The Development of Sustainable Communities

Shelley Calvert
Do It Green! Minnesota

Historical perspective might provide some clues. Consider the shift in how and where people live. When the country was young and mostly undeveloped, small gatherings of people settled in geographic areas that proved fruitful for farming, mining, fishing, logging or shipping all industries that were born of, and relied upon, natural resources as a means of attracting people to the area.

A St. Paul woman from the “greatest generation” (those born between 1914 and 1924) spoke of growing up in southern Minnesota, where all families were farmers. “When I was growing up, we all prayed for good weather to grow crops to feed our families and animals to last until the next year” she declared, “we helped one another when we needed it, and everyone shared when times were good.”

Because people in these kinds of communities shared a common source of income, there developed a tendency to work together towards shared success. This common objective provided a natural means of sustainability. Today, many small communities have grown into large metro areas, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, both of which grew out of a combination of farming, milling, logging, and shipping. While the identification of a smaller community seems to have disappeared, the desire to become involved in what goes on within each neighborhood, has not.

Two “gen-X’ers”, Thomas Rehbein from St. Paul and Jessica Nadeau from the Uptown area of Minneapolis, have expressed their interest in becoming more engaged in the immediate neighborhoods where they live. A few examples of their community participation include planting trees on the Greenway, collecting donations for the local food shelf, and reaching out to strangers to engage them in conversation as a means of making the world a smaller place. These actions can have a positive effect on the sustainability of their neighborhoods and are for the benefit of all.

Both Thomas and Jessica shared their views of what community means to them. “Community means people of various backgrounds, walks of life, and experiences coming together for (a) common goal(s).” and “A community is the people and organizations and businesses around the area you live or work. This is a very broad look at the term. It can also mean people that are brought together to share a common interest, goal or vision that they are working towards together.”

Clearly, without experiencing the need to work together, younger generations have realized that development of a sustainable community is not only possible, but can lead to an advantageous outcome.

Read Up

Planning for Sustainability: Creating Livable, Equitable and Ecological Communities, by Stephen Wheeler. Routledge, 2004.

How Green Is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings, by Warren Karlenzig et. al, New Society Publishers, 2007.

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St. Paul, MN

St. Paul, MN

Developing Sustainable Communities

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