POSITION PAPER of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance


A sustainable community (SC) consists of one or more households that share a location and the conscious intention to be self-reliant, resilient, resource-conserving, equitable, and ecologically restorative—while providing a good quality of life for community members and future generations.

(A household is here defined as two or more people who share a shelter system that includes facilities for eating, sleeping, bathing, and gathering.)

The members of an SC

  • cooperate with each other and with neighbors, for the accomplishment of shared purposes.
  • are responsible and accountable to each other, to neighbors, and to the larger world for the consequences of how they live.
  • steward valuable resources for the benefit of future as well as present generations.

A Sustainable Community:

  • provides many of its basic/subsistence needs (water, food, clothing, shelter, energy, waste management) on site, using primarily local resources (human/natural/financial).
  • reuses or recycles almost all of its “wastes.”
  • is prepared for natural and other emergencies.
  • promotes and aims for income, gender, and intergenerational equity.
  • restores and regenerates degraded eco-systems, while ensuring that land use, building, transportation and other systems are minimally damaging to the biosphere.
  • offers learning opportunities to all ages about the challenges and technologies of living sustainably.
  • is part of a global community: Most SCs have and utilize access to the internet, hence to neighbors, each other, the world, and the global information base.

Why do people choose sustainable community?

The sustainable community movement is leading the way to a new era of more productive, innovative, resource conserving, energy efficient living systems.

Most creators and members of Sustainable Communities (SCs) are motivated, at least partly, by discontent with the standard modern consumerist lifestyle.

Large, complex, centralized, 20th century industrial systems continue to become less functional and less reliable, climate change continues, food (along with water) is becoming the “new gold,” and energy is becoming more and more scarce and expensive.

SC members seek something that is more communal, more ecologically restorative, less auto dependent, less money-oriented, more democratic and equitable, closer to nature, cleaner, healthier, and more spiritually fulfilling.

Most SC members seek economic independence through self-reliance that gives insulation from unreliable financial/labor markets and from the decisions of distant corporations and governments—meanwhile inventing and building alternative local provisioning systems and cultures.

SC’s want to leave our children with an inheritance of functioning, multi-purpose living systems that are capable of surviving and thriving in the 21st century.

SC’s provide friendship and support, and are an answer to the isolation and loneliness of a modern culture built of broken families and traditions.

SC’s support a network of people competent in the operation of alternative, appropriate technologies.

SCs build wealth in the form of functional, productive, efficient and equitable living systems that are strong foundational units of healthy, vibrant neighborhoods, towns, and regions.

This includes

* human/social resources (health, knowledge, skills, relationships, organization, education);

* built resources (appropriately-scaled subsistence infrastructure and technologies for energy and water harvesting, food production, waste recycling, etc.);

* and natural resources of their local ecosystems (soil fertility, vegetation, wildlife).

Summary of the BENEFITS  provided by SC living systems

Food security

External security

On-site productivity

Resource conservation (water, energy, materials)

Employment opportunities

Educational opportunities/outcomes/potential


Healthy environment for children and elderly

Help with child raising

Health care/maintenance

Internal communication

Internal sharing

Communication/cooperation with neighbors

Sharing with neighbors

Saving money by pooling resources

Sharing tools and buildings

Caring for the environment- soil, water, air


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