Developing sustainable communities requires planning, implementing, and promoting sustainability goals that benefit individual citizens, the community, and the planet.
Importance of Developing Sustainable Communities
Sustainability is important for environmental, social, and economic reasons. Sustainability practices can be integrated into an existing community, but are typically easier to plan and carry out during community development.
An essential part of developing sustainable communities is conservation of energy sources and the use of renewable, clean energy. Making use of solar power, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and wind energy can significantly reduce a community's reliance on gas, coal, and other forms of energy. For the most cost-effective means of implementing energy conservation practices in a community, planning and construction should take place as early as possible during community development.
According to Keep America Beautiful, Americans generate an estimated 251 million tons of waste every year. By purchasing products packaged with recycled materials, and then electing to recycle, reuse, or compost as much waste as possible, citizens can take a proactive approach to reducing waste. Communities can encourage recycling, employ strategies designed to convert waste to energy, and compost organic materials for use around town.
Promotion of Local Food Sources
Supporting local farmers and encouraging the production and use of locally grown foods benefits the environment and is important for the economic well being of the community. Access to fresh food is essential to sustainable living and overall health. Moreover, when food is available locally, air pollution decreases due to reduced travel, and the community's economy receives a boost.
Development of Public Spaces
Community parks and gardens do more than add beauty to the environment. They provide a safe habitat for native wildlife and encourage physical activity. Community gardens stimulate social interaction, decrease crime rates, reduce heat from parking lots and streets, and encourage continued community development.
Pollution control should be a priority for all developing sustainable communities. There are numerous pollution-control strategies that communities can employ to reduce emissions and pollution, including promoting the use of public transportation or eco-friendly vehicles, constructing sidewalks to encourage foot traffic, and offering incentives to citizens who use green energy sources to power their homes.
Support for Local Businesses
Supporting local businesses directly increases the economic sustainability of a community. When money remains in a community, it is available for use by that community. Plus, when local businesses prosper, new jobs are available to other community members. Communities can support local businesses by providing community members with local business directories, removing subsidies from businesses outside of the community, and instituting campaigns that encourage buying locally.
Communities should offer benefits to builders who construct green buildings and incorporate LEED standards into their projects. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system for eco-friendly buildings that integrate water and energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, renewable resources, and sustainability into their construction.
Educating Your Community
While most Americans are aware of the need to protect the environment, many do not realize the impact a single community can have on the planet. Sustainable development can reduce crime, conserve valuable resources, reduce waste, attract viable economic development, preserve natural beauty and culture, and bring communities together.
By educating other members of your community, and by taking action to ensure your local government understands the benefits of sustainability, you can do your part to help the environment, your community, and the future of the planet.
Here are some websites that offer more information:
Green Map uses adaptable tools and icons to map green living and natural resources around the world.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities helps communities around the world change and improve by addressing the environmental, social, and economic issues necessary for sustainable living.
The University of Florida offers a plethora of valuable information on sustainable living.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website provides information on sustainability, water management, climate change, and energy conservation.