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Sustainable Community Checklist

Using the integrated approach of sustainability, Northwest communities have been successful in identifying and addressing the roots of environmental degradation, troubled economies and ailing social systems. Grassroots initiatives through-out the region are practicing environmental conservation while generating new jobs and social services.

The Northwest Policy Center's Sustainable Community Checklist is designed to help rural citizens assess and take action on social, environmental, and economic issues in their communities. The workbook guides community members through an exploration of six principles of sustainable communities, developed through several years of research and field testing.

Within the context of each principle, groups discuss indicators as they apply to local issues. Each indicator measures the group's sense of whether their community is moving toward or away from sustainable practices. Use this checklist to identify your community's strengths and weaknesses and to find supportive partnerships.

Excerpts from the Sustainable Community Checklist follow.


Sustainable communities ...

... foster commitment to place
Commitment to place reflects long term orientation, a willingness to work together to solve problems, a focus on stability over transience, and an abiding respect for, and knowledge of, the local environment. Communities can enable residents to remain in a place by working together to provide employment, training, and affordable housing.

In Our Community:
There are historic celebrations, festivals, fairs, and community projects that build a sense of commitment to the community and its landscape.

Forums exist where diverse members of the community can come together to develop a common vision, resolve conflicts, and advance mutual goals.

Living wage jobs are available for members of the community within a reasonable distance from home.


... promote vitality
Vitality suggests a state of dynamic, healthy progress and change that can be sustained over time. It is a term that applies well to healthy communities, economies, and ecosystems. Vital communities focus on improving quality of life, consider environmental health, and encourage the involvement of all community members in decision-making.

In Our Community:
Residents purchase goods and services within the community, so local dollars continue to recirculate within the local economy.

The natural systems (lakes, rivers, forests, prairies, farm lands, etc.) that enrich the community are healthy from an environmental perspective.

Businesses add value locally to renewable natural resources (fish, timber, farm products, etc.) to increase the local economic benefits from sustainable harvest levels.


... build resilience
Resilience is the ability of economic, social, and ecological systems to withstand and recover from disturbances, such as natural disasters, market fluctuations, and new government regulations. Diversity is a key component of resilience and reduces community dependence upon any one business, agency, or element of the natural environment.

In Our Community:
Natural resource management practices are maintain and promote native biological diversity, helping to maintain economic and ecological productivity over the long term.

There is sufficient diversity in the local economy to help it weather downturns in individual businesses or economic sectors.

Organizations within the community have the capacity to help the community define and advance its economic, social, and environmental goals. Capacity includes effective leadership, broadened community involvement, and access to information and financial resources.


... act as stewards
Stewards protect the environment, providing long- term economic benefits for the community and future generations. Stewardship means managing natural resources and ecosystems to maintain their long term productivity and conserve the biological diversity they support. Stewardship also means using natural resources efficiently.

In Our Community:
Water quality and quantity are adequate to meet the needs for human consumption, industry, recreation, and fish and wildlife.

Productive natural resource lands (including farm, forest, and range lands) are protected from development to ensure continued economic and environmental benefits for future generations.

There are opportunities for dialogue between citizens and owners or managers of natural resource lands whose management has significant ecological, economic, and social consequences for the community.


... forge connections
Communities may find more success by working with other communities in a region or watershed than if each pursues the same goals separately. Communities that work together are often able to share resources, allowing them to be more effective in advancing toward social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

In Our Community:
The community is involved in regional, watershed, or ecosystem-based initiatives where such efforts are useful in addressing concerns that cross multiple jurisdictions.

The community has built positive working relationships with outside agencies and organizations that allow it to gain access to assistance, including information, technology, and financial help.

Local businesses are aware and take advantage of markets beyond the community for marketing, technical assistance, and financing.


... promote equity
Equity or fairness is a fundamental element of sustainability. There are several aspects of equity to consider: between people within a community; between the community and the environment it inhabits; between the community and other communities both near and far; and between the present generation and future generations.

