Smart Communities Network banner

WelcomeContactSite IndexNewsletterEspanol

Measuring Progress

What are Indicators

Indicators in Action

Success Stories

Codes / Ordinances

Articles / Publications

Educational Materials

Other Resources

U.S. Local Communities

Baltimore, Maryland 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chicago, Illinois
Cincinnati, Ohio
Jacksonville, Florida 
Kalispell, Montana
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Missoula, Montana
Pasadena, California 
San Francisco, California 
San Jose, California
Santa Barbara South Coast, California
Santa Monica, California
San Mateo, California
Seattle, Washington
Silicon Valley, California
Tucson, Arizona
Willapa Bay Watershed, Washington


Baltimore, Maryland 

In 2002 the Goldseker Foundation released a report, The Frog's Lesson: The Baltimore Region 2002 (PDF), that evaluates Quality of Life, Natural Environment, Land Use, Economy, and Population and compares these measures to other urban areas: Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. The report concludes that to compete effectively for jobs and talent in a very competitive global environment, the Baltimore region needs to pay close and thoughtful attention to reducing crime, improving the natural environment, protecting open space, improving mass transit, attracting jobs with a better-educated workforce, and retaining and attracting highly talented people, including those from abroad.

Cambridge, Massachusetts 

The Sustainable Cambridge Coalition was formed in 1991 as a part of the Cambridge Civic Forum to find solutions to problems threatening community sustainability. The coalition is comprised of non-profit organizations, city representatives, community activists, educators and residents. In 1992, the Coalition published the "Sustainability Profile for the City of Cambridge" which compiled 1990 and 1991 city data as indicators in the following categories: 
Energy and water use  
Waste generation  
Local Employment

To obtain report:  

Cambridge Civic Association 
Cambridge, MA 
(617) 876-9176 

Elizabeth Kline, researcher and author at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, also developed example indicators for her hometown of Cambridge to test the validity and practicality of a conceptual framework for sustainability indicators. The 100 indicators are published in a report "Sustainable Community Indicators: Examples from Cambridge" (available for order from G-DAE) and are divided into the following "Characteristics" and "Pathways": 

Pathways (What is Measured):
Local Wealth
Mutual Assistance
Effectiveness of Functional Capacity of Natural Systems
Environmentally-Sound Utilization of Natural Systems
Respect for Self and Others
Coverage of Basic Needs
Reaching In
Equity/Fair Playing Field

Kline has written other valuable articles and reports regarding sustainability indicators, some of which are available online as PDF files, including Planning and Creating Eco-Cities: Indicators as a Tool for Shaping, Developing and Measuring Progress (1999), Indicators for Sustainable Development in Urban Areas (1999) and Sustainable Community: Topics and Indicators (1997).  

Chattanooga, Tennessee 

In an effort called Chattanooga Venture, a group of 50 leaders met in 1984 to find solutions to widespread concern over Chattanooga's decline in quality of life. In response, they created a nonprofit organization called Chattanooga Venture to help the community rethink its collective image and start making progress towards becoming a more attractive, healthy, economically-sound place to live. 

In 1985, Chattanooga Venture initiated a five-month process called Vision 2000 through which over 1,700 people in the community cooperated to create a vision for Chattanooga’s future. The Vision 2000 program set forty goals for improving Chattanooga and the lives of its citizens over the next 15 years.

Chicago, Illinois 

Chicago Metropolis 2020 conducted an extensive process of public meetings and opinion polls in 2001, to help Chicago identify 12 shared goals. The group now compiles the Metropolis Index, an annual report card on how the region is doing in addressing those goals for regional economy, transportation and land use, housing, community life, education and natural environment.

Cincinnati, Ohio 

Sustainable Cincinnati has developed a list of 14 sustainability indicators for the Cincinnati region, addressing Economic Prosperity, Healthy Ecosystems, Healthy People and Healthy Communities, and Justice for All. Information is being collected on these indicators while additional indicators on Energy, Availability of Housing, and Regional Cooperation are being developed.

Jacksonville, Florida 

The Jacksonville Community Council Inc. began measuring trends in Jacksonville's quality of life in 1985, using 82 indicators to assess nine quality of life "elements": 

The Economy
Public Safety  
Natural Environment  
Social Environment  Government/Politics  Culture/Recreation 

Over time, committees of volunteers have reviewed and refined the indicators used. A report on the indicators is published annually, to show trends in Jacksonville's quality of life. Communities wishing to begin their own Quality of Life projects, modeled on Jacksonville's, can purchase a Replication Kit with a detailed how-to manual and supporting materials.
  The most recent report, Quality of Life in Jacksonville: Indicators for Progress 2002 is available online. An article that summarizes major approaches and issues in the national and international community-indicators movement and then focuses on the experience of the Jacksonville (Florida) Community Council Inc., is also featured. Measuring Progress: Community Indicators and the Quality of Life, by David Swain, April 2002 is online as a PDF.

