Renewable Energy

How Sustainable is Your Community?

By Christi Southerland, Prosperity Ag Managing Partner

The term “sustainable city” has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years. Though each region likely has their own definition of a sustainable community, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), uses the term “sustainable communities” to describe places “where use of resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are going down, not up; where the air and waterways are accessible and clean; where land is used efficiently and shared parks and public spaces are plentiful and easily visited; where people of different ages, income levels and cultural backgrounds share equally in environmental, social and cultural benefits; where many needs of daily life can be met within a 20-minute walk and all may be met within a 20-minute transit ride; where industry and economic opportunity emphasize healthy, environmentally sound practices.

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Sustainable Communities 

"Where industry and economic opportunity emphasize healthy, environmentally sound practices." -NRDC

The community described above seems idyllic, however, it is also very hard to achieve. Communities might have a goal of becoming completely sustainable, but funding is a large barrier preventing implementation. Taking small steps each year towards sustainability can be an easier approach while keeping costs reasonable. Further, communities that meet challenges through integrated solutions rather than fragmented approaches while looking at the long term will be more successful. This means it is essential for communities to have an end-goal and a plan in place prior to taking any steps towards sustainability. Having citizen involvement in early-stage planning will also be important for success.

Communities aiming for sustainability can utilize grant and loan programs to achieve their goals. Opportunities abound for projects such as community gardens, integration of renewable energy, wastewater efficiency improvements, building new community facilities, and many more. Further, programs exist to help communities achieve their sustainability goals. Audubon International has a Sustainable Communities Program, which is a science-based, third-party certification program to guide communities through the journey to become healthy and vibrant places to love work and play.

Sustainability is a process that is continuously evolving to meet goals. Communities that embrace this process as part of their overall goal and begin to implement sustainability, they will see a power and positive effect on the quality of life and the future of the community.

Prosperity Ag works with rural communities to become more sustainable. Learn more by downloading our overview of popular funding programs for rural communities.

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Going Blue in Rural Communities

Karen DuVall, Prosperity Ag Director of Grant Operations

You know what they say about the weather here in Indiana? If you don’t like it, just wait five minutes and it’ll change.

Indiana and much of the Midwest has suffered severe flooding recently. My hometown of Buffalo in northwest Indiana has a population of about 700. When the Tippecanoe River flooded and residents needed to evacuate, neighbors banded together and helped each other out. People volunteered their trucks, tractors, and boats to assist first responders with evacuation efforts. They offer their time, money, and talents to donate meals and supplies. Fortunately, my hometown isn’t unique. Across the country, people in rural areas, small towns, and cities rally together during emergencies to help their communities.

After the initial disaster subsides, residents return to their homes to begin rebuilding. Communities have also suffered major flood damage to their roads and infrastructure.  On top of that, many rural communities are already struggling to improve aging and limited water and waste treatment infrastructure.

At times, opportunities may arise out of crises. According to the Smithsonian, cities around the world are experimenting with going Blue. Most people are familiar with the idea of Going Green, which is focused on reducing the environmental impact created by cities and investing in renewable energy. Smart Cities (making cities more responsive and connected) is another widely accepted concept. “Blue Cities” is the idea that communities should be designed to work with existing water-flow patterns instead of trying to alter them. Cutting edge concepts include a buoyant parking garage in Denmark and floating solar panels in Bahrain. After Hurricane Katrina, Old River Landing in Louisiana used traditional building techniques from the Bayou to develop floating amphibious housing.

Most of these examples are large-scale projects in cities, but this led me to wonder how this technology could be used in rural areas. How can we take some of these futuristic concepts and scale them down to work for small towns and farms? How are we better positioned to use less-populated watersheds and rivers? It’s predicted that the Midwest will see more extreme weather, including record-breaking heat, cold, flooding, droughts, and storms. Now is the time to prepare by investing in Blue technologies on our own terms.

Whether you represent rural government, manage a construction company with an outside-of-the-box idea, or want to improve your energy efficiency, Prosperity Ag is here to help you. We take the mystery out of grants so you find funding. Click here to find out more.