Best Practices

Best Practices for Sustainable Community Development

One of the goals of the Nebraska Sustainability Leadership Workshops, an intiative of the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities, is to encourage elected and civic leaders to incorporate Best Practices in their planning for community development. Following is a concise summary of Best Practices for Sustainable Community Development, using the Five Domains as a guide:


  • Know what is fragile and irreplaceable in your region.
  • Know what is renewable and can be used in constructive and economical ways.
  • Designate “no-build”, “no-development” zones with public policies.
  • Know what existing policies (local, state, federal) relate to the natural resources in your locale.
  • Establish incentives and performance-based criteria for the appropriate public behavior.


  • Know the history of the place.
  • Celebrate the positives of cultural history.
  • Describe the future of a learning community; a creative, progressive community.
  • Emphasize future opportunities; diminish negative thinking.
  • Emphasize transparent and participatory government and decision-making.
  • Seek collaboration from and with neighboring communities.


  • Promote and invest in technologies that will save resources, time, money, or expand new opportunities.
  • Eschew technologies that are not efficient and that may be wasteful of other resources in the long-run.
  • Reevaluate low-tech, older technologies for new applications to new issues.
  • Assess all technologies in a systems context with the other four domains of sustainability.
  • Encourage and promote investments in new technologies that have long-term, positive implications for the whole community.
  • Evaluate all infra-structure decisions to seek multiple solutions with single system expenditures.


  • Evaluate all public expenditures on both a first-cost and life-cycle cost basis.
  • Seek a balance of proportionate expenditures, based upon appropriate ratios of those who will gain from a public investment.
  • Apply economic analyses and sustainability indicators to each of the other four sustainability domains; analyze the aggregate for balance among the five, and for potential “unintended consequences”.
  • Be cautious of obligating future generations of community dwellers to expenditures that may not enhance their community or their lives.
  • Seek public/private partnerships in all community investments.

Public Policy

  • Perform assessments of local, state, and federal public policies that have become barriers to sustainable development; perform these assessments continuously, or on regular cycles (i.e., such as Master Planning cycles).
  • Make broad use of volunteer, citizen and stake-holder advisory groups for each of the five domains of sustainability.
  • Recognize and celebrate good, sustainable development projects and work on behalf of the community.
  • Correlate public policies with good planning and good strategic thinking.
  • Establish “Sustainable Community Development” as the first priority for the expenditure of public funds, especially for buildings and infrastructure; utilize the EcoStep™ toolkit for assessments and evaluations.