Chapter 4

Chapter 4
In the Community:
Encouraging Nonformal Learning

If sustainability is to become a reality, educational strategies must reach people of all ages -- as citizens of the world and of the United States, as residents of a community, as members of the nation's workforce, as individual consumers -- at all phases of their lives. Fostering such opportunities for lifelong learning means that the transition to sustainable development can begin today rather than with the next generation.

Museums, zoos, libraries, extension programs, the media, the workplace, and community organizations are just a few venues for providing lifelong learning opportunities. These nonformal educational settings can expand awareness and put sustainability concepts in a familiar context. To be most effective in doing so, nonformal educational institutions should expand their relationships with formal educators to identify those areas in which schools are inadequately preparing students and to help fill those gaps and develop appropriate materials. Until sustainability becomes a public philosophy, conscious or unconscious, it will not become a reality in our country.

-- Olin M. Ivey,
Executive Director
Georgia Environmental Organization, Inc.

Several sources of nonformal education deserve special consideration:

  • Because Americans obtain most of their news and information from the print and broadcast media, a key strategy in nonformal education is to foster public awareness of sustainability via television, computers, newspapers, and magazines. Information on sustainability must be communicated through these media in appropriate and accessible formats.

  • Work-based learning is another avenue for equipping adults with the knowledge and skills they need in a fast-changing world. School-to-work opportunities and retraining programs for dislocated workers will become increasingly important as the economy shifts to more efficient enterprises and sustainable practices.

  • Also in light of these shifts and changes, communities will be instrumental in coordinating sustainability concepts and including them as part of community outreach and participation plans.


Nonformal Education and Outreach
Encourage nonformal access to information on, and opportunities to learn and make informed decisions about, sustainability as it relates to citizens' personal, work, and community lives.

Five actions are suggested for implementing this recommendation:

  • encourage lifelong learning.
  • raise public awareness,
  • provide outreach,
  • expand community "visioning," and
  • foster workforce training.

"We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the gross national product. For the gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highway carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them. The gross national product includes the destruction of the redwoods, and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads . . . It includes Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our country."

"And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of public officials . . . the gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans."

-- from a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy
1968 Presidential campaign
University of Kansas


Encouraging Lifelong Learning

Action 1: Nonformal educators should encourage lifelong learning about sustainability through adult education programs, community and civic organizations, and nonformal education programs -- such as those sponsored by museums, zoos, nature centers, and 4-H clubs -- so that individual can make well-informed decisions.

Studies show that in early childhood -- from birth to age six -- the home is the primary educational influence. Between ages seven and 12, the role of the home diminishes while that of the school and -- to a lesser extent -- the community, church, and media increases. The influence of the home continues to lessen, and that of the school grows, during the teen years. In the individual's next decade, however, the school's impact drops dramatically, and that of the community increases proportionately. The greatest influences during the adult years are the community, church, and home, in that order. Interest groups remain relatively constant as an influence throughout one's life, beginning at about age seven.1
There is no easy dividing line between formal and nonformal education. We are all committed to a continuum of lifelong learning.

--Tom Keehn,
Senior Consultant
American Forum for Global Education

Most adults received limited information directly related to sustainability during their formal schooling. Through the U.S. educational system, many students do not develop an understanding of the interconnections among economic, environmental, and equity issues. More than three-fourths of U.S. citizens do not obtain a college degree, and even those who do graduate from college lack an understanding of sustainability.2 In other words, for the vast majority of Americans, knowledge of sustainability will have to be obtained during their adult years. Continuing education programs in local communities and educational opportunities offered by the media, civic organizations, clubs such as the 4-H, nonprofit organizations such as the YWCA and YMCA, and informal venues such as museums and churches are needed to fill the gap and equip adults with the knowledge and skills required for committed and effective action.

The challenge for nonformal education is to find ways to reach a voluntary, "noncaptive," adult audience. Motivations of adult learners range from the opportunity to socialize to mental stimulation, personal growth, and professional advancement. The challenge is to harness some or all of these incentives to stimulate interest in educational experiences related to sustainability.

For some aspects of environmental education, the challenge of attracting adult learners is not a difficult one. Outings offered by environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society often contain instruction in natural history and attract intensely interested learners. Interpretive programs offered in national parks are drawing participants at a faster rate than park visitation overall.3 Interest in this area is also indicated by the explosive growth of ecotourist excursions led by naturalists.

Although these programs are growing in popularity, a new challenge is emerging -- how can these programs help adult learners link environmental education experiences to their everyday lives? Extension offices and conservation districts offer one avenue for widening participation. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service has boosted its efforts to create an environmentally literate citizenry, targeting a broader audience than their traditional farm clientele.

Other avenues are continuing education classes offered by community colleges and school districts. The nation's 1,200 accredited community colleges represent the fastest growing type of educational institutions in the United States. Since they are well-connected to local businesses, community colleges are ideally suited to serve as catalysts for sustainability.

Nonformal educational organizations should work closely with educators to identify areas in which schools traditionally have not prepared students adequately. Once these opportunities are identified, nonformal educators can develop materials and work with formal educators to determine possibilities for partnership. In this way, nonformal education can complement classroom teaching.

Examples of successful nonformal sustainability education efforts follow.

  • EARTHWATCH: A Model for Lifelong Education for Sustainability. Founded in 1972, EARTHWATCH has become a model for global education for sustainable development. To date, 40,000 citizen volunteers have served in EARTHWATCH's EarthCorps program, which has funded 2,000 expeditions to 120 countries. The majority of these volunteers are business and professional members of EARTHWATCH; and the remaining 25 percent are teachers and students preparing for careers in the arts and sciences. The program is intergenerational and interdisciplinary in design, and involves citizens from 30 countries each year, who share costs and contribute skills to protect heritage, biodiversity, public health, and treasured habitats worldwide. Partnerships with corporations, foundations, universities, and U.N. and government agencies produce on-line education for sustainability.

  • YWCA: Education for Global Responsibility. Education for Global Responsibility is a program for educating YWCA members, volunteers, staff, and the community about the causes of global poverty and how it affects particularly women. With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the YWCA has held international conferences and workshops on women's sustainable economic development. Participants have included local and national leaders from the United States, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The purpose is to develop a cadre of consultants on women's sustainable economic development issues who will work to educate others in their communities and networks.

  • Course in Sustainability for Community Leaders. A land-use course designed in 1994 by the Rome Teacher Resource Center in Rome, New York, was targeted at key community representatives and interested groups. "Open Space: Defining-Assessing-Deciding" stressed the profound impact of current decisions on community open space in the future. Participants included representatives from the community's education, business, industry, local government, and special-interest sectors. The course reached local community organizations not usually targeted by environmental education programs.

