When a group of people find themselves living in the same area or neighbourhood they begin a social dance that brings them in and out of contact with each other. This contact can provide friendships, connections, cooperative ventures, joint-projects, meaningful relationships and more. Within this dance is the underlying understanding that we are living together, therefore, we need to find our common ground and build upon it.
When this group of people intentionally adds aspects of common values and aspirations, they become a community. Common background, history, language, culture and lifestyles become secondary when the right community goals are set and the group sets out to fulfill them. Intentional living in a community has many faces, but none are more binding and promising than those that are meant to secure a future.
The Institute of Sustainable communities defines a sustainable community as “one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others. And it takes a long-term perspective – one that’s focused on both the present and future, well beyond the next budget or election cycle.”
But today, when we use the word “sustainability,” to mean even more. A sustainable community is a place where the environment is paramount. The understanding of and action towards mitigating damage from climate change is key. The use of energy, water and other natural resources is minimalized and cared for. As is minimizing waste, reducing consumption, reusing materials and finally recycling and composting. Care is given to limit pollution and protect nature.
We are social animals, and our physical surroundings can enhance our social awareness, communications and humanity. We may have cultural diversity, but we will leverage that heterogeneity to strengthen personal identity, grow as a community and create both individual and communal identity. Meeting social needs is key to creating a place where we all feel a sense of belonging and security.
A sustainable community obviously must first provide for basic human needs such as health services, and ensure access to good food, water, housing and fuel at a reasonable cost, but in many communities, it is the next stages of personal development that need nurturing in order for the sustainable community to thrive. These next steps can be seen through community values and a will to maximize everyone’s access to the skills and knowledge needed to play a full part in society.