What is a sustainable community?
A sustainable community meets the needs of its residents in a way that allows the community to be healthy and thrive indefinitely. Sustainable communities manage their resources to meet current and future needs of all residents.
The main elements of a sustainable community are:
A sustainable community seeks to fulfill the various needs of its residents in all aspects of these three areas.
Economic stability of a community means it is able to sustain itself and its residents at an acceptable level. This means all community members are able to cover their essential needs. An “acceptable level” can be defined differently for each community, but typically is described using terms like these:
- Able to meet needs with dignity
- Able to live with a basic level of comfort
The goal is to eliminate economic stressors that cause suffering. Each community member should have the opportunity to work a respectable job to be able to provide for themselves and their families. In the case of those who are unable to work due to disability, there should be a community program to help support them.
Economic sustainability is usually the primary area of focus in community planning because of its immediate impact on the wellbeing of residents, but social sustainability is another key element.
Social sustainability of a community refers to the well-being of community member’s social aspects of life. This includes:
- Reliable food supply (closely tied to economic sustainability)
- Adequate health services
- Safe neighborhoods
- Opportunities for recreation
Social sustainability seeks to ensure all community members have a sense of belonging and can get the support they need to maintain mental and physical health. This manifests in many different ways and varies from community to community. Having open spaces and parks is one way communities help to provide areas that support mental and physical health. Robust medical centers with programs to support local residents is another way.
The ecological aspect of a community refers to the natural environment of the area and can also include surrounding areas in some instances. It’s a basic right for humans to have clean air and water. To meet these basic needs it’s necessary to have a healthy environment. Main components of an ecologically sustainable community include:
- Clean air, water, and healthy food
- Proper management of waste
- Renewable energy sources
Resource management is key factor for communities seeking ecological stability. They need to maintain the balance been use and regeneration of resources. This ties in to economic and social sustainability closely. All three areas need to managed together to achieve a balanced community ecosystem.