“A sustainable community, though varying in structure, promotes sustainable, or green, living for its occupants.”
By Linn Smith
March 3, 2019—I recently read an article by a woman who was trying to live sustainably for several months… walking, riding her bike, growing her own food and dumpster diving when that ran out. I’m all for living sustainably, and I think I do a pretty good job of it, but dumpster diving is not on my list of sustainable living methods. Not that I’m against it, it’s just not for me! Plus, I can’t see spending my entire day walking, biking and looking for food. So, what is the answer? Maybe the hippies of the 70’s had it right when they developed communes. Today the word is…sustainable communities!
The Amish: A Sustainable Community
When I was growing up in the rural Midwest, there was a nearby Amish community. The Amish would open their homes on weekends to the outside community, selling a variety of pies, cakes and many other delicious baked goods and hand made products. We would drive the country roads to get there, passing the men in black hats walking behind the draft horses as they plowed the field. Sometimes we would pass them on the paved roads near our house as they drove their buggies near the edge. The men would make extra money roofing barns in the area, with the stipulation that you must go to their community to pick them up. The Amish are living a sustainable life as they have since arriving since the U.S. in the early 1700s.
I grew up knowing how hard field work was, (but not Amish hard) driving the tractor to bale hay and dragging the fields, milking cows and watching my folks fill the jars with canned goods that went in the basement for the winter. It was sustainable living for that time period.
What is a Sustainable Community?
A sustainable community, though varying in structure, promotes sustainable, or green, living for its occupants by creating a healthy place to live while reducing the carbon footprint and negative environmental impact. It doesn’t have to mean dumpster diving or driving a horse and buggy down the highway, but it is important for individuals, families and communities to move in a sustaining direction.
Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage
Building a sustainable community may take several forms, such as buying land and building sustainable housing with a community greenhouse, gardens, solar and wind power. An example of this is Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage in Missouri which has built their community using the following guidelines:
1. No vehicles are to be used or stored in the village.
2. Fossil fuels for cars, refrigeration, heating and cooling homes, as well heating domestic water aren’t allowed.
3. All gardening must be organic.
4. All power must come from renewable resources.
5. No lumber from outside the local area is allowed unless it is recycled or salvaged.
6. Organic waste and recyclable materials are to be reincorporated into usable products through composting methods.
Extreme? Maybe….. but there may be more palatable solutions.
Making Your Community Sustainable
In the Mother Earth Living article by Carol Venolia, “Come Together: How to Build Sustainable Communities,” Ms. Venolia makes the following points for making an already established community more sustainable:
1. Have a neighborhood potluck to discuss the possibilities of moving towards a green community and exchange information.
2. Establish a community garden in free spaces in the neighborhood such as vacant lots.
3. Install low water drip irrigation systems where needed. This system is the most efficient in water saving techniques.
4. Share produce from already existing backyard gardens
5. Help each other replace high maintenance sod lawns with indigenous plants that will thrive in your climate.
6. Create a neighborhood resource website to encourage sharing of items from tools to cars. Also, list neighborhood members’ different skills that could be traded.
7. Ride share. Create a community e-mail to list who is going on errands that may be shared with another rider.
8. Share time and skills to make the neighborhood homes more energy efficient, lowering energy bills.
9. Make a neighborhood investment in a solar-power.
10. Support local farmers by buying food grown locally.
11. Become familiar with your larger community by knowing local flora and fauna and waterways. The more you learn the more you are apt to participate in making your environment a healthy place by creating sustainable living. “Community is a major component of sustainability. Strong neighborhood ties don’t just make life more pleasant, studies show they also improve safety and increase personal longevity.”
Now is the time to reach out and lend a helping hand to your neighbor and Planet Earth! Be a role model for your children and leave them a healthy place to live.