- "Eco-municipality" has a specific meaning. For a more general discussion of the sustainability of cities, see Sustainable city.
An eco-municipality, (also known as an eco-town) is a local government area that has adopted ecological and social justice values in its charter. The development of eco-municipalities stems from changing systems in Sweden, where more than seventy municipal governments have accepted varying principles of sustainability in their operations as well as community-wide decision making processes. The purpose of these policies is to increase the overall sustainability of the community.
The distinction between an eco-municipality and other sustainable development projects (such as green building and alternative energy) is the focus on community involvement and social transformation in a public agency as well as the use of a holistic systems approach. An eco-municipality is one that recognizes that issues of sustainability are key to all decisions made by government. Many eco-municipality projects also incorporate the Natural Step into their change processes.
In 1983 the Övertorneå community of Sweden first adopted an Eco-municipality framework followed by a formal organization in 1995 (SEKOM).
In becoming an eco-municipality, cities or towns typically adopt a resolution, based on the Natural Step framework, which sets the following objectives:
- Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels.
- Reduce dependence upon synthetic chemicals.
- Reduce encroachment upon nature.
- Better meet human needs fairly and efficiently.
Municipalities adopting framework
Communities in North America and Europe, ranging in size from villages of 300 to cities of 700,000 have become eco-municipalities. In Sweden, over sixty municipalities have officially become eco-municipalities. They have formed a national association of eco-municipalities to assist one another and work to influence national policy. Whistler, BC, was awarded first place in a United Nations-endorsed international competition for sustainable communities. Its long-term sustainability plan, Whistler 2020, is based on the Natural Step framework.
In Wisconsin, there is a growing eco-municipality movement which began in the Chequamegon Bay region. As of November 2007, twelve local communities had formally adopted eco-municipality resolutions. The resolutions state the community's intention to become an eco-municipality, endorsing the Natural Step sustainability principles and framework as a guide.
- Miranda Spencer (September 22, 2005) Building Sustainable Cities: Scandinavia's "Eco-Municipalities" Show the Way.sustainablebusiness.com. Retrieved on: November 5, 2007.
- Torbjorn Lahti and Sarah James (May 17, 2005) The Eco-municipality Model for Sustainable Community Change: A systems approach to creating sustainable communities. Retrieved on: November 5, 2007
- Alliance for Sustainability Ashland, WI and Duluth, MN become Sustainable Cities. Retrieved on: February 10, 2008.
- Sustain Dane Eco-municipalities: Where Are They?. Retrieved on: February 10, 2008.
- 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin. Eco-municipalities: A Model for Sustainable Communities in Wisconsin. Retrieved on: February 10, 2008.
- James, S. and T. Lahti (2004). The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-491-6
- National Association of Swedish Eco-municipalities
- Sarah James Associates Consulting firm working in the field.
- Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association Eco Municipalities links
- 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin page on Eco-Municipalities
- The American Association of Planners policy guide on sustainability.