  • The Presidio Institute. The Presidio Institute now being formed in the San Francisco Bay Area will help businesses, citizen organizations, and governments promote sustainable economic development that incorporates environmental protection and social equity. Located at a former military base, the institute will -- under National Park Service auspices -- be converted into a laboratory to explore policies, practices, and technologies to enhance sustainability worldwide. The institute will work in partnership with various area resources, including Stanford University, three University of California campuses, many national laboratories and private research facilities, and Silicon Valley organizations. It will focus on both critically needed programs for today's leaders as well as on longer range research aimed at solutions for tomorrow. The institute's overall goal is to balance the demands of economic health, environmental quality, and social fairness in order to offer solutions to the problems of the present without depriving future generations of opportunities to meet their needs.

Community In The Classroom
To initiate local business ventures, create employment, market craft products, or staff a day care center, people need guidance, support, ideas -- and education. Thus, to promote the development of their local business ventures, Appalachian communities created the Community in the Classroom project. This program takes a community-based, participatory approach to educating citizens by integrating education into community development activities. Components of the program include a series of six workshops aimed at building knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities of staff and volunteers. A series of special projects have also been developed to focus on particular community needs. Finally, a process of program reflection and development, designed to integrate literacy education with other community empowerment activities, has been initiated.

Projects initiated by the participating communities include an effort by the Mountain Women's Exchange, which aims to bring GED graduates to volunteer in an adult education program. The Dungannon Development Commission is developing an adult education program for members who are rehabilitating housing and who want to develop reading and math skills related to their work. The Whitley County Communities for Children's staff is creating a curriculum for employment which targets unemployed mothers receiving government aid. The Big Creek People in Action are developing a literacy and adult education program in an area isolated from any nearby communities. Finally, the Lonsdale Improvement Organization is writing a housing survey and brochure about its community as a part of the group's neighborhood revitalization and development efforts.

Sustainability Education Center of the
American Forum for Global Education
In order to prepare today's youth to be responsible citizens in an interdependent world, the American Forum for Global Education created the Sustainability Education Center to integrate environmental, economic, and social equity issues in the local community with those in the global community. The center's mission is to develop teacher education and professional development programs as well as programs at the local, national, and international levels that promote lifelong learning about sustainability. Some of the center's projects include the following:

  • Sustainability Education for Educators (SEE). This project works with educators from diverse schools throughout New York City in the fields of science, math, government, U.S. history, business, social studies, and the humanities. Through a series of professional development seminars and project retreats, SEE educates teachers on sustainability concepts. Participants learn through debate, discussion, modeling, role playing, and problem solving -- all techniques that can be transferred to the classroom. After the pilot program in New York City is complete, the center hopes the SEE project will serve as a model for communities and schools all around the country.

  • Civil and Sustainable Society. Another center project is a curriculum training module, which includes a facilitator's guide, a participant's guide, and an evaluation component, created for the YWCA to motivate participants to work toward a civil and sustainable society. The curriculum will be presented as a series of case studies of community sustainable development initiatives across the country.

  • School for a Change. The School for a Change program will initiate a partnership among a sustainable community project, a pilot school within its community, and the American Forum for Global Education. The primary focus of the project is to develop leadership and organizational training for teachers and students to solve problems in the community and develop collaborative partnerships between schools and community.

By helping facilitate dialogues, projects, and activities between schools and communities, the Sustainability Education Center is promoting broader participation, understanding, and linkage between these entities regarding each other.

National 4-H Council
The mission of the National 4-H Council is to build partnerships for community youth development that value and involve youth in solving issues critical to their lives, their families and society. The Council is implementing a hands-on environmental stewardship program which encourages partnerships to be built between young people and trainers at local, county, or state levels.

The National 4-H Council is also involved in a program -- A Future for Me -- with six West Virginia University County Extension Offices and local school systems to encourage career education and preparation for local students. The program works with high school guidance counselors to help students explore different career opportunities and develop an understanding of the skills needed in today's workforce. Training is provided on a weekly basis during the school day. Students are educated on decision making, interview skills, resume writing, career options, personal interest assessments, self-exploration, prerequisite job skills and credentials, and goal planning. All counties involved in this training cited an increase in student planning for postsecondary education as a result of the effort.

The Council also supports a work study program in which a local store sponsors a student, providing him or her with employment and a scholarship to the college of his or her choice. Under this program, Williamina Keegan worked part time at the Saratoga Springs Shop and Save. She gained valuable experience in her future major, business management in the food industry, and later attended Cornell University. "This work study program has encouraged me to go on and pursue a career in business management. I realize that I am one of the first students to participate in this program, and I am encouraged by myself and my mentors to achieve my goals and to set an example for anyone else who might want to participate. I am extremely happy with the program, and I hope that anyone else who is interested does try."

Four Corners School
Imagine exploring pristine ruins, rafting through incredible geological formations, hiking magnificent plateaus, and mastering crafts with Native American artists. Located in Utah, Four Corners School offers this five-day "ed-venture" vacation as well as many other educational programs on environment, culture, and sustainability in the Southwest.

Since 1984, the school has been dedicated to educating people of all ages and backgrounds about the need to preserve the natural and cultural treasures primarily in the Southwest, and also around the world. The school provides scholarships to teachers so that environmental education may be presented throughout schools, and offers accredited courses that can be transferred for use in undergraduate and graduate educational institutions.

Currently, Four Corners School is involved in a three-year project aimed at creating a better understanding of Native American cultures. Part of the project involves a traveling fine arts exhibit developed by Navajo children that will be featured at the Denver Art Museum, in Denver public schools, and in the Navajo Nation. Many travelers who have visited reservations through Four Corners School reflect that, "the best part of the trip was meeting the Navajo and Hopi people . . . [there was] a feeling of harmony and oneness with nature that permeated every aspect of living."

In 1994, the Four Corners School was recognized by the Utah Society of Environmental Education with a program award for its preservation work on the Colorado Plateau. Four Corners developed a public-private partnership, the Colorado Plateau Research Group, to assess research and service needs to manage the Plateau. The school is also collaborating with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to develop wilderness advocacy training in the wildlands of southern Utah.

By emphasizing that learning about sustainability is a lifelong as well as an intergenerational and cultural endeavor, the Four Corners School is providing opportunities for students of all ages to explore sustainability in action at a hands-on, grassroots level.


Raising Public Awareness

Action 2: Media strategists and sustainable development experts should develop an integrated approach for raising public awareness of and support for sustainability goals, conveying information on indicators of sustainable development, and encouraging people to adopt sustainable decision making in their daily lives.

Raising public awareness is central to any plan to move the nation toward sustainability. If citizens are to reverse such negative trends as urban sprawl, loss of biodiversity, and decreasing voter turnout, they must understand the issues and have accurate and accessible information. In general, people rely on the mass media for their news and information. A 1995 Roper poll found that 72 percent of survey respondents obtained most of their news and information from television, 38 percent from newspapers, 18 percent from radio, and eight percent from magazines.4 The fact that Americans rely so heavily on print and broadcast media underscores the importance of supplying information on sustainability that is accurate, easily understood, and readily applied to everyday life.

