Sustainable Pittsburgh


Ongoing Projects

What's New

The 2014-2015 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge is ON!
Logo for the 2013-2014 PGH Green Workplace Challenge

In this friendly, 12 month competition, employers in southwestern PA track performance, save money, and gain positive recognition for their achievements! Attn: businesses, nonprofits, local government, universities and K-12 schools--you can still sign up to be an "observer!"
Learn more

Check out the region's Energy Baseline report:

Link to Sustainability EXPOsed webpage

Be recognized as a leading municipality.
Get certified!

Demonstrate your business's commitment to sustainability. Sign on to the SWPA Sustainable Business Compact:

Small business? Check out our sustainable designation program!Logo for SP Sustainable Small Business Designation Program

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A collaborative group of over 30 community planners, innovators, nonprofits, community leaders, cyclists, city officials, educators, investors, neighborhood developers, business leaders, and civic partnerships, exploring Bus Rapid Transit for Pittsburgh.

Sustainable Pittsburgh is pleased to be part of the Breathe Project.
logo for the Breathe campaign to improve air quality in southwestern PA

12th annual SW
Smart Growth Conference

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Business and Local Government in SWPA "

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Listen to the Walls Street Journal Radio "Green and Alternative Energy Series" - Sustainable Pittsburgh sponsored these short, 60 second radio spots, which explored energy issues including investments, light bulbs, and solar. Listen now.

Greening Southwest PA - A video blog concerning SWPA's municipalities and what they are doing to become more sustainable. Read more.

Missed the latest 3E Comic?
View it here.

GET INVOLVED:logo for Power of 32

Receive a Sustainability Assessment!
Led by a team of experts, our assessments help businesses and municipalities save money in operations, conserve resources, and enhance civic stewardship. More information click here.

Reduce your carbon footprint with NativeEnergy


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Pittsburgh's H2Opportunity--An Assessment of Southwestern Pennsylvania's Water Sector

On January 13, 2011, the Pittsburgh World Environment Day Partnership, of which Sustainable Pittsburgh is facilitator, released the Pittsburgh region's first economic analysis of the water industry sector. Completed at a time when the overall water market is growing (up to ten percent annually), Pittsburgh’s H2Opportunity: An Assessment of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Water Sector offers a snapshot of the region’s strengths in water-related industries and highlights future opportunities for innovation and growth.

Key recommendations in the report include:
- Assess, organize and advance regional opportunities related to water and coordinate resources to support them;

- Identify the occupational pipeline and workforce needs for the high priority water industry sectors and develop training on more efficient uses of water for energy, industry and agriculture;

- Strategically identify and selectively recruit innovative firms and industries that can benefit from and be good stewards of the region’s abundance of high quality water;

- Support innovation and commercialization in water technology;

- Promote green water management infrastructure; and

- Initiate partnerships with other regions and identify national and international export opportunities for regional firms.

Click here to view the report.
More information is found at the Pittsburgh World Environment Day Web site,


Sustainable Community Essentials Online Rapid Assessment Tool

At the 10th annual Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference, SP released the new online tool, Sustainable Community Essentials Rapid Assessment, for use by residents and their municipalities to review progress in implementing sustainability initiatives. This tool will provide a uniform definition, measures, and accepted suite of practices that define community and regional sustainability.

14 Sustainable Community Essentials Resource Sheets

Toward cultivating greater capacity for sustainable practice around Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Sustainable Community Development Network of Sustainable Pittsburgh partnered with leading organizations to produce a new series of Sustainable Community Essentials Resource Sheets and a Rapid Assessment for communities. These resource sheets identify 14 essentials of a sustainable community - from Air Quality to Food Security to Governance - and provide an explanation of each topic and case studies – a perfect tool for community leaders to use as they work to improve their neighborhoods. The sheets can be found on the Sustainable Community Rapid Assessment Web site.


