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Community Growth: Preventing Pollution
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
Preventing Pollution
Where To Go for Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System? is a voluntar...

LUTRAQ Reports
Eleven technical reports documenting creation of the Portland area Land Use, Transportation and Air...

Sample Codes and Ordinances
Model codes and ordinances other communities have used to implement sustainable development.

Smart Growth Policy Database
This database highlights numerous policies and programs that states and localities nationwide have i...

The Energy Yardstick: Using PLACE3S to Create Sustainable Communities
PLACES3S is an urban planning method designed to help communities discern an effective path toward s...

Communities and regions are coming together to determine pollution prevention priorities. These usually revolve around demographics and a vision for quality of life and economic issues. Coastal communities, for example, frequently key on issues that impact the oceans. Among other things, the Puget Sound Water Quality Work Plan details actions and controls necessary to protect and restore fisheries and tourist businesses. Western states cooperate on air pollution, water quality, and drought issues. Cities in the Southeast, because there are few geographic barriers to sprawl, have "grown together" and are learning to deal collectively with infrastructure issues that span state lines. Great Lakes states see pollution prevention as the best way to achieve water quality goals. The Southwest is pursuing sustainable community development through renewable energies, such as solar and wind. Great Plains states are studying sustainable agriculture.


As areas deal with growth, a major issue is creating a viable, economic base that can support the people. Businesses look for a "friendly environment" when they look to open new offices or plants. Communities want to attract established businesses that pay well and contribute to the area's quality of life, yet realize most jobs are created by small businesses. Using concepts such as industrial ecology, communities are using federal models to tailor regulations that specify performance standards based on strong protection of health and environment, but without mandating the means of compliance. This gives companies flexibility to find the most cost-effective way to achieve environmental goals. Here are some examples.

  • WaterSolve International, LLC is a manufacturer of advanced, cost-effective water purification systems for industry and communities.
  • Aspen Ski Company (ASC) uses industrial ecology to manage its 5,000 acres of skiable terrain and provide services to 1.3 million visitors a year. This article describes what goes right and what goes wrong as ASC works to be green..
  • Sustainable Eco-Industrial Park describes a sustainable development action strategy in Northampton County, Virginia. Northhamption is home to a nationally recognized rural development model. One outcome is the Port of Cape Charles Sustainable Technologies Industrial Park for environmentally friendly businesses.


Transportation is an integral part of community life. Design considerations include road building and maintenance, zoning, pollution, public transit, and access.

Building and maintaining a transportation infrastructure requires extensive resources. As the nation struggles with unreliable oil exports and dwindling supplies, answering infrastructure questions becomes more important. At the same time, communities are investigating alternative fuels and trying to determine if the public will ever strongly embrace mass transit.

Surveys show people want to live in "pedestrian friendly" communities. So for an increasing number of communities, the plan includes a "pedestrian friendly"component. It can also be a key sustainability indicator. Here are some things that have been done.

  • There are increasing numbers of bicycle and pedestrian friendly land use codes around the country. Planning for livability is a key to their implementation at
  • Village Homes Sustainable Community is a housing development in Davis, California where there are more bike and pedestrian paths than roads.
  • Sustainable Urban Transportation Planning in Curitiba, Brazil serves as an international model of a city successfully integrating transport and land-use planning.
  • In Santa Barbara, California, the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation
    Coalition for Sustainable Transportation works towards a vision of well-planned communities that encourage walking, bicycling and transit for access to all daily needs.


Most communities spent millions every year to pay for energy. Naturally, they would like to keep most of that money at home working for and in the community. With improved building technologies, new energy efficient products and strategies, and general conservation, individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments have the option to invest money into local sustainable energy generation.

  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe Wind Farm consists of one 750-kilowatt NEG Micon turbine, which will produce enough electricity over the course of one year to power 300 to 350 homes. The two-dozen reservations in the northern Great Plains have a combined wind power potential that exceeds 300 gigawatts (the capacity to generate 300,000,000,000 watts at full wind), or about 1/2 of the entire installed electrical generation capacity in the United States.
  • Renewable Energy Mitigation Program is a program of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County, Colorado, that taxes energy consumption. Launched in 2000, the program requires homeowners who wish to exceed the city's strict energy "budget" for new buildings to install a renewable energy system or to pay a renewable energy mitigation fee. The funds are used for local energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
  • Energy Conservation Savings Reinvestment Plan is an energy-management program in Phoenix, Arizona that will save the city $42 million in energy costs. Half of all energy savings are placed in a fund that finances the coming year's energy projects.

Land Use and Community Growth

By understanding their "growing pains", as well as the processes and opportunities for change, motivated communities and regions have created new visions regarding land use planning. Increasingly, developers and communities are coming forward with plans to revitalize blighted and abandoned areas. Land trusts are buying land to conserve pristine natural areas and government entities are aggressively protecting watersheds.

  • After Boulder, Colorado's population doubled in the 1960s, citizens voted to maintain the city's small town character by instituting a unique plan that limits growth to 2% a year. A city-planned greenbelt of hundreds of undeveloped acres of land surrounds the city to help preserve its beauty.
  • The Cambrini Green housing project in Chicago, among the nation's most infamous, is a symbol of decades of a failed public housing policy. "We've learned since the 1950s that these islands where people are stacked and isolated from the surrounding community just don't work," said Housing Authority Chairman Sharon Gist-Gillian. The area is now being rebuilt on city property and provides a creative mix of public housing, affordable housing and high-income housing and access to civic amenities.
  • The Virginia Coastal Program is entrusted with preserving, protecting, and restoring the rare natural beauty of Virginia's Coastal Zone, while fostering appropriate economic growth and development.
  • In 1996 New York City's Water Department convinced taxpayers that allocating $1.5 billion to preserve natural watersheds north of the city would save the $6 billion it would cost to construct a new water treatment system.
  • The city of Austin, Texas established a desired development zone. Outside the zone, fees for water and sewage would be up to 50% higher.


Commercial construction and home building, maintenance, and operation consume tremendous amounts of resources, so offer substantial pollution prevention savings. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy co-sponsor the popular Energy Star program. The program significantly reduces energy consumption for homes and businesses. The U.S. Green Building Council sponsors the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals.

Communities are partnering with such programs and provide training and incentives to contractors and homeowners to "build green." This includes energy conservation, using renewable energy sources, using nontoxic and renewable building materials, and decreasing water use. The National Association of Home Builders Research Center, as well as universities and non-profit organizations throughout the country, support green building.

Tearing down and hauling off construction debris to landfills is also expensive. Businesses and communities are finding new ways to reuse and recycle these materials, often in new construction. And, as new materials are developed, building science researchers are determining upfront how they can be reassimilated into the manufacturing process after their lifecycle. Here are some examples.

  • The Earthcraft House project in Atlanta, Georgia is one of the most innovative green home building and contractor training programs in the country.
  • Summerset at Frick Park, is a first-of-its-kind energy efficient housing development built in Pittsburgh on a former steel industry waste site. A pilot project of the Department of Energy's Building America program, it is now prepared for Phase 2 construction. Building America projects
  • The EPA Science and Technology Center in Kansas City, Kansas recently received a Gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program.

Many model industrial and residential communities are demonstrating the feasibility of tackling multiple pollution prevention and community growth issues at once. Highlighting numerous efficient design features in one community--such as energy-efficient operation, water-efficient plumbing, services within walking distance, and xeriscaping (landscaping with plants requiring minimal water)--not only conserves resources, but provides an invaluable educational and awareness tool.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Community Growth Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
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Hub Last Updated: 1/25/2013