Polls disagree on Americans' overall understanding of the concept of sustainability. On the one hand, a 1995 national survey of 1,036 adults conducted by pollster Paul H. Ray to determine Americans' attitudes toward sustainability revealed that a strong majority -- 61 percent -- favored sustainability. Further, a majority agreed that they would be willing to pay 10 percent more for consumer goods and 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline if they were sure it would help the environment.5 Ray concluded that American citizens are aware of the concept of sustainability and agree with it. It should be noted, however, that a sizable minority (40 percent), were against sustainability or unsure about what it is and its benefits.

On the other hand, a pair of 1995 Roper surveys tested Americans' "green point average." These environmental quizzes revealed that the average adult and teenager could answer fewer than four out of 10 questions correctly. The average adult score was 33 out of a possible 100 points; teens scored 31 out of 100 points.6 Moreover, the Roper surveys indicated that the majority of respondents believed that the only actions they can take to improve the environment are those related to litter and indoor air pollution. Sixty-one percent believed that large companies are responsible for causing the nation's environmental problems and should be the ones to implement solutions, failing to take into account pollution from individual sources such as automobiles and lawn mowers.7

The conclusion to be drawn from these findings is that a substantial minority of Americans need more information about sustainability -- what it is and what they can do to live more sustainably. Even those citizens who don't need to be convinced that long-term development problems exist do need information showing how their actions can affect sustainable development. They also need information and ideas, presented through the popular broadcast and print media, about practical things they can do that have a positive effect on sustainable development. For many people, the desire to change is not the issue; they are ready to change their behavior but need the guidance and mechanisms to do so.

A media campaign on nationally and regionally relevant issues should be used as a vehicle to raise awareness about sustainability. This campaign could feature and publicize easily understood benchmarks of sustainable development. People have become familiar with national numeric measures of the economy, such as the gross domestic product, inflation rate, and unemployment index, as well as such indicators of environmental quality as the air quality index. As indicators of sustainability are developed, the media should feature these "yardsticks" as part of their regular coverage.

Daily and weekly reports of trends and measures will help increase understanding of costs and benefits, and contribute to public awareness of areas where a change in course is needed. Like economic indicators, sustainable development indicators will provide policy makers and the public with a more accurate view of progress in achieving sustainability goals. These national benchmarks will make it easier for all sectors of society to reach consensus on tough issues related to sustainability.

Much is being done toward developing relevant indicators and benchmarks, as the following examples illustrate.

  • Federal Indicators. A federal interagency effort, the Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators, is aimed at creating indicators and yardsticks by which the American public can track and monitor progress in specific areas relating to environmental quality; sustainability; and the complex interconnections among social, economic, and environmental forces.

  • National Goals. The President's Council on Sustainable Development, in its report Sustainable America: a New Consensus, released 10 national sustainability goals and a set of corresponding indicators.

  • Community-Level Indicators. The Foundation for the Future of Youth, through its Rescue Mission Indicators Project, is working to create partnerships among groups of students around the world to create community-level indicators to measure progress toward meeting sustainable development goals. The foundation is developing youth-run state centers to coordinate this work locally.

  • Urban Indicators. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is working with the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research to develop urban and shelter sector indicators at the national level based on research in 77 U.S. cities. This research has been compiled in a database and includes indicators in the following categories: employment and economic development; demographic factors; housing and land use; poverty and income distribution; fiscal conditions and the public sector; and environment, health, and other social indicators. HUD is also working with nonprofit organizations, professional journals, and Canadian housing groups to promote further public engagement and awareness of indicators and the role they play in identify ing key problems and working toward their solution.

  • State Benchmarks. Oregon has selected benchmarks to serve as indicators of the state's well-being. Oregon's 259 benchmarks are organized according to core and urgent indicators. Core indicators examine primary and long-term goals for the state: family stability, capacity, enhanced quality of life and the environment, and promotion of a strong and diverse economy. Urgent indicators examine critical issues facing the state, such as endangered wild salmon runs and rising teen pregnancy rates. According to the Oregon Progress Board, which was created to maintain focus on its vision of the future and to assess trends affecting this vision, "Failure to reach urgent benchmarks in the near term threatens our ability to achieve other, more fundamental benchmark s years down the road."

Color Me Green*
"People say, we're only children. People say, what can we do. Can't you see we are the future, and right now we're depending on you?" These are the words of songwriter Mike Nobel. They are powerful to read, but just imagine the impact when a group of students known as the Color Me Green singers put these words to music. Mike Nobel's songs and the Color Me Green singers are part of the Color Me Green campaign in Portland, Maine, to build awareness of environmental, community, and intergenerational issues.

Now in its third year, the award-winning campaign has been made possible by an enthusiastic partnership involving the local television station 6ALIVE, businesses, state regulatory agencies, environmental groups, educators, parents, and students. The campaign features four components: Nobel's songs, produced as music videos and aired as public service announcements; a series of "Ecotips," individual actions that people can carry out in the community; "Earth Notes' which describe current issues, such as what industries are doing to become more environmentally responsible; and a public education program that disseminates a Color Me Green school kit to schools throughout the state.

The Color Me Green campaign has been a huge success. The National Association of Broadcasters awarded it first place at the 1994 Service to Children Awards, and said that the campaign, "reflects the best of what America represents." And the fame of the Color Me Green singers is spreading. The group's recordings and videos have been circulated around the world to international acclaim. As one of their songs says, ""Cause everything we do today can change our tomorrow. And maybe when kids lead the way, the whole world will follow."

*Color Me Greenc lyrics copyrighted by Mike Nobel, Gorham, Maine, 1993.

WQED Public Television Series on Sustainable Development
The Pittsburgh public broadcasting station, in conjunction with New Vision Communications and the Jefferson Energy Foundation, is producing a series of one-hour programs about the implementation of sustainable development practices in the United States and throughout the Americas. The goal of the series is to introduce viewers to the concepts of sustainable development using documentary profiles of compelling case studies. It will use many of the success stories featured in Sustainable America: A New Consensus, the final report of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, as well as examples based on research by the World Resources Institute.

Providing Outreach

Action 3: A new or expanded national extension network should be developed to provide needed information to enhance the capacity of individuals and communities to exist sustainably.

