Sustainable communities 

In recent years there has been much talk of the need for sustainable communities. But what is a sustainable community? Why do neighbourhoods matter and, critically, why is sustainability important? Debates around sustainable communities take place against the background of four linked phenomena:  climate change, urbanization, economic growth and globalization.
  • Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. World Commission on Environment and Development 1987

As modern mankind we have not succeeded, on any meaningful scale, to create or replicate ways of living in the world that do not damage the well-being of future generations. As a planet we are living beyond our means.

We need to look critically at what might be involved in a sustainable community - and the associated notion of an enduring neighbourhood.

We take our definition of a sustainable human settlement from Herbert Girardet.

A 'sustainable city' is organized so as to enable all its citizens to meet their own needs and to enhance their well-being without damaging the natural world or endangering the living conditions of other people, now or in the future. (Girardet 1999: 13)

This is clearly a greener, and more inclusive approach to sustainability than exists within the current policies of most countries. It places people and their long term needs at the centre of the solution. These include:

  • Good quality air and water, health food and good housing.
  • Good quality education, a vibrant culture, good health care, satisfying employment or occupations and a sharing of wealth.
  • Safety in public places, equal opportunities, freedom of expression and catering for the needs of the young, the old and the disabled. (op. cit.)(Girardet 1999: 13)

This approach looks to the environment and to economics and to social relationships and social justice. As such it is a more hopeful vision – Hope buffers us against falling into apathy in the face of tough going and this, we believe, is vital to sustainable community development. Girardet, Herbert (1999) Creating Sustainable Cities. Dartington: Green Books.

For more information on the principles of sustainable communities as valued by ALSA, please refer to the following pdf:”
Sustainable Communities and Neighbourhoods

Smith, Mark K. (2008) 'Sustainable communities and neighbourhoods. Theory, policy and practice', the encyclopaedia of informal education. © Mark K. Smith 2006, 2008

ALSA strives to include the principles of ONE PLANET LIVING in all of the developments. For more information on the ONE PLANET LIVING concept please refer to or download the following pdf files.

Common International Targets
Overview of One Planet Communities programme

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