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Some paths are hard to walk, especially when you do not know where the paths start. That may be doubly true when you are talking about paths that lead to sustainable changes within a community. Paths that many people have walked down before are easily recognizable, but sustainability of energy and economies from a community perspective- well, many travelers are bush-wacking their way through a jungle of information right now. Information that, possibly, never quite fits the given situation. Some travelers stumble upon trail heads that have identifiable starting points, but not a blazed path.
Like explorers heading to the western frontiers sustainable communities look to early sustainability explorers for help along the path. Organizations like The Cardinal Group who published a research project over “barriers to sustainable community development”. The project was undertaken by Steven Peck, Peck & Associates & Guy Dauncey, and the Sustainable Communities Consultancy. In 12 Features of sustainable Community Development: Social, Economic and Environmental Benefits and Two Case Studies three levels of community interaction are looked at from two sites, one in Vancouver, British Columbia and one in California. The levels identified were Building Level (individual), Development Site Level (members in a community) and The Planning and Infrastructure Level (governmental). The project concluded that each of these levels needs to work together in order to create communities that stand strongly on their own. The studies finding are a perfect place to start conversations within or planning for a Transition Town.
The Major Features of Sustainable Community Development, according to the study, are:
- Ecological Protection– Creating green areas which can increase property values from 5%-50% and foster stewardship.
- Density and Urban Design– building for increased [infrastructure] density decreases impact of agricultural land and allows for economic growth within the community due to ease of access to storefronts.
- Urban Infill– Make use of existing abandoned infrastructure which will reduce a need for urban sprawl.
- Village Centers– Centers give the community a place to gather and an area for markets to form as well as building a community identity.
- Local Economy– Local businesses need to be balanced, inclusive and varied so that all needs can be met within the community.
- Sustainable Transport– Options for bike paths and walkways need to transverse the community and allow market access without having to drive for supplies.
- Affordable Housing– A mixture of housing options should exist in a community to allow for a cross-section of society to thrive within a community and not become exclusive.
- Livable Community– Provide ample opportunity for social and personal development as well as a sense of community participation.
- Sewage & Storm-water– Monitoring runoff from agriculture and business for nitrogen and phosphorus loading and creating constructed wetlands will allow for water recycling projects and decrease the impact of the community upon the surrounding environment.
- Water– Increased density in the community will reduce the need for irrigation and create a more sustainable use of the local water aquafer.
- Energy– Increasing sustainable energy produced by the community decreases the transit cost and overall production of CO2 substantially.
- The 3 ‘R’s– Creating programs for reduce, reuse, recycle decreases the communities environmental impact even farther. Utilizing building materials that fit one or more of these categories can be both environmentally beneficial and cost effective.
Perhaps not all of the above categories fit in every community, but people may be surprised how many of these topics can be included in a conversation to create a plan for Transition within the community.