To complement a public information campaign on sustainability, a vehicle is needed to ensure that information is accessible and accurate at the community level to initiate community action. This can be accomplished through information sharing on practical actions that individuals can undertake as consumers, members of the workforce, and community residents. The same vehicle also could facilitate coordination with state efforts to encourage education for sustainability, and help guide nonformal educational venues such as museums and nature centers in making the transition. Similarly, technical assistance will be needed to help introduce new sustainable technologies within the nation's industrial, transportation, and communications sectors. Clean environmental technologies will be needed to help industry augment current practices for controlling pollution and cleaning up wastes by adding sustainable practices such as prevention of pollution and efficient use of energy and resources.

A national extension service, which collects and disseminates information on particular topics of interest, could be used to meet the research, technology transfer, and community needs generated by those interested in charting a sustainable course. It could make information on sustainability widely available to the public, schools, media, communities, and businesses and could clarify and infuse sustainability issues into the nation's environmental, economic, and social agendas.

Extension services have a proven track record of providing outreach and integrating research and education at the community, county, and state levels. Various federal agencies and organizations have successfully coordinated and made available existing information through such services. Notable models for a Sustainable Development Extension Network include the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension System, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant College Program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Space Grant Program, the Department of the Interior's National Parks Outreach Program, and the Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Also, the Office of Economic Conversion Information at the U.S. Department of Commerce has a clearinghouse offering information on economic development, defense adjustment, technology transfer, and community sustainability. And the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment is establishing a national library to link major collections of data and centers of scientific expertise for use by scientists and public users. A new or expanded national extension network on sustainability could work collaboratively to focus on interrelated issues such as communities, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, coastal zone and marine environments, technology transfer, and education.

Information gives people the power to shape their own futures. The extension network can provide educational expertise, needed information on sustainability, technical assistance, and training for individuals and employees in organizations and businesses interested in applying sustainable development principles.

Establishing a Sustainable Development Extension Network could help ensure that local needs drive national policy. In addition, the network could help clarify research, education, and extension roles for government agencies and the private sector. It could help ensure that national policy and programs for sustainability are coordinated.

The success of the extension effort will be measured by the actions taken by local communities and the adoption of new technologies by industries. A major criterion for evaluation may be responsiveness to actual community needs. Extension activities will have to remain flexible and innovative so that they are targeted to changing conditions as society advances along the path to sustainability.

Some model extension services and networks are already being forged locally and nationally, as these examples describe.

  • Sustainable Communities Network. Concern, Inc., on behalf of a national partnership, announced plans to create the Sustainable Communities Network, an interactive, on-line clearinghouse that will help communities improve their economic, social, and environmental well-being. The network will make information on tools, technologies, and innovative projects and programs readily available to citizens, planners, public officials, educators, and entrepreneurs. An ongoing, extensive evaluation will be conducted by participants in eight communities around the country to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the network's information. Supported by public and private funding, the network is being developed collaboratively by organizations from the Pacific No rthwest to the Chesapeake Bay and in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • Education for Sustainable Development Clearinghouse. Second Nature is developing an electronic Environmental Reference Center to provide sophisticated and sound information that will empower educators from all disciplines to become environmental and sustainability experts. The center will also encourage educators to revise their courses to include education about the relationship between humans and the environment. It includes 1,500 references to the latest resources on sustainability including books, articles, videos, and electronic resources. In addition, the center will include a database of over 250 courses with environmental content to provide examples to professors in all disciplines and to demonstrate the realistic integration of sustainability concepts into courses.

  • Farm and Home-A-Syst. The pollution potential of over 22,000 private land- and homeowners was assessed through a joint program, Farm and Home-A-Syst, administered by the Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and EPA. First, a site-specific environmental risk assessment is conducted and then it is followed by an education program. The goal is to encourage farmers and homeowners to voluntarily fix potential or existing environmental problems brought on by petroleum and pesticide handling, decaying underground gasoline tanks; and household disposal of wastewater, cleaning fluids, and paint solvents. The Future Farmers of America has worked in partnership with the program to integrate the lessons into the school curriculum in both Span ish and English. By applying research-based, best management practices, the Farm and Home-A-Syst educational program costs $1 for every $3 to $9 realized in savings from pollution prevention efforts.

  • Fetzer Extension Partnership. An educational partnership between the University of California Extension, Fetzer Winery, and the local school district was launched using the SERIES model. A 4-H program, SERIES (Science Experiences and Resources for Informal Educational Settings) is a multidimensional delivery system where scientists mentor teenagers, and teenagers mentor younger children. The goal is to teach about the entire food system, from the farmer and the field to the consumer and society, and to learn about sustainable agriculture techniques. Fetzer was an ideal site for this project, since two-thirds of the Fetzer vineyards are farmed under the organic gardening label.

  • Florida Sustainable Development. Because of recurring water shortages in Sarasota County, Florida, a two-year moratorium on all building construction was proposed and defeated in 1991. Citizens decided, however, that if there is to be development in their community, it must be properly managed. The extension agents in Sarasota County initiated a discussion forum with public planners, private developers, licensed building contractors, landscape architects, and public and private commercial and residential property owners. The result of the forum was that a statewide educational program called Build Green and Profit was developed to educate about alternative practices that reduce the environmental impact of building construction.

  • Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO). Local municipal officials on the Connecticut River watershed are being taught how to use geographically based resource information from remote-sensing satellites to make land development decisions. The University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and EPA, are combining technology with outreach and education to better understand and predict the effects of urban and suburban development on nonpoint source pollution. NEMO addresses storm water treatment through more effective zoning, and development planning and watershed management through coordinated uses of technology and education.

Expanding Community Visioning

Action 4: Local and state governments should continue to extend their partnerships with community organizations and other levels of government to support community sustainability planning processes and periodic assessments.

Flourishing communities are the foundation of a healthy society. At the community level, sustainable development means building partnerships among business, government, the nonprofit sector, and citizen groups to develop a shared vision for the future. It means working together to provide jobs for all citizens while simultaneously managing community resources responsibly. It also means providing all citizens the opportunity to live in a healthy, clean, and safe community.

Overcoming barriers to change is not an easy task. For this reason, people need to embrace their own vision of the advantages of living in a sustainable world before they will be inspired to act and make the necessary behavioral changes. Community residents need to create a collaborative vision of what their community needs to sustain itself into the next century. Across the country, people are meeting this challenge by participating in planning, implementation, and assessment exercises that measure their progress toward meeting their goals.

With proper education and jobs, citizens themselves can transform urban areas, renovating and creating affordable housing, cleaning streets and parks, ridding their neighborhoods of crime and drugs, planting trees and gardens, and even encouraging new smaller scale economic development.

--Francis H. Duehay,
City Councilor
Cambridge, MA

Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 charges communities with formulating action plans to move toward a sustainable future.8 The first step in each municipality's long-range planning for sustainability is to initiate a "visioning" process. How does visioning or community planning work and how will it promote community sustainability? This process involves bringing diverse members of the public together to discuss and define sustainability at the local level. From their collective vision emerges support for implementation plans and projects. These in turn are measured periodically by indicators gauging the community's success in meeting its goals.