Southwestern Pennsylvania Blighted and Abandoned Solutions Project

This report substantiates that addressing blight and abandonment offers the chance to build assets in a community and deliver economic, environmental, and social equity benefits for both the community and region as a whole. At present, there exists no regional plan, decision-making table, nor coordinated regional effort to tackle the growing crisis of blight and abandonment in our communities. The figure of 67,886 abandoned housing units in Southwestern Pennsylvania commands attention, particularly when factoring that vacancy begets abandoned properties and the compounding associated costs to individuals, neighborhoods, social networks, the economy and region which is working so hard to reach its economic aspirations. Given the regional impacts and nature of this issue, regional approaches are in order."
View Executive Summary

Inclusion in the Workforce: Positioning the Region to Prosper and Compete

The stark racial disparities that characterize Greater Pittsburgh’s labor market weaken the regional economy and levy — much like an onerous tax — high costs on the entire community. Building an urban economy in which everyone participates and prospers is not merely a matter of altruism or social justice, but rather a crucial step towards transforming an aged industrial center into a dynamic, 21st century city.

This strategic report explains why, in this global information economy, racial equity and inclusion are the cornerstones of sustained development and successful, healthy regional economies. This report analyzes racial disparities in employment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, reviews the critical role that a diverse workforce plays in improving economic competitiveness, and recommends policies for enabling the region to reach its full potential.

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Sustainability Assessment Tool - Southwestern Pennsylvania

Guidance for Municipal Leaders, Developers and
Concerned Citizens

Sustainable Pittsburgh recently launched a Sustainability Assessment Tool with local government officials in mind. Guiding growth and development in your municipality is a big responsibility. Planning for the long term impacts of development is both a challenge and one of the most enduring ways to enhance quality of life in your community. SP's intent is to provide tools and models to help you usher in development that delivers economic, social and environmental value... simultaneously and long into the future.
Indeed, this defines sustainability. This Sustainability Assessment Tool strives to help you know sustainable attributes when you see them and to evaluate and plan for your community’s sustainable development. We also recommend incorporating requirements for sustainability in your zoning and subdivision/land development ordinances. Click here to view the Sustainability Assessment Tool.

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Southwestern Pennsylvania Citizens' Vision for Smart Growth: Strengthening Communities and Regional Economy

There is increasing public awareness that our region's sprawling land use patterns have negative social, economic, and environmental consequences. Accordingly, we are increasingly hearing pronouncements by insightful public officials and community leaders that it is high time for reforms that favor a regional approach to land use planning for our region's prosperity.

Based on insights from land use trends forums we held around the region, Sustainable Pittsburgh has created a vision for the region's development. Southwestern Pennsylvania Citizens' Vision for Smart Growth: Strengthening Communities and Regional Economy identifies our region's sprawling development trends and consequences.

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Building Communities through Recreation, A Guide for Organizing an Outdoor Festival

How does one strengthen and promote their community? By organizing an outdoor recreation community festival - getting all types of people together to sample outdoor recreation offerings. Promoting the recreation facilities and unique amenities located within a community or county is a great way to strengthen any community. Learn how by obtaining your copy of “Building Communities through Recreation, A Guide for Organizing an Outdoor Festivala new publication written by Donna Bour and produced by Sustainable Pittsburgh.

Click here for more information.

"Guidelines for Sustainable Development" by Conservation Consultants Inc.'s 

Sustainable Development simply means working with the people and resources of a region or community in a manner that meets present needs without compromising the ability to provide for the needs of future generations.  The Guidelines are divided into five sections. They are:

  • The Region

  • The Community

  • The Site

  • The Building, and

  • Operations and Maintenance


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An Introduction to Sustainable Development, by Sustainable Pittsburgh

Sustainable development has emerged as a way of thinking and pursuing innovation that continually asks questions, connects the dots, and makes course corrections to make things better today and over the long haul.

