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"Eco-municipality" has a specific meaning. For a more general discussion of the sustainability of cities, see Sustainable city.

An eco-municipality or 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.[1] The purpose of these policies is to increase the overall sustainability of the community.

Large scale social movements can influence both community choices and the built environment. Eco-municipalities may be one such movement.[2] Eco-municipalities take a systems approach, based on sustainability principles. The eco-municipality movement is participatory, involving community members in a bottom-up approach.

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. [3]


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 (or Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD)), 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.[4]

Municipalities adopting framework[edit]

Communities in North America, Europe and Africa ranging in size from villages of 300 to cities of 700,000 have become eco-municipalities. In Sweden, over one hundred 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.[5]

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.[6]

In Sweden, more than 70 cities and towns—25 percent of all municipalities in the country—have adopted a common set of "Sustainability Principles" and implemented these systematically throughout their municipal operations. There are now twelve eco-municipalities in the United States and the American Planning Association has adopted sustainability objectives based on the same principles.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miranda Spencer (September 22, 2005) Building Sustainable Cities: Scandinavia's "Eco-Municipalities" Show the Way Archived 2007-07-13 at the Wayback Retrieved on: November 5, 2007.
  2. ^ LaColla, T. "It's Easy to be Green! Eco-Municipalities: Here to Stay" Archived 25 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on: 16 March 2009.
  3. ^ Torbjorn Lahti and Sarah James (May 17, 2005) The Eco-municipality Model for Sustainable Community Change: A systems approach to creating sustainable communities Archived 2008-08-07 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on: November 5, 2007
  4. ^ Alliance for Sustainability Ashland, WI and Duluth, MN become Sustainable Cities Archived 2011-09-03 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on: February 10, 2008.
  5. ^ Sustain Dane Eco-municipalities: Where Are They?. Retrieved on: February 10, 2008.
  6. ^ 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin. Eco-municipalities: A Model for Sustainable Communities in Wisconsin. Retrieved on: February 10, 2008.
  7. ^ James, S. (2003). "Eco-municipalities: Sweden and the United States: A Systems Approach to Creating Communities". Retrieved on: 16 March 2009.


  • 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

External links[edit]