Citizens who participate in community visioning exercises are asked to describe their idea of an ideal community. This vision usually comprises a safe and healthy community with parks; walking and bike paths; good schools supported by parents and community organizations; affordable and clean housing; recreational facilities, museums, and libraries; clean, energy-efficient transportation to replace traffic jams and road noise; and clean, safe, and friendly streets. Creating a vision of a desired future lets a community compare an ideal state with what will likely occur if present trends continue. By backcasting from the vision to the present, appropriate changes in policy and behavior can be identified. Participants in the visioning process clarify their values and become proactive change agents rather than victims of circumstance.9

Just as municipalities vary enormously, so will their visions. What is considered sustainable under certain conditions may not be sustainable under others. Each community will need an overall plan for becoming sustainable that addresses its unique local economic, environmental, social, or technological demands. In a community located in a desert, for example, sustainable use of water resources may differ greatly from sustainable use in a mountain community or a city situated on a major river or near a sizable underground aquifer. The natural environment and other factors will affect a community's needs and vision: This means that the plan developed must be regionally specific and must consider interconnections between the community and other locations near and far. There are many alternative paths to sustainability, and the task of visioning is to find a particular community's best road to a better future.

The reasons for initiating the visioning process are diverse. Some towns may embark on a visioning process in response to the closing of a military base, the devastation created by a natural disaster, economic doldrums, or environmental problems.

  • Natural Disaster. After the Missouri town of Pattonsburg was literally washed away by the 1993 floods, the town used a consensus-based visioning process during its relocation to higher ground to ensure that the new community would be energy-efficient and economically prosperous.

  • Economics. The community of Silverton, Washington, is engaging in a collaborative planning process to deal with the effects of economic changes in the area's logging industry.

  • Resource Use. In Jacksonville, Florida, a local businessman's concern over growth and consequent strain on resources led to a visioning process that uses indicators of progress and targets for the year 2000.

  • Long-Term Planning. In Santa Monica, California, a process was initiated to address underlying, long-term issues related to resource conservation, solid waste, water and wastewater, energy, transportation, pollution prevention, public health protection, and community and economic development. The program will be re-evaluated in the year 2000.

  • Holistic Planning. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a book entitled Albuquerque's Environmental Story: Toward a Sustainable Community was created to provide a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to Albuquerque's natural, built, and human environments. Now in its third edition, this book gives students the knowledge needed to develop current and future policies, and to carry out hands-on experiments and actions within their community.

Education is crucial to this process. An active community outreach and education program must be in place to help people understand and adjust to changes in their community brought on by the transition to sustainability. Such formal and nonformal educational efforts as the information clearinghouse previously mentioned will contribute to the visioning process and follow-up assessments. In particular, the proposed Sustainable Development Extension Network could provide information to help facilitate visioning activities.

Community visioning exercises need support at all levels of government as well as from organizations, businesses, and citizens. At the federal level, the Sustainable Communities Task Force, one of the eight task forces of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, has developed an action strategy to move our nation's communities toward sustainability. The Task Force drew constructive guidance from actual community experiences to develop policy recommendations that, when implemented, will invigorate our communities to be more livable in the broadest sense -- environmentally, economically, and socially. Other efforts at the federal, state, and local levels are emerging as well, especially with assistance from national organizations such as the National League of Cities, the National Governors' Association, and the International City/County Management Association.

Some examples of visioning in action follow:

  • Seattle, Washington. Sustainable Seattle, a voluntary network of citizens from many sectors of the community, began meeting in 1990 to promote sustainability. This citizen-led public forum has hosted many events and roundtable discussions concerning the future of the Puget Sound area. The primary focus has been to develop indicators of a sustainable community. These indicators allow the community to measure its current health in the broad areas of environment, population, education, and civic engagement. Sustainable Seattle's neighborhood network is currently recruiting volunteers to participate in the city's neighborhood planning process. Through these efforts and others, Sustainable Seattle is working to infuse the concept of sustainability in Seattle's development.

  • Noblesville, Indiana. In a year-long series of facilitated meetings, the town of Noblesville, Indiana, developed goals and set benchmarks to guide the community's future in the areas of land use and social and economic assets (development). The process, coordinated by Indiana University, was modeled after an Oregon statewide initiative but included several aspects unique to Noblesville. These included consideration of (1) social issues through the involvement of a local group representing community social service providers and (2) information on interrelationships among community concerns, such as the measurement of formal and informal business, education, and community partnerships.

  • Plymouth, Wisconsin. The Plymouth Institute, which evolved from a 15 year-old community called High Wind, is a nonprofit consortium of environmental designers/builders, educators, artists, scientists, farmers, futurists, and entrepreneurs whose purpose is to define, demonstrate, and communicate values and practices of sustainable living. The 292 acres includes an organic farm, aquaculture system, solar homes, and a 70-acre eco-village that is in the design phase. It also cooperatively administers a comprehensive education and outreach program with several universities and school districts to local, national, and international communities. For example, Plymouth Institute/High Wind helped organize Sustainable Wisconsin, a statewide initiative to build a public agenda for sustainable development. Founder and resident of Plymouth Institute Belden Paulson believes that developing an environment ". . . where people live in honesty and harmony with one another and nature [allows them to] acknowledge and celebrate the divine interconnectedness of all life, and a commitment to holistic thinking and living."

  • Greenville County, South Carolina. The United Way and Community Planning Council of Greenville County helps produce a community wide Needs Assessment Planning Study (NAPS) every three or four years. Using a community process that involves a broad range of citizens, NAPS identifies a set of issues related to the social problems faced in the county. In 1995, NAPS identified four such issues: early childhood development, dropout prevention, work and economic opportunity, and human services delivery and neighborhood development. The NAPS data provide the basis for focused action aimed at long-term improvement. Thus, in 1995, task forces representing broad areas of community life and collaborations of public and voluntary organizations were formed for each of the four issue areas. They are developing short- and long-range action plans, implementing them, and evaluating the results.

  • Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. The people of Santa Ana, whose tribal economy was traditionally based on agriculture, have lived near the convergence of the Rio Jemez and Rio Grande in New Mexico since 1700. During the 1970s, lack of access to credit discouraged family farming and led to off-reservation wage work. In 1980, tribal leaders formulated programs to establish greater economic independence while honoring traditional customs. These programs led to several integrated agriculture-based enterprises, including an organic tribal farm, a grain mill, a retail garden center, and a native plant and tree nursery. Today, tribal crops are sold in stores across the country and are the main food source for the Prairie Star, an upscale restaurant on the reservation serving the Albuquerque area. In addition, the tribal farm specializes in growing and processing blue corn products sold in cosmetics shops worldwide.

