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The Characteristics of Sustainable Living Communities

An environmentally sensitive community characteristically strives to minimize waste, reduce consumption, and preserve open spaces. A general principle of sustainable real estate development is that the community does not produce waste faster than it can be assimilated back into the environment. The following are some of the practices that are commonplace within sustainable communities.

Green Building Techniques
Many sustainable communities use green building techniques to build homes. Some green building techniques include designing homes to take advantage of the sun’s lighting and heating capabilities, and using recycled, and/or locally sourced building materials. Sourcing materials locally reduces the environmental impact of transporting materials from faraway places. Another common characteristic of green building practices is the use of non-toxic materials that have been sustainably harvested.

Preservation of Open Space
A hallmark characteristic of sustainable real estate development is setting aside a significant portion of land as open space. This preserves hundreds of acres of land containing woods, streams, and rolling hills. An innovative way of preserving open space is to build underground parking facilities. This maintains the open landscape while providing for the basic needs of the community.

Reduce Ecological Footprint through Recycling
An important way that sustainable communities reduce their ecological footprint is through recycling waste. An environmentally sensitive community treats rainwater and sewage as resources rather than pollution that requires disposal. For example, sewage can be turned into fertilizer for crops, and rainwater can be captured, and used to water plants. Food waste can also be composted and used as a rich fertilizer for plants and gardens.

Sustainable Landscaping
A best practice in sustainable landscaping is to retain the natural terrain as much as possible and to plant native, drought-tolerant plants. This reduces water usage, which is particularly crucial in areas such as California, where water is recognized as a precious commodity and can become a contentious issue. Some sustainable communities grow their own vegetables and fruits to provide a local food source, which eliminates the need to ship food in from faraway places. According to the University of Massachusetts, locally grown foods require less energy input thus resulting in reduced environmental impact and financial cost for transportation. Sustainable gardening methods also eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in the community.

Sustainable Energy
Many sustainable communities rely on sources of alternative energy such as solar power, wind energy, and environmentally friendly fuels. This strategy results in benefits of conserving natural resources and reducing emissions.

Monterey County has been taking an active role in encouraging builders to go green by incorporating environmentally friendly materials such as sustainable wood, solar panels and on-demand water heaters (County of Monterey Annual Housing Report 2008).

Other things that an environmentally sensitive community may initiate to make their community more eco-friendly and sustainable are to design the lighting so that it preserves the beauty of the night sky, to build road edges known as grade beams to eliminate the need of cutting and filling, and to invest in a reclamation system to conserve and reuse …