Policy Link, "Shared Prosperity, Stronger Regions: An Agenda for Rebuilding America's Older Core Cities" now available online:

This report was the focus of the December 2005 Champions of Sustainability Regional Equity Summit


New Report: Regional Visioning Public Participation – Best Practices

Regional visioning is going on across the country and around the world.  In response to concerns about global competitiveness, sustainability and quality of life, major metropolitan regions, smaller regions, and even rural areas have undertaken public participation visioning processes.   Regional Visioning is characterized as an effort to resolve key economic, social, environmental and growth issues in a manner that represents the values of the region’s residents and stakeholders.  To remain economically competitive, a region needs to have an integrated economic development strategy tied to sound land use management and targeted infrastructure investment.  To acquire and retain a trained workforce, which is a key element in an effective economic development strategy, a region needs to address social access and environmental quality issues.  A regional visioning process provides an opportunity to address these issues and develop a strategy in a coordinated and inclusive manner.   "The process should create a platform for participation,” John Parr, founder of the Alliance for Regional Stewardship.

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Quality of Place: Positioning Pittsburgh to Compete

The rise of the new economy has radically altered the ways that cities and regions establish and maintain their competitive edge. Knowledge has replaced natural resources and physical labor as the source of wealth creation and economic growth. In this new era, a region’s ability to attract and retain the highly educated talent needed for growth has become the key factor in its economic success. But attracting and retaining this talent has proven to be something of a challenge.

Sponsored by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and Sustainable Pittsburgh

Brief on "Indicators of Sustainable Development"

Alan AtKisson

Regions and cities in the United States and around the world are developing new tools and strategies for linking the environment, and social equity to economic development.  It is increasingly recognized that the overall quality of life is best measured where these intersect. 

Traditionally, indicators of economic performance are given precedence as the bellwethers of prosperity, whereas measures of long-term sustainability take a more holistic view of overall community.  For example, for much of the past, it was assumed that environmental progress and economic development were at odds.  Often, it was thought that environmental progress generated costs that came at the expense of wealth generation, industrial expansion, and jobs.  But, today, the environment and social equity issues are increasingly seen as a key element of economic development.  Across the world, many regions have sought to unify their economic development, social, and environmental agendas under the rubric, "sustainable development."

To both help motivate and monitor their ongoing efforts, regions are developing new measures, indicators and benchmarking systems - referred to as sustainability indicators - to chart their progress toward joint economic, social, and environmental goals.  

This report for Sustainable Pittsburgh recently identified more than 150 indicator projects across the United States, 35 of which were notable projects in large regions.

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The Costs of Sprawl in Pennsylvania - Executive Summary

What is sprawl and what causes it?

What are the costs associated with it?

How big are they, and, who pays for them?

Read the Executive Summary for a briefing on one of the most significant studies of our region. The Costs of Sprawl in Pennsylvania is a report prepared by Clarion Associates, Inc. for 10000 Friends of Pennsylvania, that looks at 21 communities in the Pennsylvania region to study the nature and implications of sprawl in them.

Sustainability Assessment: Proposed Turnpike Plaza in New Sewickley Township

Public investment in infrastructure (roads, sewers, water supply, etc.) is perhaps the biggest determinant of the long-term land use destiny of our region. Too often, however, decision-making on public spending fails to account for a wide range of community impacts, instead taking a short-term, one-sided view. By contrast, sustainable development requires a commitment to longer term thinking that integrates concerns for the economy, the environment, and human equity.

To make improved decisions in regards to investment in public infrastructure, while fostering a long-term viable and vibrant community, Sustainable Pittsburgh has conducted a sustainability assessment of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's proposed turnpike plaza to be built in New Sewickley Township, Beaver County.


Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Indicators Report 2004

This report is Sustainable Pittsburgh’s second comprehensive assessment of regional sustainability trends for the six-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania. This revised and updated edition improves significantly on the first assessment, first published in 2002, and is the product of hundreds of people’s contributions, all focused on an attempt to answer this central question: are we going in the right direction?

And the answer? In some ways, yes ... but in too many ways, the answer must be a resounding “No”.

We can celebrate our relative successes in areas like employment stability, affordable living costs, improved water quality. We have positive trends to build on.

But other areas, ranging from poverty and a deeply entrenched equity gap, to increasing fossil energy consumption, to declining rates of recycling, raise troubling questions about our future. They suggest the need for renewed, spirited, and concerted action to turn these negative trends around.

