“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” - Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Aquinas College

Sustainable Community Design

"Health is the New Wealth" could be a saying, but it can also be a guiding principle as well as a mode of operation. In communities that choose to take action on this theory, positive results could emerge quickly. The City of Grand Rapids has a long tradition of innovation in sustainability.


Photo courtesy of Bigfoto

To create a sustainable world, we must live in sustainable communities. People will need to decrease or eliminate their reliance on cars, fossil fuels, cheap goods from China, and vegetables grown in the deserts of California with the application of billions of gallons of water. Sustainable urban and community planning will produce a new symptom of healthy people living in walkable, bikeable communities. Community design that allows people to walk, bike or utilize public transportation to arrive at their local grocery, bank or workplace is the ultimate goal of sustainability.

The return to regional economies will systematically rather than technologically reduce transport miles, time wasted in traffic jams, unemployment, and environmental degradation. Imagine being able to once again purchase high quality goods that are manufactured within your community by your neighbors. Local resources will be utilized in the processes and the nutrients returned back to the earth upon disposal. Renewable energy will be generated on site or within the community, so as to decrease energy loss from transmission.

Sustainable communities are all about species 'belonging' to a community, with every sense of that word. Many people today believe that we can just leave our cities, states, country, or even planet if the environmental destruction becomes too severe. This way of living cannot be sustainably maintained into the future.

"Lets not make a big mess here and go somewhere else less hospitable even if we figure out how. Let's use our ingenuity to stay here; to become, once again, native to this planet" (McDonough & Braungart, Cradle to Cradle, 87).


Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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