  • Owensboro, Kentucky. Owensboro is western Kentucky's largest city. Until recently, many of its downtown sites were either unsightly or vacant. In a successful community wide effort to revitalize the downtown area, Owensboro residents raised $16 million to build Riverpark Complex, a civic and arts facility which includes a museum, theater, arts center, and administrative offices. Owensboro also convinced a paper company to locate a $500 million tissue products plant in the city, thereby creating 550 new manufacturing jobs. Through the vision of its citizens; creative financing; and the formation of solid partnerships among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of the community, economic growth and revitalization in Owensboro are becoming a reality.

  • The U.S. Network for Habitat II. The U.S. Network for Habitat II, a project of the Tides Center and a creation of the Citizens Network for Sustainable Development, is a national coalition of non-governmental and community-based organizations and interested individuals. These groups came together to advocate broad and diverse U.S. participation in the Second Conference on Human Settlements, June 3-14, 1996, in Istanbul, Turkey. Also known as Habitat II or "the City Summit," this conference focused on achieving universal housing and on building sustainable communities. To gear up for the conference, the U.S. Network for Habitat II conducted 12 town meetings to engage American citizens in a civic discussion about the future of its cities and towns. For most U.S. citizens participating in the town meetings and in the conference, the greatest benefit was linking the global issues of Habitat II to key needs of mainstream Americans.

Chattanooga: A Community for Sustainability
In 1969, a U.S. government study on air quality criteria for particulate matter declared Chattanooga, Tennessee, America's most polluted city. This pronouncement, coupled with economic recession, environmental degradation, governmental in-fighting, and general urban decline, pushed the city into a downward spiral.

To effect a turnaround, Chattanooga in 1984 invited its citizens to come to the table and offer their hopes, ideas, and goals for the future. More than 1,700 residents participated in a series of community visioning meetings. Out of this process came a revitalized riverfront with fishing piers, restaurants, housing, a business park, and a city aquarium that generated $133 million in economic activity in its first year alone.

Also as a result of this visioning, Chattanooga is now a living laboratory for the research, design, and manufacture of electric-powered public transit buses. The city's transit authority teamed with a private research center and a new company to provide continuous, free, electric-powered shuttles in the downtown area. Chattanooga today operates and maintains the world's largest electric-powered bus fleet.

Other outcomes include 4,166 units of new affordable housing, a family violence shelter, a restructured government that increases accountability and provides the opportunity for a broader and more diverse pool of candidates for local office, a plan for a county wide network of greenways along streams to enhance the integrity of the watershed, citywide recycling with sorting contracted through a rehabilitation center for mentally challenged adults, and training workshops in environmental education for teachers.

Chattanooga's story is not finished. Although the city has met most of its goals, it is now engaged in a process called Revision 2000 which will help the city adjust to its changing needs and prepare for a sustainable future.

All of these accomplishments have made Chattanooga a more desirable place to live and have elevated the public's commitment to Chattanooga. But one accomplishment in particular helped Chattanoogans breathe easier: In 1990, after more than two decades of trying, the city attained Clean Air status.

Center for Excellence
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a Center for Excellence for Sustainable Development -- a service to help communities get started on their own sustainable development activities. The center is an outgrowth of DOE's work in 1994 and 1995, when it helped two Midwest communities destroyed by flooding -- Pattonsburg, Missouri, and Valmeyer, Illinois -- plan new towns with sustainable development features. Since then, DOE has received a number of additional requests for help and will now make its materials available nationwide. The center will offer communities a tool kit of workbooks, guidebooks, and data. These include guidance on design and construction of "green" buildings and using computer programs to design neighborhoods that waste less energy, more than 70 case studies and more than 150 slides of successful community projects, model ordinances and codes communities are using to implement sustainable development, and a database of nearly 800 public and private programs that offer technical or financial help.

Fostering Workforce Training

Action 5: Employers -- in partnership with all levels of government, community organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and others -- should develop training programs to create a workforce with the skills and abilities needed to adapt to changes brought on by the national and global transition to sustainability.

We will need farmers, business persons, writers, bureaucrats, builders, foresters, and workers who are also ecologically literate and competent and who can build sustainable solutions from the bottom up.

-- David Orr, Oberlin College

Employers, employees, and the self-employed need education and training that lets them reexamine the nature of their work -- what is produced and how it is produced -- so that they will contribute to sustainability in their homes and communities as well as in their workplaces. Incentives such as increased wages, greater job security, and increased training opportunities should be offered to employees who find innovative ways for their companies to conserve resources, reduce production costs, and help the company prosper.

Educators are the key to readying the nation for the transition to sustainability. They can shape the workforce in part by focusing increased attention on career preparation, especially for those who do not attend college. A 1990 study concluded that the productivity of workers in jobs that do not require a college education will make or break the nation's economic future.10 The report states that America invests comparatively little in these front-line workers, who are fast becoming unemployable at U.S. wage levels. A 1988 report agrees, "Our economy, national security, and social cohesion face a precarious future if our nation fails to develop now the comprehensive policies and programs needed to help all youth."11

Anecdotal support for this conclusion was voiced at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, roundtable convened by the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force to discuss jobs, labor, and sustainability. Participants noted that their biggest concern is preparing students to be community citizens who will have the knowledge and training needed to become part of the workforce. Despite this concern, representatives from the diverse industries and organizations in Chattanooga had never sat down to discuss impediments to reaching this goal. Their assessment was that schools are failing to connect curricula with real-life situations and, consequently, are failing to prepare students with the skills needed in the workforce.

But formal, in-school education will not answer to all the employment-related training needs raised by sustainability. Workers in all vocations -- from farmers and computer technicians to plant managers and shop owners -- will need to be trained to incorporate sustainability into their jobs. New industries employing sustainable practices will require a flexible and adaptable workforce that is prepared for a world in transition. At the same time, many resource-intensive industries may contract out for services, displacing workers who will need to be retrained for work in sustainable enterprises. Worker training is essential, but if sustainability is to become a household word, advocates must respond to the job loss, insecurity, and falling wages facing America's workers.

-- Ruth Caplan, Coordinator
Economics Working Group
Tides Foundation

Jobs in environmental industries contribute to sustainability and are presently high-growth areas. Demand for trained workers in environmentally related fields such as air quality management, sustainable energy production, hazardous waste management, and resource recovery is projected at a composite annual growth rate of six percent.12 More jobs will be needed to design and build water treatment plants, increase the efficiency of power plants, insulate homes, build bike paths, and manage parks and wildlife. Workers will need to be trained for these jobs.

Business and organized labor can play constructive roles in educating workers for sustainability. Companies can help finance formal and nonformal educational programs and can support work-based training in sustainable practices. Labor can help focus attention on the need for this kind of training and the fact that in a sustainable economy all citizens can obtain secure, ongoing means of livelihood with full benefits at livable wages -- jobs that improve the quality of life while protecting the local and global environment.

