How Sustainable Communities Work

Green Science Image Gallery Where are all the cars? This sustainable community contains many small shops and restaurants connected by pedestrian friendly streets to minimize driving.­ See more green science pictures.
Photo Courtesy Serenbe

Upon first entering the community of Serenbe in the Chattahoochee Hill Country of central Georgia, you might notice several things. You might be pleasantly surprised to see streets not clogged with cars or to see neighbors gathered on their front porches enjoying the afternoon sun. What you won't notice are the renewable materials that built the houses, the energy-efficient appliances that power them or the organically grown, native plants that surround them.

But that's the way Serenbe intended it. Like other sustainable communities, Serenbe strives to lower its impact on the environment without lowering the quality of life. People who join sustainable communities believe mankind's present rate of consumption and waste creation isn't good for their health or the Earth's.


 According to the World Wildlife Fund, people are currently using resources 25 percent faster than they can be replaced. If we continue down this course, we will need a second planet by the year 2050 [source: World Wildlife Fund]. Sustainable communities attempt to change that course by drastically altering how citizens interact with the environment.

Alternatively known as green communities or ecovillages, sustainable communities vary in their approaches to sustainable living, or a way of life that meets the population's basic needs in ways that can be continued indefinitely for future generations. Some communities focus solely on enriching the environment, while others also aim to improve social and economic conditions as well.

Could your community be sustainable or "green"? In this article, you'll learn about the basic characteristics of sustainable communities before looking at a few working examples found around the world, as well as some other kinds of living arrangements that benefit the Earth.

 On the next page, find out the three simple ideas that residents of sustainable communities live by.