What will your ideal community look like in the next twenty-five years in a climate of rapid global change? How will you approach planning for it?

Sustainability planning helps communities gain insight into their long-term goals for success the goals then shape and inform investment & infrastructure decisions, reducing potential costly short-term & dead-end blunders. Significant benefits accrue to communities moving in the direction of long-term success. As an energizing and motivating conversation for the community it helps to elevate potential deadlock issues, attract new residents and niche businesses, as well as retain and motivate municipal talent. Local economies are prepared for the long-term impacts of climate change, shifting global priorities for goods & services and rising energy prices. Community members commit to maintaining their resilience, networks and quality of life through demographic shifts and other social challenges. Municipalities save significant money over time through reduced energy and waste management costs.

Creating a plan for a more sustainable and successful community may be one of the most important public engagement initiatives undertaken by a local government. Engaging a community in the creation of an inspirational vision and strategies for moving toward that shared vision is, in effect, creating a strategic plan for your community that addresses economic, social and environmental goals.

Developing a community sustainability plan generally follows these steps:

1. Work with the community to create a shared vision of a desired and successful future. Identify ‘descriptions of success’ that describe this desired future.
2. Consider where the community is now – this is the ‘current reality’.
3. Determine the steps to move from the current reality to your identified descriptions of success. This is the action-planning and implementation stage that will take the community towards its vision, and make the difference between just a plan and a robust, ongoing process.
4. Align governance structures and corporate and community culture with the vision using a variety of decision-informing tools.
5. Measure performance and track progress.
6. Repeat steps 3-5.

A shared commitment to basic sustainability objectives will strengthen and help to guide the entire community planning and implementation process. These sustainability principles (adopted from the Natural Step) are:

1. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing:
2. Concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust
3. Concentrations of substances produced by society
4. Degradation by physical means

And, people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.

For example, Whistler is applying the above sustainability principles in decision-making. One method is through the use of the transition guidelines below.

Whistler’s Sustainability Objectives suggest that we should transition toward a more sustainable future by:

1. Increasing energy efficiency; preferring energy from renewable sources, metals that are abundant in nature (e.g. aluminum, iron), materials that are natural and biodegradable (e.g. glass, wood, organic cotton, water-based), materials that are managed in tight technical cycles(e.g. recycled or reused), items made from recycled materials.
2. Preferring materials/chemicals that are natural and biodegradable (e.g. glass, wood, organic cotton, water-based chemicals), materials/chemicals that are managed in tight technical cycles (e.g. recycled or reused), items made from recycled materials, organically grown and untreated items; using less.
3. Using less of nature; preferring fast-growing crops (e.g. hemp, bamboo, etc.), materials from well-managed ecosystems, re-usable, recyclable, items made from recycled materials; using previously developed lands.
4. Safe working and living conditions, access to education, sufficient resources for livelihoods, political freedom, inclusionary and transparent decision-making; affordable products and services.

Stay tuned for our next blog about the importance of community engagement in developing an ICSP.

by Cheeying Ho