Donating money to sustainable causes is a great way to effect positive change on our environment, it’s easy to do and fulfilling. The issue arises when donating money outweighs the changes we make in our individual lives. At some point, we end up contributing more to environmental damage than to environmental repair.
If each of us wants to have a significant impact on reducing our damage on the environment, we’re going to need a push towards developing more local sustainable communities.
What makes a community sustainable?The Partnership for Sustainable Communities aims to build such communities by adhering to the following 6 principles:
- Provide more transportation choices
- Promote equitable, affordable housing
- Enhance economic competitiveness
- Support existing communities
- Coordinate and leverage investment
- Value communities and neighborhoods
Why is Sustainability Tied to a Community’s Transportation Options?
Depending on the circumstances residents in certain communities are forced to use one mode of transportation to keep up. In rural areas, walking or riding a bike to get groceries isn’t realistic, and riding a horse into town isn’t as safe as it used to be. Even in populated cities, the transportation infrastructures are not built to facilitate pedestrian mobility. We’re seeing both rural and urban communities require residents to travel by car.
If you aren’t aware, cars cost a lot and pollute like crazy, especially when they’re caught up in bumper to bumper traffic. Often, lower-income communities are put in a position that requires them to dedicate a large amount of their income towards transportation.
A sustainable community makes it safe and reasonable to travel by public transit, walking, biking, etc. Many of these are cheaper, healthier, and more eco-friendly alternatives to driving cars.
How Does Equitable Housing Affect the Environment?
In concert with the transportation options, having access to affordable and energy efficient housing is paramount in a community’s sustainable development. This means poorer families have the same access as wealthier families to businesses that aren’t a car ride’s distance from them. Without much expendable income, it’s hard to participate in the pricier options of sustainability.
High-income families can access homes that aren’t health hazards for humans or the environment. Low-income families live where-ever they can afford, even if it's damaging for their health and environment.
How Does Economic Competitiveness Relate to Sustainability?
Briefly mentioned before, being eco-friendly is expensive. Just in terms of effort and specialized tools, sustainability is not feasible for those without the income. In a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, survival is top of mind. The principle of enhancing economies to support sustainability works under the idea that more wealth inherently opens up choices. People will usually pick the healthiest option if they can afford it.
Why Do We Need To Support Existing Communities?
To put it simply, kicking out existing inhabitants to rebuild for a higher-paying customer doesn’t solve the issue of where those displaced individuals will live.
Rather than enhancing already existing communities, developers will often buy up property and try to turn a profit. I can’t blame them for looking to make some money, but the residents they displaced will have to turn to cheaper alternatives as they are forced to move from their home communities. Enhancing existing communities means we will use less resources to build new communities, and we effectively cut back on the waste that comes from unsustainable buildings.
What Does it Mean to Leverage Investment for Sustainability?
This aspect of community development focuses on funding and facilitating sustainable growth. That would mean lowering barriers to collaboration to allow development, so that loopholes and small clauses don’t prove to be obstacles between two agencies working together towards sustainability.
Also, this would encourage accountability to maintain renewable resources and develop locally generated renewable energy. Here you can learn more about sustainable development.
Value Communities and Neighborhoods? Sounds Obvious
All of the 6 principles toward building sustainable communities are tied together and depend on one another to be successful. Calling back to the need for transportation options, walking is potentially the most important form of transportation to build around.
A community built for cars is plagued with parking lots taking up space, smog choked citizens, and traffic related fatalities.
A neighborhood built to be walkable encourages healthier lifestyles for the population and the habitat. Consider how easy it is to enter a shop that you walk past, and how inconvenient it is to suddenly stop and park by a store that you drive past.
So What Can I Do to Help Make My Community Sustainable?
Support initiatives to build pedestrian friendly transportation infrastructure in your community. Bike lanes, public transit trains and buses, and walkable development in the city. Look to support retrofitting buildings for sustainability. Buy from local businesses so the community can thrive, and avoid being bought out.
These 6 principles of developing sustainable communities should help guide you towards an eco-friendly future for your community.
Photo credit: "Oak Terrace Preserve, a sustainable community" by North Charleston; "Cars stink" by Peter Blanchard; "West Sacramento affordable housing construction" by mark.hogan; "Sustainable housing, Hammarby" by La Citta Vita; "St. Petersburg Local Businesses" by CityofStPete; "Hometown" by vladislav@munich; "Solar Farm" by mcmees24; "Food Gardens, Channels, Vertical Farms - Shanghai Sustainable Masterplan" by Except Integrated Sustainability; Bikes: "#bikeboom pic negates almost every wonky stereotype about people who ride bikes in London" by carltonreid