How to get started
The primary goal of a sustainable local community is to meets its basic resource needs in ways that can be continued in the future. To do this, we need to figure out what our basic needs are and how to meet those needs most effectively. Do we really need one television set for every room in the house? Do we each really need to use 188 gallons of water every single day? Or can we develop more effective, efficient ways to create a way of life that is not only equally or more satisfying, but can also continue indefinitely into the future?
Some communities have already started to work toward this goal. The most successful projects have three characteristics in common: First, the community created a vision of its future that balances economic, environmental and social needs. The community viewed its future in the long term: not on the order of years, but on the order of decades or generations. Second, the vision incorporated the views of a wide cross-section of the community. Third, the community figured out how to keep track of its progress in reaching that vision.
It is important for the community itself to become involved in the project. A sustainable community needs to be developed by the people who make up the community. It cannot be designed by a consultant. It cannot be implemented by experts hired specifically for the project. It needs to be implemented every day by the people who live and work in the community.
A sustainable community means many things to the different people who live there. To business owners it means a healthy economy so that their businesses have a place in which to create and sell their products. To parents it means a safe environment in which to bring up their children. Everyone wants a secure, productive job to support themselves. Everyone needs clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Discovering the needs of the community and finding ways to meet those needs is not difficult but it does require some effort. It begins by deciding what your sustainable community would look like. There are as many different ways to create a vision as there are communities that have done so. What is most important is that the vision be created by the entire community: the well-to-do and those living in poverty, business owners and union workers, young and old. A number of organizations have developed guidebooks on how to get a sustainability project started. See the Recommendations section of this web site for more information about these materials.
Just as important as knowing what a community wants to become is knowing how to reach that goal. We need ways to tell whether the decisions we make are increasing or decreasing the overall community health of our communities. Indicators of sustainability give us a practical way to measure our progress toward sustainable communities. That is the main focus of Sustainable Measures's work.