Our second annual list of sustainable communities with a vision for the future.
What makes a town great to live in or visit? Each of the eight places we’ve chosen to highlight this year are unique, yet they share many of the same qualities. We’re not suggesting you quit your job and make a beeline for one of these towns — maybe just learn from them to make your own community more livable and sustainable. “The 20th Century was about going, but the 21st Century will be about staying in a place worth staying in,” says James Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere, a critique of the current state of suburban living.
A place worth staying in usually has great schools, a low crime rate and a high level of social capital — the networking, trust and participation that cement a community together. It has a good supply of affordable housing for the people who live and work there, such as nurses, firefighters and merchants. There are public spaces where people and cars are kept separate; pedestrian walkways; restaurants that serve delicious, healthy food; and places to listen to music and see local art.
The residents and leaders of a great town or city celebrate the unique characteristics of their place — such as the maple syrup, pastures and covered bridges of Brattleboro, Vt.; the seaside ambience of Bellingham, Wash., where the “Ski to Sea” relay race is an annual tradition; or the lush, lake- and river-rich countryside of Eau Claire, Wis.
The goal should be to create a community culture that puts the pieces together, not only identifying what the community needs but how best to meet those needs in resourceful, synergistic ways.