What Makes a Sustainable, Green Community?

by John Meyers on November 22, 2010

We hear these words spoken more frequently as people shift towards wanting to live more sustainably on the planet and help take better care of Mother Nature. How can one tell the difference between a truly green community offering a sustainable way of life, and slick marketing that is mostly “greenwashing”?

Here are a few basic questions to ask and features to look for when you are reviewing communities and deciding where you might want to live.

Does the community have certified green homes? A truly green home meets certain standards for energy efficiency, healthy air quality, use of local, sustainable building materials, tight insulation, water management, and other criteria. There are recognized state and national certifications such as LEED, Healthy Built Homes, Net Zero-Energy, NAHB Green, and Passive House that assure that your home meets these standards.

Does the community incorporate solar and other types of renewable energy? Nearly any home can be designed to benefit from solar energy including solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, solar hot water panels and direct passive solar designs. Some sites can also make use of wind turbines, micro-hydro systems, and geothermal heating. Some communities aim to become “net-zero”, actually making as much energy from renewable sources as they use. All these are positive steps toward shifting away from dependence on fossil fuels and taking local actions toward addressing global climate change issues.

How sincere is the community about land conservation? Look at how much land is being permanently protected through conservation easement or permanent covenants and restrictions for open space. Is it 25 - 50% or more of the property, or is it only a couple of acres? Do these natural lands offer trails and outdoor recreational opportunities? Access to nature outside one’s backdoor is another important component of a green community. Being able to connect deeply with the forests, plants and animals, helps a community maintain a healthy balance and appreciation of nature.

Are there any community gardens? Is food grown organically? Can anyone participate in growing healthy vegetables and fruits for their family and friends? Locally grown foods are not only fresher and healthier, they are also delicious!

Finally, is there a community center space for social gatherings and events? The bonding that comes from socializing, eating and sharing time together with neighbors and friends can be priceless. Educational classes, programs, and workshops can provide a vehicle to spread ideas and knowledge to interested people and share the benefits of living sustainably.

Getting answers to these questions will offer you a good foundation and starting point. Good luck in your on-going search to find a sustainable, green community that is right for you.


About the Author
John Myers is the co-founder of Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community near Asheville, NC, a sustainable community combining extensive land conservation, green homes, renewable energy, organic gardens/orchard and a new community center/educational facility.

© 2010 PrivateCommunities.com® All Rights Reserved.