Sustainability is the way we plan for and develop our communities in order to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is a policy framework founded on three main policy forces: environment, economic and social equity. Sustainability is also an evolving process that institutions and individuals will take at different speeds and adapt in different ways. Sustainable communities have diverse dimensions—scale, size, location, and time. Some cities have long standing traditions of sustainability while other communities are just beginning their sustainability journeys. Sustainable communities are examined through multiple academic lenses—design, law and policy, public management and leadership, planning, etc. While sustainability remains an elusive concept, it represents a holistic vision that seeks a balance among its foundational policy forces as a means to preserve our communities for future generations.
Eco-Cities are communities that are ahead of the curve in meeting their sustainability goals. They are places where people can live healthier and economically productive lives while reducing their impact on the environment. They work to harmonize existing policies, regional realities, and economic and business markets with their natural resources and environmental assets. Eco-Cities strive to engage all citizens in collaborative and transparent decision making, while being mindful of social equity concerns.
- The Spring 2011 Environmental Studio pilot tested the Sustainability Planning Lab where graduate students in planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and public administration/policy participated in this multi-disciplinary studio. Activities included examining the planning, design, and policy lessons from a cross section of sustainability policies, comprehensive plans, and HUD regional planning grants. Currently, the Metropolitan Institute is continuing the research by focusing on cities and regions within the U.S. as well as gathering insights from and comparing U.S. sustainability experiences with international cities, especially in Australia and New Zealand. Findings from the Spring 2011 Sustainability Planning Lab and ongoing research will continue to be shared with officials at HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, its interagency partners, grantees, and national advocacy organizations. Effective sustainability planning can provide transformative green visions and serve as catalysts for community dialogue and engagement on such controversial and critical sustainability issues, such as climate change, renewable energy, reduction of GHGs, green jobs, green infrastructure, and community driven food policies.
- Eco-City Alexandria is a strategic collaborative planning process designed by the City of Alexandria in partnership with the Metropolitan Institute and Virginia Tech’s Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) in order to create an Eco-City Charter and Environmental Action Plan that will guide Alexandria toward sustainability. To learn more, please visit: http://ecocity.ncr.vt.edu/ and http://alexandriava.gov/Eco-City
- Joe Schilling chaired the April 2008 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research (ALR) Research Conference–Connecting Active Living Research to Policy Solutions and in 2007 he completed two Active Living Research policy case studies on state and local land use planning strategies that promote the development of more physically active and healthy communities.