"Jacksonville's Indicator Program Reaches for Sustainability"
An article from the Florida Sustainable Communities Center news provides three views on the success of the indicators program in Jacksonville, Florida, in its second decade.

Kalispell, Montana

The Sunrift Center for Sustainable Communities produces a biannual report to the community on the long-term trends in sustainability.  The report offers indicators in the areas of Economic Viability, Social Equity, and Environmental Sustainability.

Contact Information:
Milt Carlson
The Sunrift Center for Sustainable Communities
15 Depot Park
Kalispell, MT  59901
(406) 756-8548; FAX (406) 752-5739

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Minneapolis Sustainability Roundtable has released a report titled Fifty-year Vision and Indicators for a Sustainable Minneapolis (PDF 112 KB). Key elements of the 13-part vision for transforming the city include improving water quality by increasing permeable surface area, improving air quality by reducing pollution, strengthening the local economy by paying livable wages, framing “green” tax policies that create incentives for sustainability practices, building increasingly transparent processes for civic governance, and creating high-quality sustainable housing that is affordable at all income levels. The Roundtable developed 30 core indicators and 113 background indicators to help the city measure progress toward its vision. Some of the core indicators include: acres (and geographic balance) of leaf canopy, acres of natural space that sustain natural ecological communities, teen suicide rate, transportation mode split by percent, and percentage of renewable energy used, by sector.

A report by the City of Minneapolis in 2004 sets environmental goals and targets to help measure the results of the city’s new focus on sustainability. Titled Minneapolis Environmental Report: Towards Sustainability (PDF 284 KB), the report is organized by six categories: green neighborhoods, sustainable transportation, air quality, water quality, energy conservation in city operations, and environmental justice. Under each of these environmental goals, the report notes steps that the city has already taken towards the goal, sets a target, and includes additional strategies and measures that the city will use to accomplish the goals.

Missoula, Montana 

In 1994, the City and County of Missoula, Montana, defined a set of 25 key benchmarks that it could use to measure progress toward a healthy community.  These benchmarks later merged with task force efforts in preventing urban sprawl, resulting in the Missoula Measures project, beginning in 1998.  Missoula Measures are divided into the following four sections: 

  1. Health
  2. Community
  3. Environment
  4. Economy

The Missoula Measures website provides information, data, and links for community health indicators.

Pasadena, California 

As part of the California Healthy Cities Project, the Pasadena Public Health Department in 1990 called together a cultural cross-section of 150 residents and civic professionals to determine Pasadena’s relative health and well-being. The initial outcome was a 1992 report, titled "The Quality of Life in Pasadena: an Index for the 90’s and beyond," which established 10 broad categories for civic well-being. 

Specific indicators are organized within the following 10 categories: 

1. Environment  
2. Education 
3. Arts and Culture  
4. Community Safety 
5. Health
6. Economy and Employment 
7. Recreation and Open Spaces  
8. Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs 
9. Housing 
10. Transportation

The Pasadena Quality of Life Index 2002, including data, demographic information and a guide to using the index, is available online.

San Francisco, California 

In 1993, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors established a Commission on San Francisco’s Environment to draft and implement a sustainability plan for San Francisco. To gain wide public participation and support for the plan, several commissioners and community members formed a collaboration of city agencies, businesses, environmental organizations, elected officials, and concerned individuals.  Sustainable City: Working Toward a Sustainable Future for San Francisco reports on progress working through the five-year sustainability plan.

An integral part of the plan is a section on indicators. Over 50 indicators were chosen in the following categories:

Air Quality  

Energy, Climate Change, and Ozone Depletion  Hazardous Materials  

Parks, Open Spaces, Streetscapes (The Urban Forest)  


Economy and Economic Development  

Risk Management (Activities of High Environmental Risk)  

Environmental Justice 


Food and Agriculture 

Human Health 

Solid Waste 

Water and Wastewater 

Municipal Expenditures 

Public Information/Education

Hazardous Materials


San Jose, California 

In 1995, the City of San Jose’s Environmental Services Department formed a Sustainability Indicators Team to begin the process of evaluating and developing quantifiable and relevant indicators of sustainability. In a February 1996 report, "Sustainability Indicators for the City of San Jose," the team identified 52 preliminary indicators in the following categories:
Population and Housing  
Land Use
Water Use 
Air Quality
Water Quality 
Waste Management 

The "San Jose Sustainable City Status Report" from June 1998 reported on the City's progress with its Major Strategy within the General Plan to become a Sustainable City. The report is available online in the Sustainable City Strategy portion of San Jose's website.

