What Does it Look Like?

A sustainable community, that is.

I served on panel last week with the topic of “Building Sustainable Communities”, sponsored by the American Sustainable Business Council. The panel explored the components that comprise a healthy community and economy, and how public policy encourages or inhibits the outcome. As the architect on the panel comprised primarily of entrepreneurs and leaders in various corporate and non-profit sectors, I was tasked with exploring the physical components that foster vibrant sustainable communities.

It has to start with a vision. Community leaders must be able to paint a picture for the envisioned future, in order to be able to make balanced and informed decisions to drive policy and allocation of resources. LEED for Neighborhood Development and other thoughtful resources provide excellent insight into how to proceed with the physical components of a community. Sometimes, however, it’s helpful to compare the current state to an improved future as a way of visualizing the path to the promised land. That led to the following analysis of “before” & “after” images.

Through the discussion it was apparent that these physical components really provide just the framework for a multitude of forces that determine the quality of life in a community. Some of the other factors that were explored included access to capital and ways in which it can foster economic development and job creation, robust food systems where people have a greater connection to their food sources, transparency in consumer information on manufactured products and balancing financial success with societal impact.

Big questions, for sure. But maybe if we have a good idea of what a sustainable community looks like, we’ll make better decisions on our journey to get there.

 

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