Citizen Sustainability Assessment

A Demand Management Tool for Assessing Citizen Stewardship of the Community’s Natural Resources

A starting point for demand management is to assess how well a community currently benefits from citizen resource conservation and the potential for improvement. In this regard, U.S. EPA's Office of Urban and Economic Development provided Empowerment Institute funding to develop a tool which enables municipal decision-makers and citizens to evaluate how sustainably they are using the community's natural resources. This Citizen Sustainability Assessment is the product. It will help a municipality assess:

  • The effectiveness of the various municipal policies and programs that enable citizens to conserve the community's natural resources and protect it's environment, identifying the incentives and disincentives built into the system.
  • The potential of a Sustainable Lifestyle Campaign to support the municipality's commitment to citizen resource conservation.

The Citizen Sustainability Assessment is divided into sections on solid waste, water, energy and transportation. In each section the user is guided by a series of questions. If the municipality is doing a self-assessment, it will need to appoint a lead agency or staff person to manage the process. This agency or person will then identify representatives of each of the appropriate agencies to do the self-assessment.

If the assessment is performed by a citizen advocate or group, they will need to research the data. This will be a remarkable education about the natural resource management of the community. In the beginning of each section there is a list of likely agency sources for the needed information. If the information is not in a readily usable form, persevere! In most cases the data are available, but may need to be interpreted. If after due effort, the data are not available, this knowledge, when remedied, will help the agency improve it's ability to do performance evaluation. For this feedback to be well received by the agency, it needs to be presented in the spirit of collaboration. If lack of time to institute changes is a concern for the agency, suggest that you or your citizen group are willing to provide volunteer help, if useful.

In some cases it will be seen that a new policy needs to be adopted or the program improved. This is where this citizen assessment tool can serve as a catalyst for sustainable community development. To create change will generally require combined advocacy from within and outside the agency. A collective effort between the city and its citizens to improve the community’s environmental sustainability is one of the major outcomes of this assessment tool. Since citizens often need municipal services and programs to enable their adoption of sustainable lifestyle choices, and municipal agencies wish citizens to participate in its programs, a mutually beneficial partnership can be developed. And, as citizens take greater responsibility for natural resource sustainability the entire community benefits.

There is much at stake for the future of your community—preserving its natural resources will enable current residents and future generations to enjoy those same resources. Your actions can be of lasting value to your community. Success to you and your community on your path of sustainability!