Resource: Eco-Municipalities in Sweden
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Title: Eco-Municipalities in Sweden
Resource type: Book
Topics: Buildings, Business, Communities, Ecosystems, Education, Energy, Individual Choices, Land Use, Statewide/Global, Transportation, Water
Keywords: sweden, cities, sustainable communities, revitalization, integrated, natural step
Audience: All
Region: Outside Minnesota
Summary: The 2004 book "The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices" provides inspiring examples of changes in Swedish municipal policies and operations as these communities move toward sustainability.
Content: The 2004 book "The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices" is a book for practitioners. In 304 pages it provides inspiring examples of changes in Swedish municipal policies and operations, and explains how municipalities in the US and elsewhere can emulate their success. Authors are Sarah James, principal of a community planning consulting firm in Boston and co-author of the American Planning Association's "Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability" (summer 2002; available for purchse at, and Torbjorn Lahti, planner for Sweden's first eco-municipality and a founder of the Swedish natinal association of eco-municipalities.

The sixty-plus eco-municipalities in Sweden form the basis of this book. Beginning just over 20 years ago as a village revitalization movement, Swedish eco-municipalities are unique in that they use:

* An integrated approach -- not single-issue initiatives -- that surmount challenges of conflicting priorities, scarce resources, and turf battles.

* A highly participative democratic change process involving citizens and municipal employees, based upon envisioning desired future community conditions where the four system conditions are met, and "backcasting" to determine actions steps that allow the desired future to occur.

* Have spread to towns and large cities in other Nordic countries, Japan and New Zealand, and are inspiring several potential community efforts in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The success stories -- mostly from Sweden but including many North American ones -- detail significant changes in the areas of:

* Renewable energy sources

* Ecological housing

* Green businesses

* Green buildings

* Ecological education

* Eco-economic / eco-industrial development

* Protecting biodiversity

* Alternatives to fossil-fueled vehicles

* Dealing with waste

* Sustainable agriculture

The book ends with a challenge to the reader: to work in one's community to (1) increase awareness of the need to change (toward a more a sustainable community) and to (2) generate the political will to carry out the change process. The technology, process models and guiding principles are readily available to those who meet this challenge.

See the web site below for details and on-line purchase for $24.95.

What is different about the eco-municipality model for community change?
Many communities in the United States and around the world have initiated and are carrying out sustainable development projects. Green building programs, affordable housing, open space preservation, recycling, climate change initiatives, smart growth initiatives, are just a few of these. While these initiatives have made progress toward sustainable goals, they largely are occurring on a project-by-project or issue-oriented basis. Frequently these efforts, as laudable as they are, are unconnected and not integrated throughout municipal governments and the larger communities.

The eco-municipality approach uses widespread community awareness-raising and integrated municipal involvement. The "common language" afforded by the Natural Step framework fosters understanding of what "sustainability" is and also how to achieve it across all parts of municipal government and the wider community. The likelihood of conflict and competition among resulting actions is therefore minimized, since all sectors are using the same "sustainability playing rules."

Suggested by: Philipp Muessig
Added: 08/12/04
Updated: 07/21/11