What makes a community livable? Ask most people and you’ll hear the same things: Good schools, plenty of jobs and a nice environment. Sustainable communities provide all of this with a green twist. The result is long-term growth, prosperity and a thriving local population that motivates residents to stay (and attracts new ones) for generations to come.

Recently, the U.S. Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) and Siemens recognized three American communities as setting the “gold standard” for local-level sustainability planning, presenting them with the 2011 Siemens Sustainable Community Awards. Based on population size, the three winning communities were Greensburg, Kansas (small); Raleigh, North Carolina (mid-size); and San José, California (large).

These three communities prove that sustainable development in the United States is going strong—and for very good reason.

Win-win solutions

When communities focus on sustainability, everybody wins. By investing in innovation and environmental responsibility, local economies flourish providing opportunities for all residents while also improving overall living conditions now and for future generations.

According to the nomination kit for the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards, “A sustainable community has forged relationships with residents and the local private sector to set and achieve complementary economic, environmental, and social goals. Together, these goals will help the community realize long-term competitiveness and success.”

Each of the three winning communities took major steps to make environmentally responsible growth an integral part of their long-term vision for economic prosperity. San José implemented Green Vision, a 10-point roadmap focused on green technology. Raleigh established the Economic Development Group, a collaborative partnership of businesses, governmental agencies, and community organizations aimed at making sustainability-based jobs more available to residents. The two-mile wide town of Greensburg, after being destroyed by a tornado in 2007, became one of the world’s first municipalities to build from the ground up with a master plan tied to sustainability.

The ability to endure

At its core, sustainability is all about resilience, responsibility, and ingenuity. For communities, it is both economic and environmental, and it’s catching on. With nearly 90 different communities from 40 states applying for the 2011 Siemens Sustainable Community Awards, it’s clear that local leaders are beginning to understand the benefits of embracing these new trends.

Ultimately, communities that incorporate a sustainable philosophy enhance the quality of life for everyone and will continue to thrive for decades to come.

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