Santa Barbara South Coast, California 

Preliminary efforts toward indicators development in the Santa Barbara South Coast area began in 1994 with the Community Environmental Council. Full development of indicators began later in 1997 with extensive community involvement. The area's first indicator report was published for 1997-1998 and included indicators on social, economic, and environmental quality of life. Now social, economic and environmental indicators for Santa Barbara are available online as part of the UCSB Environmental Studies Program Indicators Project.

Santa Monica, California 

Consistent with Santa Monica’s tradition of committment to safeguarding its natural and human resources, the City Council adopted a Sustainable City Program in 1994. The program established city policy goals in four main areas:
Resource Conservation   Transportation  Pollution Prevention 
Community and Economic Development

Santa Monica published Sustainable City Progress and Status reports in 1996, 1999 and 2002. For more information, see the Santa Monica Sustainable City Program website.

San Mateo, California

In May 2002, Sustainable San Mateo County (SSMC) released their sixth annual report, Indicators For A Sustainable San Mateo County, A Report Card of Our County's Quality of Life. Most of the research, writing, and editing of this report was performed by community volunteers and student interns. The report analyzes the sustainability of San Mateo County's quality of life through the use of over thirty indicators. The indicators cover the "three E's" of sustainability: Economy, Environment, and Social Equity.

Seattle, Washington 

Sustainable Seattle is a volunteer network and civic forum working to improve the region’s long-term cultural, economic, environmental, and social health and vitality. The network/forum grew out of a one-day conference in 1990 sponsored by the Global Tomorrow Coalition in which a diverse group of community leaders met to discuss the idea of citizens choosing their own ways of measuring long-term community well-being. 

The most recent report, "Indicators of Sustainable Community, 1998" uses a list of 40 indicators to chart Seattle’s progress toward or away from sustainability. The 1998 report presents a mixed bag of improving, declining, and neutral trends showing that Seattle is indeed making progress toward a more sustainable community in some areas, but that much more must be done if sustainability is to become a reality.

To obtain the full report :  

Sustainable Seattle 
1109 First Avenue, Suite 400A
Seattle, WA 98101 
(206) 622-3522  

Highlights of Seattle's most recent indicators report are available at the Sustainable Seattle website.

Silicon Valley, California

The Silicon Valley Environmental Partnership was established in 1993, to promote environmentally sound business and community practices through collaboration and education. The 2003 Silicon Valley Environmental Index is called "Taking the Pulse of Silicon Valley's Environment." To view the report, or an evaluation of its results, see the Silicon Valley Environmental Partnership website. The website also offers a How-To Manual on How other communities can create their own environmental indicators.

Tucson, Arizona 

In the fall of 1996, the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson adopted a policy to evaluate City projects and programs in light of three priorities: economic vitality, community stability, and a healthy environment. The Council created the Livable Tucson Vision Program to identify community priorities that would guide the City budget process, increase government accountability, and shape future programs and services. 

The program is currently exploring the following themes identified by over 700 participants in a ward forum process: 

       1. Viable and Accessible Alternatives to Automobile Transportation  

       2. Engaged Community and Responsive Governance  

       3. Safe Neighborhoods  

       4. Caring, Involved Healthy Families and Youth  

       5. Excellent Public Education  

       6. Infill and Reinvestment, Not Urban Sprawl  

       7. Abundant Urban Green Space and Recreation Areas  

       8. Protected Natural Desert Environment  

       9. Better Paying Jobs  

      10. Clean Air and Quality Water  

      11. People-Oriented Neighborhoods  

      12. Respected Historic and Cultural Resources  

      13. Quality Job Training  

      14. Reduced Poverty and Equality of Opportunity  

      15. Strong Local Businesses  

      16. Efficient Use of Natural Resources  

      17. Successful Downtown Business District 

Willapa Bay Watershed, Washington 

In 1995, Willapa Bay Alliance completed a three year research project which gathered data on the region’s environmental, economic, and social conditions from nearly eighty government, private, and non-governmental agencies. The data was analyzed and compiled into eleven primary indicator categories for a report titled "Willapa Indicators for a Sustainable Community." The aim of the indicator project is better understanding of past trends so that the community can influence the future direction of development of the Willapa Bay Watershed region. The eleven primary indicator categories reflecting key concerns and challenges are: 

Water Resources 
Land Use 
Species Viability 
Life-long Learning
Contact Information:  
The Willapa Alliance 
Box 278 
South Bend, WA 98586 

An updated 1998 Willapa Indicators for a Sustainable Community report can be viewed online.

Last Updated: January 10, 2005

Back to Top