Education must go beyond training workers. Educational outreach programs are needed to help community leaders and community-based economic development organizations become aware of the need for new strategies to develop a sustainable job base that promotes stability through diversification and locally owned, environmentally responsible enterprises. For example, in 1992, Boston announced plans to help create 10,000 new jobs in environmental services, including a $4 million recycling center.13 Communities will need technical assistance to implement similar economic development strategies. Entrepreneurs will need access to financing so they can establish sustainable enterprises, and communities will need funds for programs to train workers in the new industries. Rapid consolidation in the banking industry is making it increasingly difficult for communities and entrepreneurs to obtain that financing, a situation that must be remedied.

Educating workers and employers for a sustainable world needs to become a national priority, and a national effort to provide workforce training should be launched. In particular, training efforts should target K-12 students, students receiving vocational training at the secondary and postsecondary school levels, new employees and employers, employees and employers who need on-the-job upgrading of skills and training in sustainable practices, and displaced workers who must be retrained so they can find work in new industries.

Work-based learning is critical in equipping adults with the knowledge and skills they will need in a fast-changing world. On-the-job training is important in every economic sector, including service industries. One service industry -- health care -- is developing a program for educating its workforce that could serve as a model for other sectors of the economy. The National Association of Physicians for the Environment was founded in 1992 to educate physicians, patients, and the public. The association convenes conferences on environmental health issues, works to "green" the nation's 180,000 physicians' offices, and encourages physicians and other health practitioners to inform patients about the connection between pollution prevention and disease prevention.

Training and retraining programs must proliferate as the economy shifts to more efficient practices. Some businesses already are taking a proactive approach to training in business schools and should extend that effort. For example, companies are partnering with business schools to create internships and courses in environmental management that will help produce graduates knowledgeable of the environment's implications for business, including market opportunities resulting from environmental regulations.

Business and engineering schools at the University of Michigan and Carnegie-Mellon University have received funding for these kinds of programs from IBM and Dow Chemical. Similar initiatives in vocational education at the secondary and postsecondary levels should be established so that business will have the skilled workforce it will need to remain competitive in the global economy. Cooperative efforts by business and organized labor in this area would benefit both.

"School-to-work" opportunities offered through partnerships between industry and educators also should be encouraged. Promising models for career preparation range from career academies to "tech-prep" programs. The latter are often referred to as "2+2" programs, because they generally involve two years of high school and two years of postsecondary instruction. The idea is to administer a sequence of courses that prepares students for a variety of occupations within an industry. Tech-prep courses supported under the 1990 Perkins amendment to the federal vocational education law are coordinated through consultation with local businesses and unions. As of mid-1993, as many as 100,000 students in the United States were participating in tech-prep programs.

A recent study of 16 innovative school-to-work programs by Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation recommends that federal policy promote common themes and underlying principles rather than prescribe a specific program model. Localities should have the flexibility to customize their own school-to-work strategy, whether that means restructuring existing vocational programs or adopting another approach such as youth apprenticeships. Quality career preparation is desirable, achievable, and essential for attaining a sustainable society.

Some examples of ongoing innovative workforce training projects follow:

  • Career Academies. While the modern American high school tends to isolate students from the adult world, career academies involve students in real-world careers early on. Career academies offer the opportunity to select an occupational theme, such as computers, finance, health, business, or tourism, and obtain actual experience through mentoring, summer work experiences, and internships. Typically structured as a "school within a school," a career academy generally consists of a group of students and teachers who get together for several hours each day. Businesses provide the academy participants with mentors, workshops, part-time jobs, and -- on graduation -- full-time employment with career potential. Career options range from jobs that require no postsecondary education to professions requiring advanced degrees. Curricula are formulated collaboratively through partnerships between schools and local employers.

  • Business Schools for Sustainability. Created by the Management Institute for Environment and Business, the Business Environment Learning and Leadership program (BELL) is a consortium of 25 business schools committed to incorporating environmental issues into their curricula. BELL links universities, corporations, and communities to foster the "greening" of management education. Internships and permanent employment opportunities will offer MBA students the chance to integrate environmental concerns into management decision processes.

  • Crouse School of Management. At present, only 100 out of 700 schools of business in the United States offer courses on business and the environment.14 One of those schools is the Crouse School of Management at Syracuse University. First year business students are required to take a course called Managing in the Natural Environment. Incorporated into this course are issues such as environmental ethics and ecology; jobs, competitiveness, and environmental regulation; global problems; businesses and challenges of sustainable development; and strategies for a sustainable society. The business school curriculum is also buttressed with courses such as land development law and environmental law.

  • Zero Impact Program. GNB Technologies, an Atlanta, Georgia, division of Pacific Dunlop, manufactures lead-acid batteries for all markets in the United States. Together with EARTHWATCH in Boston, GNB has designed a Zero Impact Program to introduce the principles of sustainable development to GNB's 6,000 employees. EARTHWATCH and GNB hope that this educational program will help employees to find new and creative ways to make their process zero impact, minimum emissions, and low toxic material through-puts over the long term.

Green Tech
In 1995, a south Boston High School recognized the growth of employment opportunities in the environmental field. The school saw this growth as an opportunity to prepare students to meet the challenges of today's changing workforce. The result was Green Tech, a program connecting the classroom to the workplace by preparing urban high school students for environmental careers.

Working in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Boston Private Industry Council, Green Tech is a model program for environmental education, career awareness, and career preparation. Green Tech prepares students for environmental careers through specialized academic instruction and a progressive series of internships, "shadowships," and after-school and summer jobs.

Green Tech began on a small scale by selecting 25 sophomores to intern in environmental businesses during their junior and senior years of high school. By 1998, Green Tech envisions that all 1,000 students then participating in the program will graduate with a four-year education in environmental studies and possess the skills required to pursue environmental careers successfully.

Employers are benefiting from the program by helping develop a pool of potential workers who will not need extensive training once they enter the workforce. Students benefit by being able to complement their academic instruction with on-site work experience.

Shore Trust: Conservation-Based Development
in the Rainforests of Home
ShoreTrust has a strategy for a new economy based on environmental restoration and community development. Currently focused on coastal temperate rainforest communities in the Pacific Northwest, ShoreTrust's goal is to demonstrate that environmental restoration, economic development, and job creation can be mutually reinforcing goals. Created in the early 1990s, ShoreTrust grew out of a unique partnership between Shorebank Corporation of Chicago and Ecotrust, a Portland-based nonprofit conservation organization.

The demonstration site for ShoreTrust's work is the Willapa watershed in southwest Washington. Willapa's economy has traditionally been based on natural resource extraction, primarily timber, fish, and cranberries, with little processing or value-added production before export. Structural changes in these industries over the last two decades, accompanied by recessionary pressures, have led to declining business investment and rising unemployment and poverty rates. ShoreTrust developed a strategy to help spark local investment and support a transition in the regional economic base. The conservation-based development strategy aimed at encouraging the creation and expansion of environmentally restorative businesses in the Willapa watershed.

