peak oil and an end to unlimited economic growth.[24] According to Southend-on-Sea in Transition, " shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design the future low carbon age to be thriving, resilient and abundant — somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth."[25]

A theme of the Transition Network is acknowledging the emotional impact of changing to a low energy world. Some Transition Network groups have 'Heart and Soul' groups to look at this aspect.[26][27]

Energy descent action plans (EDAP)

An important aim for Transition towns is to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. One way to further this goal is for the community to develop an EDAP. The term "community" in this context includes local people, local institutions, local agencies and the local council. The first comprehensive plan was created for Totnes in 2010, entitled Transition in Action: Totnes & District 2030.[28]

In France, where the movement is called Villes et Territoires en Transition, the association négaWatt provides a theoretical support to the transition movement.[29]


As of 2010, the TN includes the global financial crisis as further threat to local communities, alongside peak oil and climate change. To counter economic instability the TN promotes fiscal localism.[30][31] The organisation see local complementary currencies as a way to create sustainable local economies. Local currencies existing or under development include:

Started Currency Status Comment Website
2007 Totnes pound
2008 Lewes pound
2009 Stroud pound
2009 Brixton pound
2012 Bristol pound
2015 Exeter Pound
2016 Cardiff Pound
TBC Kingston pound
TBC Oxford Pound


While the focus and aims remain the same, the methods used to achieve these vary. For example, Totnes has introduced its own local currency, the Totnes pound, which is redeemable in local shops and businesses, helping to reduce "food miles" while also supporting local firms.[32] This idea is also planned to be introduced in three Welsh transition towns[33] and in Maleny Australia, the Baroon Dollar as a part of a regional transition towns project.[34]

Transition towns have been featured in the plot line of the long-running BBC Radio 4 series The Archers. This is an example of mainstream media attention the movement got after a couple of years of being founded.[35]



A number of books have been published on specific topics, including: how communities can develop their Transition town initiative. Unless stated, the following books were published as a collaboration between Green Books and the Transition Network (under the label Transition Books):[36]

In 2008, the Transition Handbook was the joint 5th most popular book taken on holiday during the summer recess by the UK parliamentary MPs.[39]


Two films have been created by the movement about the movement. They document the progress of various initiatives:

See also




  1. "Pioneering Welsh town begins the transition to a life without oil". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  2. 1 2 Flintoff, John-Paul (15 June 2013). "Local, self-sufficient, optimistic: are Transition Towns the way forward?".
  3. "What is a Transition Initiative? - Transition Network".
  4. "Transition Initiatives Map - Transition Network".
  5. "The Local Planet".
  6. 1 2 "12 Ingredients". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  7. "Kinsale 2021 An Energy Descent Action Plan – Version.1. 2005" (PDF). Kinsale Further Education College. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  8. "The Transition movement: Today Totnes... tomorrow the world". The Independent. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  9. 1 2 "About Transition Network". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  10. "Money for climate project". The Nelson Mail. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  11. "Transition Initiatives Directory".
  12. "About PEDAL". Portobello Transition Town. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  13. "Transition Initiatives Directory". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  14. "Permaculture". Transition Town Ashland. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  15. David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  16. "Transition Initiatives Directory". Transition Network. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  17. "Translations". Transition Network. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  18. "Our Story". Transition US. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  19. "About us". Transition US. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  20. "Transition Initiative Groups on".
  21. "Ingredients". Transition Network. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  22. 1 2 "The Transition Handbook". Green Books. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  23. Warhurst, Pamela; Dobson, Joanna (May 26, 2014). Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution!. Matador Publishing. p. 200. ISBN 1783064870.
  24. Who we are and what we do by Rob Hopkins and Peter Lipman. Transition Network. February 2009.
  25. "LIFE BEYOND OIL – THREAT OR OPPORTUNITY?". Archived from the original on August 18, 2013.
  26. "Inner Transition". Transition Town Totnes.
  27. "Heart and Soul Transition PDX Working Group Meeting #3 - The Dirt!". 14 November 2010. Archived from the original on November 14, 2010.
  28. 1 2 "Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP)". Transition Town Totnes. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  29. "La notion de negaWatt". Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  30. 1 2 "Local Food: how to make it happen in your community". Green Books. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  31. 1 2 "Local Money How to Make it Happen in Your Community". Green Books. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  32. Morris, Jonathan (4 June 2007). "Town poised for its own currency". BBC News. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  33. "Towns banking their own currency". BBC News. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  34. "Money worries: town prints its own". ABC News. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  35. "BBC - Radio 4 - Archers - The Archers - Transition Ambridge". 30 December 2008. Archived from the original on December 30, 2008.
  36. "Books".
  37. Information on The Transition Timeline, from the author's Dark Optimism website
  38. "Communities, Councils and a Low Carbon Future What We Can Do If Governments Won't". Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  39. Madeleine Bunting. "Beyond Westminster's bankrupted practices, a new idealism is emerging, 31 May 2009". the Guardian.
  40. "In Transition 2.0 (February 2, 2012)". Transition Network. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
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