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Join the National Conversation on the Future of Our Communities

2012 June 12

By Susan Conbere

Over the next 15 years, how do we create communities that are green, inclusive, and economically robust — and also cool places to be? Can we breathe new life into city centers that are rundown and in desperate need of an economic injection? Will rural areas find ways to grow that also retain their rural character, or are subdivisions and parking lots the future of our open space? Do we want to build auto-dependent suburban communities or walkable suburban communities?

Lest we arrive at the future without having given much thought to these issues, the Smart Growth Network—a group of 40 organizations, including EPA— is asking everyone with an interest in communities to join a national conversation on smart growth. What is your image of the ideal community and what will it take to get us there by 2027?

I had been tangentially involved in the “National Conversation” until recently, when I learned that I will be coordinating EPA’s support to the Network in the fall. So, EPA, let’s get the conversation going!

  • Submit a short paper by June 30 about a community planning, design, or development issue you believe communities will be facing in the next 15 years. Visit for details.
  • Submit blog posts, videos, and photos describing your image of the ideal community. This portion of the conversation will launch in late summer 2012. Submission details will be available by July 9 at
  • Share this invitation with your contacts. The Network is seeking input from people who work on smart growth every day and from people who don’t. EPA staff work on a lot of issues that touch on community design, planning, and development (environmental justice; brownfield development; water; air quality; urban, suburban, and rural development; health; green buildings; the list is very long). But even if these issues aren’t a part of your daily work, you live in a community and probably have opinions about what a good one looks and feels like. All voices are welcome.

Select submissions will be posted on and shared widely among smart growth organizations. Submissions may also be featured at the National Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Kansas City, MO, Feb. 7-9, 2013.

About the author: Susan Conbere is a Communications Specialist with EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. charles permalink
    June 12, 2012

    How did you pick 15 years? that’s not very long in terms of planning. Good planning needs to look out longer than that, unless your intent is to also maintain developers’ profits due to the need to start over more or less every decade.

  2. June 14, 2012

    Education should be the main concern. We need to spread the word in different languages also. I live in a community where we have immigrants from different countries and boy I can tell they need information and education specially on recycling.

  3. Jay Cwanek permalink
    June 14, 2012

    No one has the slightest idea what the real costs of energy to the consumer will be out beyond 15 years from now, whether we’re talking about fuel for privately owned vehicles, mass transit, community-owned vehicles, space heating, clothes-drying and cooking with natural gas or propane, OR electricity. That really limits longer-term planning, because cost to the user is not part of the plan.

    Since iterative decision-making will need to recur everytime there is a spike in energy costs that seems to be long-term, perhaps we should simply focus on stockpiling sources of energy where people want to live, so we’re not in the position 25 years from now of having to tell 350 million Americans there’s no longer any way for them to get to work, unless they are healthy enough to take a bicycle the way the Chinese used to do.

  4. June 15, 2012

    So informative and comprehensive post.

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