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10 Ingredients for Successful Sustainable Communities

Hello neighbors!

Do you want to know the secret sauce for sustainable communities?

Italian author and economic development public speaker Ernesto Sirolli said, “the future of every community lies in capturing the passion, imagination, and resources of its people.”

In this week’s episode, we are going to switch gears a little bit and talk about the ten ingredients for successful sustainable communities and how local organizations and governments can harness that passion, imagination, and resources of their people for the greater good. There is a secret sauce of ingredients that can help communities become more sustainable environmentally, socially, and economically.

I would like to note that this episode is adapted from the Rocky Mountain Institute’s ‘Framework for Community Sustainability Ten Ingredients for Long Term Success.” RMI is “a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to transform global energy systems across the real economy.”

If you enjoy this episode, I would like for you to consider giving a $5 donation to the organization by visiting https://rmi.org/, and I will include a link in the episode show notes if you’d like to read the paper.
So let’s get into it!

Happiness

To start, people are happier when they’re part of a community. Research shows that people who have a strong connection to a community are happier and that, in return, those happy people have a positive feedback loop – making the community stronger.

Think about how you feel when surrounded by people who just get it – it feels good, right? A community of like-minded individuals can help us feel heard and validated.

A sense of belonging

However, community is more than just being around other people who think similarly. It’s also about feeling like you have someone to count on who will help pull you through tough times. It gives you a sense of security, safety, and belonging.

When we’re plugged into our community, we feel less alone in the world. We can’t always be happy, but we’ll have a better shot at feeling supported and safe. We’ll be more likely to feel like we belong and are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Better Up says,

“With a secure sense of belonging comes a sense of purpose. Belonging and purpose can help increase feelings of solidarity and fulfillment, which can be important both personally and professionally. And a strong sense of purpose can even help you live longer.”

I know that when I get down about climate change and its effects on our planet, I find strength in knowing I belong to a group that cares and is fighting collectively for so many good things in this world. And when I take sustainable actions, I feel like I’m contributing to a larger whole and holding someone else up who might be feeling down about the state of things.

It also forms a sense of resiliency – something that is common with having a community.

Influence

That type of pro-social behavior and influence is what communities can be good for if used in a healthy way! Sometimes we need someone to hold us accountable. To encourage us to keep going even if we don’t feel like what we’re doing is making a difference. To motivate us to bring positive changes to our lives and communities.

Social Change

It takes a community to make a change. When we are trying to get things to change, whether globally or locally, we have to get people to open their mindset around certain topics and act accordingly. And the way to do that is to rewrite community narratives.

Writer and professor Toby Lowe said:

“​​Community is an important concept for social change because it helps us to see that social change requires a change in some of the most important stories we tell ourselves. Social change requires that we rewrite our communal narratives. Social change is change in community.”

I watched a documentary the other day that linked the first full photo of earth, the iconic Blue Marble image from 1972, to climate activism in that time frame.

People could get the perspective that we belonged to something bigger than ourselves, and we needed to protect the planet that we are on because we don’t have another one. They felt community which led to influence and social change.

But besides climate issues, any social justice issue has taken a community – a group who identifies with the same narrative – to unite and fight for change.

We need community to reach goals greater than ourselves.

Collaboration

Collaboration within communities is a big part of reaching those goals and positive outcomes. It’s how we are inspired and get new ideas from people who understand us but inevitably have lived different lives than us and will have a unique perspective to offer.

Two heads really are better than one – as long as they’re still diverse!

When we collaborate, we learn HOW to talk to each other better and increase our communication within that community, and with other communities we are a part of.

Health

Research shows that all these things add up – improving our mental health, brain health, and heart health, and can even extend the length of your life.

This is because our health outcomes have a large component of social determinants or the social factors and physical conditions of the environment in which people are born, live, learn, play, work, and age.

It’s about access within our physical communities to good jobs, housing, education, and lifestyle choices. A lot of which are determined by our physical and social communities.

Think about it – if the people you surround yourself value sustainability, healthy living, and other positive activities – you’re more likely to do those things too. But if your community is influenced by people who consume without being mindful and don’t respect their health or others even – that behavior will rub off on you too.

Something to grow on

As we’ve seen, a strong sense of community can help us feel less alone and more supported in our lives. And if we have that feeling of connection with others, that will be good for progress, our health and happiness, social change, and much more!

In the coming weeks, we’ll talk about this more from a few different angles – but until then, I want you to think about your community (or communities).

    • Think about the influences you have on them and their impact on you.
    • What are your attitudes to those who are outside of your community or don’t share your narrative?
    • What can you learn from them?
    • How could your community work with another for a shared goal of sustainability?

I challenge you to take these thoughts to your community and see what others have to say. I’m sure it will be enlightening!
And as always, I won’t leave you hanging without a quote.

American author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King said,

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members,”

So be compassionate this week – towards yourself, others, and Mother Earth.

Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.

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