Sustainable Communities

Overview & Connection to a New Dream

"Hey Bob," Dad shouts out the window to his neighbor who is relaxing on the front porch, "can I send Junior over to borrow your drill?"

"Sure," comes the reply, "and he can take back your hedge clippers while he’s over here."

Sound nice? Though certainly the "norm" in past generations, this type of neighborhood is fast becoming the exception as vibrant communities fall victim to suburban isolation. Unfettered sprawl development, longer work hours, and the breakdown of social relationships have all combined to suppress neighborhood interaction and undermine our sense of community.(1)

Fortunately there are signs that the pendulum may be swinging back toward vibrant communities. Indeed in Portland, Chattanooga, and a growing number of other innovative locales, a variety of sustainability efforts are revitalizing their communities and becoming national role models.

These initiatives can sprout from a single home or neighborhood. As mentioned in the Home and Family puzzle piece, many individuals are personally taking steps to live in balance, then connecting with others in their region - both for support and to influence the community at large.(2) Whether starting a simplicity study group, joining a neighborhood GreenTeam or EcoTeam, or organizing a local "Simplify the Holidays" celebration, individual citizens are building community while laying the foundation for a new American dream.(3)

Other initiatives sprout from local governments and civic organizations. Some focus on urban redesign, with a new emphasis on mass transit, greenways, bike paths, and clustered housing. Some involve city-wide processes for re-visioning neighborhoods in the coming decades. Others involve cutting-edge indicators for measuring a community’s social, economic, and environmental well-being.(4)

Many new dreamers recognize that local businesses, crafts, the repair industry, and volunteerism contribute to their communities’ overall well-being much more than the dollar value attributed by our hyperconsumptive throwaway economy. From bartering networks to local currency projects to babysitting co-ops, innovative projects are reinstilling value in vital services. Their efforts serve to boost local economies, promote volunteerism, help local businesses compete with multinational mega-chain stores, and dovetail with other community initiatives to paint a glimpse of a sustainable future.(5)

If you’re involved with exciting projects in your community, please let us know. Otherwise, please continue on the New Dream Puzzle Tour. Next stop: Business and Production


  1. No discussion of communities is complete without lengthy consideration of sustainanable transportation and urban design. But Transportation and Urban Design has its own puzzle piece! Please check it out to find groups and resources working on this vital component of community life.
  2. Interested in starting in taking action in your home? Check out the Home and Family puzzle piece.
  3. For an overview of 7 educational programs that can be used by individuals or small groups (including a variety of study groups and circles, the GreenTeams, and EcoTeams), see Easy Does It! If you're interested in organizing a holiday campaign in your community, you'll find useful resources on our "Simplify the Holidays" campaign page.
  4. If you're looking for information on community indicators, Redefining Progress's Community Indicators Network is a great launching point.
  5. Check out Eric Brown's excellent article "Fair Trade" from the Spring 1999 Enough! It's all about local currency and bartering systems.

Copyright (c) 1999 CNAD
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