What will our community have to do once we join the program?
First, you will host an Audubon International staff member on an initial site visitundefinedhelping to reach out to the community and learn, first-hand, about your community. You will work with Audubon International to identify a “sustainability coordinator” to act as the main liaison to Audubon International staff and develop a steering committee made up of various stakeholders throughout the community.
You’ll need to answer a set of questions and gather some basic information (Community Baseline)about your community that Audubon International will use to provide recommendations for actions to help to “Green Your Community.” These actions might include the management of your buildings, facilities and lands; building an outdoor education center; quantifying the number of public transportation sources for use in the community; or offering incentives for becoming more sustainable.
Upon completion of the first stage, you will become eligible to be an Audubon Certified Green Community, which means you have made progress towards identifying past success and areas for improvement. The next step is to formulate a plan. For each indicator, Audubon International will work with you to identify specific ways you can take action to become more sustainable. To become certified, you must decide which indicators will be achieved, over what period of time. As progress towards meeting set goals is achieved, you will submit reports to Audubon Internationa in order to be re-certified each year.
Why should the community invest in this program and these services?
The Sustainable Communities Program is designed to begin a healthy dialogue among citizens and local government. Through dialogue, the program engages technical and educational partners to act on long-term ecologically-focused economic and social welfare development. The program charts a course towards a future that capitalizes on a community’s existing valuable assets while addressing its problems and needs now and into the future. This is an accredited recognition of achievements which also assists communities with long-term sustainability planning.
Is this a "cookie-cutter" or "checklist-based" based program?
No. Sustainability is not a test or something that can be addressed with a checklist. It is a process, based on a set of Audubon International Principles for Sustainable Resource Management. Programs and efforts that identify environmental performance and sustainability programs by a set of graded questions have value and can be legitimate tools for progress. Audubon International believes placed-based environmental education and performance-measuring are the best way to change policies, practices, and people. So, the Sustainable Communities Program uses a set of principles, indicators, and a formal process to guide communities down a more sustainable path, but that path must be one that is developed and built by and for the community itself.
What is the difference between the Green Communities Program and the Sustainable Communities Program?
The Sustainable Communities Program has three stages: Assessment, Planning and Measuring Progress. The Green Communities Program is the first stage of the Sustainable Communities Program: Assessment. Communities that are hesitant to commit to the full comprehensive process initially may find that a community assessment that identifies challenges and opportunities will help to prioritize concerns according to risk to the environment, quality of life, and economic vitality, and help to formulate the appropriate next steps. Green Communities will provide the framework for answering “Where are we at?” If the community so chooses, moving on to Stage 2 and 3 will help to answer “Where are we going?” and “How will we know when we are making progress?”
What are Sustainability Indicators?
“Sustainability” can have many different meanings. Audubon International has developed a specific set of sustainability indicators from successful community-based long-term plans and best practices. The Sustainability Indicators are specific measures that can be evaluated or calculated for a community. When you choose a representative sampling of indicators that are both appropriate for your community and representative of sustainability’s component categories, you then have a system of measures that allow you to assess your community’s progress towards sustainability. With Audubon International’s emphasis on place-based strategies and flexibility, each category of sustainable indicators below has greater or lesser importance for a particular community on a case by case basis.
- Economic Development and Tourism
- Environmental Issues
- Open Space and Land Use
- Planning, Zoning, Building and Development
- Public Safety and Emergency Management
- Resource Use
- Volunteerism and Civic Engagement
- Sample Sustainability Indicators
How are sustainability indicators used?
During Stage 3 of the certification process, the community's Sustainability Coordinator works directly with Audubon International to choose the set of indicators that serve to measure the success of the sustainability goals chosen in Stage 2. When the time comes to shift from planning to taking action, it’s crucial to ensure that your actions bring about the desired outcome for your community, and that you are realizing the goals you set out to achieve.
How are sustainability indicators chosen?
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when choosing indicators for your community. The chosen indicators should:
- be a representative sampling across sustainability’s categories,
- relate directly to the individual elements of your plan,
- be reviewed by Audubon International to ensure that there are no omissions or oversights,
- be specifically tailored to the unique aspects of your community, local economy and environment,
- be kept to a manageable number. Twenty-five to one hundred indicators, depending on the size and complexity of your community, would be sufficient.