What is a sustainable community?
A sustainable community refers to one which has been planned, built or modified to promote sustainable living. These communities tend to focus on environmental and economic sustainability, urban infrastructure and social equity. Terms such as “green cities”, “eco-communities” and “sustainable cities” are often used interchangeably with sustainable communities. A sustainable community considers and addresses multiple human needs; access to clean air and clean water, economic opportunities, a safe and healthy place to raise children and a sense of community. They take a long-term perspective in order to manage human, natural and financial resources and balances for generations to come. The Institute for Sustainable Communities have concluded that climate change, income inequality and social injustice are the biggest threats to building strong, sustainable communities.
What are some examples of sustainable communities?
Copenhagen in Denmark is expected to become the first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. With 50% of the population already cycling or walking to work, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 90,000 tons annually. Denmark is also leading the way as a country by reducing food waste by 25% per person per year.
Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana was crowned the European Green Capital 2016. Currently 70% of the housing in the capital is already heated by district and natural gas distribution. It is also one of few European cities which can boast being able to provide natural drinking water without prior treatment. This includes public drinking fountains around the city reducing the use of plastic water bottles.
Amsterdam in the Netherlands is the most bike-friendly city in the world and have even introduced solar panels into their cycle paths. Also in the Netherlands is Giethoorn, known as the Venice of the Netherlands. With its many waterways and bridges, the famous, idyllic village has no streets and most transportation consists of electric boats and canoes.
Reykjavik in Iceland has pioneered the use of geothermal power with almost 95% of heating in the city is provided by renewable geothermal district heating (this is using heat from the earth to generate energy and is clean and sustainable). No other city has developed a district heating and electrical system using renewable energy resources on the scale of Reykjavik, and it aims to be a completely fossil fuel free city by 2050.
What are the benefits of a sustainable community?
Becoming sustainable means a reduction in energy usage. More efficiency means less waste and less waste means less pollution and an overall reduction in operating costs.
Communities benefit when their natural ecosystems (watersheds, coastal fisheries, forests) and social systems (families, neighbourhood organizations, communities) are used effectively, efficiently and in tandem. Benefits of following sustainability principles include more liveable communities, lower costs and a safe, healthy environment.
Sustainable communities do not rely on outside sources for food, energy or essential resources. Using food gardens, solar power, and other alternative means they generate enough resources internally to sustain themselves indefinitely and therefore the advantages of sustainable communities also include independence and self-governance. Many communities are dedicated to the use of alternative energy, waste, and water systems. In addition to providing independence from public services and utilities, these alternative systems are believed to have positive effects on the local environment.
Ultimately the needs of those in the community are met whereby they can feel safe, healthy and happy. Damage to the environment is minimised and simultaneously the local economy is vibrant.