Ten Steps to Sustainability
The task of launching a sustainable community
initiative, whether in a city or countryside, can seem daunting
at the outset. The U.S. Department of Energy has helped simplify
the task of launching a community sustainability endeavor
by breaking the process down into 10 individual steps. Each
step is described below, with links to related websites that
information, tools, or examples useful in carrying out that
step. If you have additional insights into launching successful
sustainability programs, or know of additional resources,
write to the staff
of this website.
Step 1: Conduct a local "sustainability"
Gather baseline information on such subjects as key environmental
problems in your community; what you pay for energy; key economic,
environmental and social issues, etc. This information provides
a baseline for measuring progress later, and can help identify
the key goals of a sustainability campaign.
From Global Ecovillage Network comes the Community
Sustainability Assessment.This site offers three checklists
-- ecological, social and spiritual -- to gauge a community's
Extracted from the Environmental Protection Agency's
Green Communities Assistance Kit, Where
Are We Now? offers advice and resources on assessing
Energy Yardstick: Using Place3s to Create More Sustainable Communities
(PDF file), was developed by the California Energy Commission,
the Oregon Department of Energy, and the Washington State Energy
Office. This document provides tools for identifying existing
conditions and then developing integrated, sustainable, and
efficient regional and neighborhood comprehensive plans.
Although perhaps more international in focus,
Sustainability Progress Assessment features concepts,
tools and cases studies on assessing sustainability. The site
is a joint project of the International Development Research
Centre and the World Conservation Union.
Step 2: Get "stakeholder" concurrence
on launching a sustainability program
Using the assessment from Step 1, build local support for a
formal sustainability program, involving all people in the community,
including elected officials; neighborhood, environmental and
business groups; the media; churches; government agencies; foundations,
Environmental Defense has created an Environmental
Sustainability Kit, which includes information
on the stakeholder process, as well as sections on project planning
and indicators development.
Sustainable Communities Network's section on Creating
Community includes a Civic
Engagement topic area that offers organizational resources,
additional reading, and case studies on citizen participation
Step 3: Designate a local sustainability
To be successful, your community will need to designate at least
one individual to become the champion of and conscience for
sustainable development. This person should be sanctioned by
the local elected leaders.
Center for Leadership Development offers resources,
primarily focused on rural development.
Step 4: Create a vision
Engage the entire community in a "visioning exercise", defining
where your community would like to be 20 years from now. The
vision should be specific and idealistic, but achievable.
we want to be? That's one of the questions posed in
the EPA's Green Communities Assistance Kit. The section describes
the visioning process, one which will yield a vision statement.
An interesting historical overview and case study
is found in Community
Visioning: Planning for the Future in Oregon's Local Communities,
a paper from the 1997 American Planning Association conference.
Step 5: Develop a roadmap for
reaching the vision
With the help of all stakeholders, identify what steps your
community will need to take to achieve its vision. Assign who
will have to do what.
Community Success and Sustainability: An Interactive Workbook
features a section on action planning and offers questions to
serve as guidelines. The Workbook is offered through the North
Central Regional Center for Rural Development.
Approach to Assessing Progress Toward Sustainability
provides tools that act as a barometer of sustainability. It
aims to measure and communicate wellbeing and sustainable development,
and outlines the steps necessary to move from assessment to
Step 6: Develop sustainability
Based on your vision and roadmap, identify the "indicators"
or yardsticks your community will use to measure progress.
Measures describes the concept of sustainability indicators
and provides a searchable database of example indicators indexed
by keyword and topic area. The site includes an indicators workshop
curriculum that can be downloaded for free.
Indicators Network (CIN), a project of Redefining
Progress has a number of publications on indicators,
including The Community Indicators Handbook: Measuring Progress
Toward Healthy and Sustainable Communities. The site also
features a list of on-line
community indicator projects.
Redefining Progress and the International Institute for Sustainable
Development merged their online databases on indicator initiative
to create a Compendium
of SD Indicator Initiatives. Initiatives and example
indicators from the international, national and state levels
can be searched.
Step 7: Incorporate sustainability
into local policy
Conduct a thorough "audit" of local policies to determine
which advance sustainability and which stand in the way of progress.
Remove policy barriers, and create policy incentives.
The National Association of Counties About
Counties section provides examples of local codes, ordinances
and policies related to sustainability. These model codes may
be tailored to meet the needs of local jurisdictions. The database
is searchable by subject, state and county, and includes numerous
The New Rules
project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance offers a comprehensive
resource for policymakers, organizers and activists looking
for innovative public policies adopted around the world to make
communities vibrant and strong. Local policy tools are organized
and presented by sector.
The Environmental Law &
Policy Center is a Midwest public advocacy organization
that believes economic development and environmental progress
can be achieved together. Their projects put that policy belief
in practice, addressing transportation, energy, land use and
community quality of life.
An Executive Order by the governor of Oregon provided the state
with a directive to develop and promote policies and programs
that would help the state meet a goal of sustainability. A Sustainable
Oregon website documents that order and progress toward
Step 8: Identify sources of
Determine what State, Federal and private programs are available
to assist your community in implementing its sustainability
roadmap. Apply to those programs that advance your local goals.
ICLEI presents Tools
for a Sustainable Community, a One-Stop Guide for U.S.
Local Governments, which offers a section on funding sources
that lists federal funding opportunities, with regional contact
Resource Renewal Institute
is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to catalyze the
development and implementation of green plans-- long term, comprehensive
strategies for sustainability. RRI's main role is to promote
the implementation of green plans through evaluating existing
and emerging green plans, educating government, business and
public interest leaders about green plans, and inspiring the
Additional sources to tap for assistance can be found at the
DOE Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) website and the
Communities Network database.
Step 9: Carry out projects
Start with "early success" projects to
begin implementing your sustainability program, and involve
the public in them. Celebrate successes with public events and
recognition. Then take on more difficult goals and projects
as public support and confidence builds.
EPA's Green Communities
Assistance Kit features a section on implementation, called
Go!" with tools for implementing community action
plans. A community that has begun implementation can be designated
as an EPA Participating Green Community.
Step 10: Check your progress
Using your indicators, evaluate your community's progress every
two years or so, and make adjustments as necessary.
The Sustainability Reporting Program has compiled Indicators
of Community Sustainability that not only includes reporting
frameworks and indicators, but also includes various links to
North American and International Resources for comparison.
San Francisco adopted its Sustainability Plan in 1997. The
organization and website gather information on the development
of the plan, and the many facets of its implementation since
Last updated: November 10, 2003
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