In Our Community:
Each resident has equal access to, and opportunities to participate in, community decision-making processes.

Social, economic, and political burdens and benefits are equitably distributed among all members of the community.

Activities within the community do not unfairly affect people in other communities within the region, state, country, and other parts of the world.


The Northwest Policy Center works to enhance the region's understanding of the complex and dynamic relationships between economic, community, and environmental forces.

The complete Sustainable Community Workbook is available for $12.50 through The Northwest Policy Center, University of Washington, Box 353060, Seattle, WA 98195
Tel: 206/543-7900 Fax: 206/616-5769
Email npcbox@u.washington.edu


Green Tools

Salmon-safe logo
In April, Pacific Rivers Council, one of the nation's leading river conservation groups, launched a “Salmon-Safe” project. This is the first cooperative effort among Northwest farmers, vintners, and retailers to protect Pacific Northwest wild salmon. Shoppers in Oregon, Washington, and northern California can find a “Salmon-safe” logo on select Northwest foods and beverages. By buying “Salmon-Safe” products, they will be supporting farming practices that keep rivers clean and safe for wild salmon to spawn and thrive.

Certified wood
Consumers in the US and Europe can buy wood products that have been certified as sustainably harvested. Look for products bearing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. It indicates that the particular company follows environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable forest stewardship. FSC does not certify forest products itself, rather it evaluates, accredits, and monitors certifiers of forest products based on their adherence to FSC principles. 57 forests throughout the world have been certified by FSC accredited bodies.

Eco-friendly bank opens
This July, ShoreBank, Pacific Bank opened its doors to make commercial loans to businesses that practice resource stewardship. ShoreBank, Pacific is the result of five years of collaboration between Ecotrust, a non-profit conservation organization based in Portland, Oregon and Shorebank Corporation, the Chicago-based pioneer of community development banking.

From headquarters in Ilwaco, Washington, a fishing port near the mouth of the Columbia River, the bank will loan money to businesses in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon that practice responsible management of resources while creating opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents.

The economy of this rural area has traditionally been dependent on its abundant natural resources: timber, fish, beef, dairy, and cranberries. But in the last two decades, changes in traditional livelihoods coupled with recurrent recessions have led to declining business investments, rising unemployment, and persistent poverty.

In this rural setting, ShoreBank, Pacific aims to demonstrate that for-profit and nonprofit institutions can work together to stimulate community development and innovative environmental management. Shorebank, Pacific will also provide loans to businesses in Portland and Seattle that provide opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents, demonstrate envionmental stewardship, and increase the supply of local “green” products.

For more information about ShoreBank, Pacific, contact Ecotrust at 1200 NW Naito Parkway, Suite 470, Portland, OR 97209, Tel 503/227-6225, Fax 503/222-1517, Email info@ecotrust.org


Web sites on rural sustainability

• The Silva Forest Foundation: www.silvafor.org/
A resource on ecologically responsible forestry. Access publications, manuals, maps and graphics on the responsible use and protection of forests the world over.

• The Salmon Page: www.riverdale.k12.or.us/salmon.htm
Hosted by the Riverdale School in Portland, Oregon, this site is dedicated to all things salmon.

• Native Americans and the Environment: www.cnie.org/NAE/
A comprehensive research collection of web references and bibliographic citations on environmental issues facing Native Americans.

• Northwest Environment Watch (NEW): www.northwestwatch.org
A nonprofit research center in Seattle, Washington, NEW creates tools for reconciling people and place, economy and ecology. NEW's book series strives to provide both generalists and experts with cutting-edge findings on a wide range of topics. Publications include The Car and the City, by Alan Thein Durning; Hazardous Handouts and State of the Northwest by John C. Ryan; and Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things by Alan Thein Durning and John C. Ryan.


Northwest Environment Watch can be reached at: 1402 3rd Ave Suite 1127 Seattle, WA 98101 Tel 206/447-1880 Fax 447-2270 nwwatch@igc.apc.org

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