Edmonton Social Planning Council - Research Reviews & Updates

The ESPC provides research reviews and updates on a range of social issues

 

Book by Jennifer Fosket and Laura Mamo, 2009
Reviewed in July 2009 Research Update


All too often, ‘going green’ is used as a catch-all term for activities like recycling, using cloth grocery bags, and switching to energy efficient lightbulbs. Don’t get me wrong – these are great activities, but in this book, authors Jennifer Foskett and Laura Mamo illustrate how communities across North America are engaging in much more holistic, people-centred, and socially just practices of ‘going green’.

Living Green: Communities that Sustain tells the stories of how we can create communities that are both socially and environmentally sustainable.  It includes a number of case studies of different sustainable living designs, including homes and communities that are based on a number of different concepts of sustainability, such as:

  • Ecovillages such as LA Ecovillage, where residents share common facilities and a commitment to living in harmony with the environment. Some interesting features of the community include ‘car retraining’ sessions, community meals on the street, community gardens, and a bike kitchen.
  • Elder cohousing (for more on this, see the review on The Senior Cohousing Handbook)

  • Aging in community designs such as Chez Soi in Montreal. The formerly tight knit community of young families – and the buildings – had disintegrated over the decades. It became a difficult and isolating place to live for the primarily senior residents. Renovations to some of the buildings preserved the positive aspects and improved on others. Common spaces such as kitchens, gardens, and a breezeway allow community members to rebuild relationships and support one another.
  • Co-operative housing
  • Mixed-supportive green housing such as the Folsom/Dore apartments in San Francisco. The mixed income building includes a minimum of 20 units for individuals who have been chronically homeless, 20 units for individuals and families at risk of homelessness and a number of market-rate units. Everybody shares a number of common areas (including meeting spaces, day rooms and computer room) and greenspaces and gardens, all in an environmentally designed building and grounds.
  • Green nuclear family homes and neighbourhoods.

There are countless ideas and designs in sustainable living; this book highlights the benefits that residents experience from living in communion with others, but also notes the difficulties and challenges that creating community can pose. Unlike many books on green housing that simply focus on the physical elements of sustainability – water conservation, alternative energies, recycled materials, etc. – this book is unique in its discussion of the social features that make our communities sustainable: diversity, support, inclusion, solidarity, equality. Living Green is a useful resource for anybody involved in building  sustainable communities, or simply interested in learning more.