What are Sustainable Communities?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Sustainable communities are residences, businesses, and even entire towns or cities designed or modified to emphasize green living and the use of renewable environmentally safe technology. In the wake of climate change and the loss of natural resources due to human use, sustainable communities aim to reduce pollution and promote a green existence. While not every community can afford to completely convert to sustainable living, most can manage to increase sustainable living with a few simple, basic changes and additions.

Solar panels can help a community become more sustainable.
Solar panels can help a community become more sustainable.

The backbone of sustainable communities is renewable resources. Many green-focused communities run at least partially on solar energy or another renewable source. Most sustainable homes use energy-efficient appliances, such as low-flush toilets. Additionally, for a community to be considered sustainable, there is typically an element of community-based activities, such as shared organic gardens or recycling programs. By working together, a community can take shared pride and fellowship in their contributions to a cleaner, greener world.

Low-flow toilets use less water than regular toilets.
Low-flow toilets use less water than regular toilets.

Some world governments have placed money and effort into fostering sustainable communities through tax breaks, initiatives, and funded studies. Many experts suggest that sustainability is key to continued human survival, and will help to end the cycle of overuse and environmental consequences that have existed since the Industrial Revolution. People interested in building or creating a sustainable community may want to contact their local government authorities to see what programs are in place to help green-minded citizens.

Modifying an existing community to become sustainable can be a matter of a few large changes or many small, incremental shifts. Large changes include the installation of solar panels, water rationing, and ensuring that all future buildings meet sustainable requirements. Small changes are much easier to handle and can even be fun to implement. Building a community garden, featuring recycling drives, and even cleaning up litter in the local area can all help a community become more sustainable.

Many people find that, when trying to convince others of the importance of sustainability, it can help to focus on the personal benefits such a lifestyle can bring. By implementing energy saving techniques, such as wrapping water heaters in insulating blankets and using low-energy light bulbs, residents can see significant drops in utility bills. Planting a common-use garden takes effort and time, but provides exercise and community-building opportunities as well as fresh produce all year around.

Possibly the most important benefit of sustainable communities is their potential to affect others. Growing up in a sustainable society may imprint the values of renewable practices and responsible action in children and young people. By taking advantage of green trends, people have the opportunity to teach the benefits of sustainable living.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Just look up Agenda 21. Then you will understand what a 'sustainable community' is.


From what I know, sustainable communities are meant to be more than green living. It's also supposed to have good community services, job opportunities, not too much dependence on cars. It should be governed well with equal treatment and opportunity for all.

To be honest, if thought of in its entirety, sustainable communities sound like a utopia. I don't mean it's impossible, there are such communities in the United States. I'm just not sure that every community can transform into one.


We need more sustainable communities in cities. I know there are some developments in this direction in the capital. I think the White House Garden has been a good example. Cities especially need small gardens because of poverty.

I had read that the poorest areas of DC have the least number of supermarkets which have fresh produce. Since many residents don't have cars and travel by public transportation and supermarkets are too far away, it either becomes extremely difficult to buy fresh produce or just not possible.

I think this is very sad and unfair. It's also deteriorating public health in cities and making life even more difficult for the poor. The best solution is for families to maintain a community garden where they can grow their own produce. Community gardens and sustainable energy should be the first things to implement, to make life in the cities easier and healthier.


I went to college in Iowa and lived in the city of Ames which I think is a good example of a sustainable community. The city generated its own electricity and also had a recycling program in place in which the city took on the responsibility of separating recyclables from trash.

Many residents also owned land, so they grew their own fruits and vegetables that provided them a significant portion of their needs throughout the year. I really think that other cities should use Ames as an example. Establishing a sustainable community does require investment but it pays off in so many ways, it's well worth the investment.

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