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What is a Sustainable Community and How You Can Become One?

By Joyce Mihalik on October 1, 2019

Many community leaders today are thinking about energy efficiency and how their community can become more sustainable. While the path to sustainability is different for every community, sustainable communities share a few common characteristics. Whether you’re just starting to research or are in need of a quick refresher course, consider this an introductory guide to a series that will ultimately guide you to becoming a more sustainable community.


What is a Sustainable Community?

Before providing tactical advice on how a community becomes sustainable, it’s important to understand what a sustainable community is. Sustainable communities are planned, built, or modified to promote sustainable living in the form of a healthy environment, a strong economy, and wellbeing to residents. While there are many different sustainable community rating systems, such as the 2030 Districts Network adhered by Greater Cleveland and LEED for Cities and Communities, their ultimate goals remain the same. Here’s a general overview of what makes a community sustainable.

Energy Efficiency

Sustainable communities are committed to reducing energy use. They strive for low air-pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, encourage the use of LED lights and efficient HVAC practices, build energy-efficient buildings, and the list goes on. By being energy efficient, these communities are able to provide better social, economic, and environmental returns.

Innovation and Spirit

Local government leaders that lead sustainable communities cultivate a spirit of proactive problem-solving in order to grow as sustainable practices and technologies evolve. It’s important to challenge “what has always been” and look for opportunities for improvement. Government representatives, community members, and businesses alike must always be discovering, learning, and innovating as new insights are brought to life about the impact we have on the environment.


Sustainability is about preserving resources for future generations. As such, sustainable communities must live within their means. They recognize that resources exist not just for residents, but for other life forms, too. It’s important for local leaders to assess their community’s resources, track their impacts, and take corrective action when needed in order to meet the needs of today while safeguarding the future.


Sustainable communities are made up of many people, cultures, and economic backgrounds. Sustainable community leaders celebrate and promote ethnic, cultural, economic, and biological diversity. Examples of this could be anything from hosting ethnic festivals to providing energy tax incentives.

How to Become a Sustainable Community

Developing a sustainable community requires planning, implementing, and promoting sustainable practices that will benefit residents, the community, and the environment. Here’s how you can work toward becoming a sustainable community.

Have Strong Community Leadership

Sustainable communities require strong leadership. Leaders need to take a proactive approach by backing visionary policies and allocating funds to support sustainable living. Community leaders must consider the “bigger picture” and how their actions will affect residents, nature, and the economy. When thinking about the future, leaders must be prepared to respond to turmoil, such as power outages or chemical spills, quickly and effectively by having a plan in place to help residents and businesses. 

Implement Energy-Efficient Practices

To help benefit economic, environmental, and social returns, be sure to utilize energy efficient practices. Conserving energy, taking advantage of renewable resources, reducing waste and water, and using eco-friendly processes help with overall sustainable growth and efficiencies. Taking advantage of community grants that provides funding to help communities implement energy savings or energy efficient infrastructures can help augment your sustainable efforts.

Educate Your Community

Providing educational programs, accessible resources, and community events for your residents and small businesses is key to becoming more sustainable. Whether you’re sharing helpful home maintenance tips or educating small businesses on the latest energy-efficient trends and funding opportunities, taking the time to educate your community on what they can do can help you reach the ultimate goal of becoming a sustainable community.


Want to help make your community sustainable? NOPEC helps communities become more sustainable through community event sponsorship, energized community grants, and more.  Follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about sustainability and see how NOPEC can benefit your community.

About the Author:  

Joyce Mihalik is an industry leader, with over 30 years’ experience serving the energy community in Northeast Ohio. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and an MBA from the University of Akron. Throughout her career, she has set strategic direction for energy performance, energy conservation, procurement, and resale. As Chief Operating Officer at NOPEC, she evangelizes on the mission to educate and advocate for community members.

Tags: Sustainability, Sustainable Communities, Northeast Ohio Communities, Energy Efficiency, How to become sustainable
Categories: Sustainability

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