Local Initiatives Create Sustainable Communities

Margery Moore

Margery Moore

Community-level sustainability initiatives are on the rise! According to the book “Blessed Unrest” by Paul Hawken, there is an enormous surge of grass-roots initiatives happening globally right now. And although they are relative disconnected, together they wield huge influence.

I see this happening daily, from my home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, where no fewer than 150 NGO’s are working on sustainability and related environmental projects.  The power of groups like these is growing. In many towns in North America, local level by-laws are being re-written to exclude certain types of development based on sustainability principles and frameworks, such as “The Natural Step” or “Transition Town.”

Transition Town is a movement that supports communities with creating carbon emission reducing initiatives. It already has about 300 towns on board and is growing rapidly. Salt Spring is one of them and has already made headway locally, helping set carbon reduction goals. At the heart of a Transition Town is an energy plan the community develops to help them move off of fossil fuels. This can occur through setting up food co-ops, electric car co-ops, pressuring the local government to set carbon reduction goals or exclude certain types of industrial businesses, etc.

Communities can now take advantage of data freely available on the Web to inform them of what governments, NGOs, and businesses are doing in their region. That is the first step to understanding a town’s carbon footprint and where to put the bulk of the effort.

Going one step further, using community planning software, collaborative decision-making can occur in a community between all groups to help identify goals, metrics and what the trade-offs are so that everyone can agree to a local energy reduction plan.

As community interest in quality-of-life and resource management issues grows, what impact do you think this will have on the practice of EHS Management? What is your company doing to engage community-level stakeholders?


About Margery Moore

Margery Moore is the Director of EHS Alliances for the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA) and a member of the NAEM Board of Directors. During her spare time, she serves as advisor to the Association for Climate Change Officers (ACCO) and runs The Institute for Sustainability Education & Action on Salt Spring Island, B.C.

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  1. Virginia Hoekenga

    July 8, 2010

    Thanks for illuminating the rise of community and grass-roots driven sustainability initatives and the ways they can and are impacting business. I really look forward to hearing from NAEM members that I know have recognized this trend and are doing some innovative things to work with local communities where they operate. I also enjoyed learning about “Transition Town.” Thanks!

  2. Kelvin Roth

    July 9, 2010

    Great points. With transportation accounting for such a large part of carbon emissions, it makes sense to focus efforts locally. I also like the idea of using Transition Town to work with communities where we operate.

  3. Michael Haro

    July 9, 2010

    We are the largest employer in our low- to medium-income high desert Southern California community, now struggling with high unemployment and an unsustainable, largely commuter workforce. Although we don’t have the luxury of engaging with a 150 strong NGO community, we have managed to create a community collaborative with stakeholders from industry, local government, academia, K-12 education and citizens focused on delivering quality environmental education and creating a green career path. This is our first step towards becoming a sustainable community. This stuff is not easy but we know that collaboration is all about making a difference with limited resources.

  4. john

    July 9, 2010

    I love the concepts. But…I will have to search more for case histories….I see lots of links on the concepts, but no examples of initiative specifics and results.

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