Sustainable communities are environmentally sound, economically productive and socially just. Many communities throughout the world have visions of building a sustainable community.
Each community must develop its own vision and plan of action. Each community is unique and has its own needs. These needs must meet certain environmental criteria.
A sustainability plan addresses the following:
Water use in the community
Transportation in the community
Communication within the community
Land use in the community
Heating and cooling
Entertainment within the community.
Water use may include the use of “gray water” – the water from washing machines and dishwashers and showers. If collected, it can be used for growing vegetables and watering trees and gardens.
Transportation should include public transportation access. The use of bicycles for local trips is encouraged. Vans to transport people to and from the medical center or grocery store are an efficient use of energy.
Communication should be paperless. All living units should be equipped with Internet access to allow for e-mails and documents to be read online. This is the single most important change that can be made – paperless.
Waste management includes recycling of:
Glass, Aluminum cans, Paper, Corrugated cardboard, Plastic of all kinds
Vegetable leftovers can be recycled in a compost facility. The only thing to be thrown away would be fat and bones from meat. Electronics can be recycled back at the place where they were purchased. Hazardous wastes such as paints and oil are collected once a year by the fire department.
Land use should include:
Planting of trees – they remove carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.
Planting of a vegetable and fruit garden in raised beds.
Planting of perennial flowers that are sustainable.
Playgrounds for young children
Electricity use should be monitored and each sustainable community should consider constructing a wind turbine to generate electricity. It can be self-sustaining to have one or two wind turbines. Excess electricity can be sold back to the local utility. Above all else, it sets a good example to others about the need for renewable energy.
Heating and cooling can be done by a heat pump in warmer climates. Efficient gas furnaces and air conditioners are necessary in the northern climates. Programmable thermostats should be part of each living unit. Setting a thermostat two or three degrees higher or lower can save up to 10% on utility bills. Buildings will be insulated, with windows facing the sun protected in the summer by awnings. In winter the sun can warm a room several degrees. A concrete slab can be warmed by water in pipes embedded in the concrete. The heat radiates in the rooms.
Entertainment can mean a number of things to many people but entertainment in whatever form should be bonding and provide relaxation. There should be a dedicated and a multi-purpose and energy efficient space provided for entertainment purposes.
Sustainable Communities - Local Businesses
Sustainable businesses will give back to its community. They do this by:
Employees volunteering in community activities
Mentoring young people.
Giving employees opportunities to work in the community.
Offering internships to high school and college students.
Making charitable donations.
Practices like these improve the level of the quality of life in the community. It improves their status in the community and inspires others to give also.
Sustainable communities are growing across the land. Planning is the most vital step and members of the community need to be involved in the execution of the sustainable community plan.