Market testing determined that strong regional and national demand exists for environmentally restorative goods and services and that, with appropriate assistance, responsible entrepreneurs could take advantage of these opportunities. These natural resource-based businesses could then become the cornerstone of broad-ranging environmental restoration throughout the coastal temperate rainforest region along the Pacific Coast from Northern California to the Alaskan Peninsula.

To help these new businesses establish themselves in the community, ShoreTrust Bank was established. Scheduled to be operational in 1997, ShoreTrust Bank will lend to businesses in targeted communities throughout the coastal rainforest region to enhance community development and ecosystem health. "ShoreTrust Bank should be a significant addition to the state's economic fabric," says John Bley, Washington State Banking Commissioner. "The integration of community development and environmental health is critical to the future of rural Washington."

EcoDeposits, FDIC-insured bank products, are now being raised by South Shore Bank in Chicago and will provide the foundation for ShoreTrust Bank. Over 350 environmentally minded individuals and institutions throughout the country have joined in ShoreTrust's work by opening EcoDeposit accounts.

ShoreTrust is demonstrating that business and conservation can work together to help restore ecosystem and community health and improve the quality of people's lives.

Jobs, Labor, and Sustainability Roundtables
"We have to get together and exchange ideas. Difference of opinion is what makes us think."

- Walter Johnson, Secretary General of the San Francisco Labor Council

The Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force (PLTF) held three roundtable dialogues on jobs, labor, and sustainability. The purpose was to engage community members in thinking collectively about the state of employment in their community, and what could be done to enhance the current employment situation. Chattanooga, TN was the site of the first roundtable. It brought together people from the local technical colleges and universities, as well as labor representatives, high school students, government officials, and industry leaders. The dominant theme of this roundtable was that continual training -- for students and workers -- was necessary to provide the discipline of learning and the skills needed to lead to meaningful employment opportunities. Additionally, all agreed that successful training efforts would only be realized if the local unions and businesses, vocational and public schools, and the community continue the dialogue and work together to develop programs that reflect the needs of the community.

In Boston, MA the roundtable focused on economic diversification, and developing strategies to sustainably use available natural resources such as fish stocks. Over-fishing in Boston Harbor has caused a severe depletion of fish stocks -- severe enough to have federal and state governments stepping in to curtail fishing in the area. Participants at the roundtable recognized the need to engage the public in creating a sustainability plan for their region. Said Tim Costello of Call to Action, "All of this is about revitalizing democracy. We have to develop ways to involve people in thinking about alternatives to the path we are heading down . . . governments, communities, and businesses need to support and fund a vigorous grassroots revival to participate in a community process . . . we need to ensure an adequate social safety net so the transition to new and better ways of doing things can be made without devastating people."

At the third roundtable in San Francisco, the theme was how to provide young people with education and training opportunities that would make them better suited for quality jobs with benefits and livable wages. One participant stressed the importance of school-to-work programs that help create incentives for students to be self-sufficient, and an increase in community efforts to create and offer quality jobs that youth are motivated to pursue. Said one advocate for California reinvestment, "A major problem is disinvestment in the communities . . . the lack of an engaged citizenry, a stakeholders' society, poses the greatest threat currently to sustainability." Small business owners and managers were quick to agree and voiced an eagerness to serve their communities by creating new employment opportunities, but encouraged the community to work together to direct funding to these areas.

The roundtable sessions provided diverse community representatives with the opportunity to discuss the most pressing issues facing their communities. Some of the issues mentioned included portable pensions, support during workplace and workforce transitions, worker training, school-to-work programs, creative funding options, and provisions for livable wages. However, education, dialogue, and action were touted as the most important remedies to help curb future employment crisis. It was agreed that individuals with interdisciplinary thinking skills are what creates innovation and solutions in our dynamic, global economy.

As the Postal Service Goes, So Goes the Nation
The United States Postal Service is one of the oldest and most efficiently run businesses in the country. It is known for its delivery people who brave adverse weather conditions, long distances, and dogs to deliver the mail anywhere in the nation. What is not known by many citizens is the leadership role the Postal Service is taking to promote sustainability on the national level as well as within its own organization. "The vision of the Postal Service's environmental programs is to achieve compliance with government regulations and to serve as a leader for government, industry, and communities," explains Charlie Bravo, Manager of Environmental Management Policy. "As one of our guiding principles states, "we will foster the sustainable use of our natural resources by promoting pollution prevention, reducing waste, recycling, and reusing material.""

The Postal Service has adopted environmental, social, and economic goals -- many of which are already being met. Environmentally, the Postal Service is a national leader in the use of recycled products including paper, retreaded tires, and re-refined oil; and has the nation's largest natural gas-powered delivery fleet -- more than 6,800 vehicles. Electric- and ethanol-powered vehicles are also being tested. On the community outreach side, the Postal Service has partnered with businesses such as Xerox, with whom it was involved in a return merchandise program for used copier toner cartridges. Economically, the Postal Service is increasing revenues through environmental compliance. For example, in 1995, more than one million tons of wastepaper, cardboard, and other material were recycled by the Postal Service resulting in $6.4 million in revenue. Locally, in Houston, for example, more than 500 tons of waste paper are recycled each month; this has generated more than $300,000 in revenue.

These accomplishments were made possible through aggressive employee training and public outreach programs. "Implementation of these types of initiatives requires awareness and cooperation throughout the organization," says Dawn Lebek, Environmental Compliance Coordinator for the Baltimore District. "In our organization, there is a continuous effort to educate and involve employees in pollution prevention, waste minimization, recycling, and affirmative procurement. Employees are encouraged to participate on committees and to make recommendations that incorporate environmental programs into everyday operations. Employee involvement is critical if we are to realize our vision."

Education does not stop at the Postal Service walls; rather, its awareness efforts are filtering into communities, businesses, and schools. For example, in 1994, the Postal Service partnered with the McDonalds Corporation to sponsor a contest for youth to design four commemorative "Kid's Care" environmental stamps as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of Earth Day. The winning stamps portray reforestation, cleaning the earth, cleaning the beaches, and solar energy. The Postal Service is also involved in developing public service announcements, videotapes, and "good environmental citizen" kits, as well as using the Internet to convey information about environmental stewardship. "With almost 40,000 facilities across the country, our environmental programs can really have a positive impact in every community from coast to coast," notes Bravo.


Chapter 5
Table of Contents

Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force Report

Task Force Members and Liasons

A Letter from the Task Force


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Appendix A: Endnotes

Appendix B: Acknowledgments

Appendix C: Resource Guide

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