Equity and Regionalism: The Impact of Government Restructuring on Communities of Color in Pittsburgh

Keynote address john a. powell at the 11/19/04 Equity and Regionalism Conference hosted by the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pittsburgh.

What should the agenda concerning consolidation address? Consolidation can be a positive force for the city’s fiscal health, government efficiency, economic development. But equity issues must be addressed, especially if consolidation is to be supported by the city’s communities of color. A multi-dimensional approach Consolidation is required combined with other regional solutions to address equity.  Solutions must include measures to assure African American power dilution does not occur (federated regionalism) and must address the “true region”

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Equity and Regionalism - Lessons Learned - A survey of some leaders in urban areas that have undergone a form of governance restructuring and a review of relevant literature.

Background and Purpose

The current fiscal crisis of the City of Pittsburgh, plus several analyses (Brookings, Paytas) indicating that the region suffers economically because of governmental fragmentation, have caused increased discussion about the merits of some form of governance restructuring such as through boundary changes or functional consolidation.

Through this research and recommendations provided herein, Sustainable Pittsburgh aspires to ensure that considerations regarding representation of economically disadvantaged citizens and communities of color are addressed up front as opposed to being an after thought in any proposed consolidation or merger.

Land Use Management ToolKit: Resources for Smart Development

The Land Use Management ToolKit, produced by Sustainable Pittsburgh is completed and ready to be mailed to you. The ToolKit is organized by action steps to assist interested citizens and elected officials who want to guide the growth and development of their communities through the preparation of a comprehensive plan.  The ToolKit also provides contacts for available state and regional technical and financial resources ready to assist you. To schedule a workshop about the use of the ToolKit or comprehensive planning, please telephone 412-258-6642 or email

Regional Economic Transformation In Today's Global Economy

A report on European intergovernmental approaches to regionalism for urban development, economic development and strategic planning based on interviews and research of materials collected by the November 2003 Pittsburgh/Cleveland delegation to Lyon, France and Turin, Italy hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. (in which Sustainable Pittsburgh had the privilege of being represented)

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"Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania."

The Brooking Institution released "Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania" on December 7, 2003.

This report contends that the economic future of a major rust belt state depends on revitalizing its demographic mix and curbing some of the nation's most radical patterns of sprawl and abandonment. Above all, the study reveals that Pennsylvania's highly decentralized growth patterns are weakening the state's established communities, undercutting the very places whose assets the state needs to compete in the knowledge economy. Ultimately, the report concludes that these trends are not inevitable, and can be reshaped if the state embraces a dynamic new vision of economic competitiveness that links the Commonwealth's desire for prosperity to the need to revive older cities and towns.

The Brookings Back to Prosperity report is well-timed to support policy change in the Commonwealth and particularly Southwestern Pennsylvania in favor of prioritizing public spending on existing communities given circumstance of, for example:

- new administrations in Harrisburg and Allegheny County

- impetus for change resulting from fiscal crisis most pronounced in Pittsburgh but felt by virtually all our older communities and our transit agencies

- growing market interest of businesses and residents in returning to downtowns

- and increasing awareness of the public to the costs of sprawl.

Furthermore, the Brookings report reinforces and validates current studies and community initiatives in our region.

For example Sustainable Pittsburgh's Citizens' Vision for Smart Growth released this summer provides similar analysis of regional development trends and loads of policy recommendations to improve economic performance by investing public dollars first in existing communities.

To date over 30 organizations have signed-on as Endorsing Partners of Citizens' Vision. Adding yours to the list and engaging with Sustainable Pittsburgh as it takes both Citizens' Vision and Back To Prosperity on the road around the region will be a good follow-on step to today's presentation.

To access Citizens' Vision:

To read what others are saying about the Brookings report, click here

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"Sustainable Pittsburgh Releases Indicators Report for Southwestern Pennsylvania as an Interactive Web Resource"

Earth Day - April 22, 2002, Sustainable Pittsburgh announced release of the 2002 Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Indicators Report

The online report is an educational resource, serves as a guide for policy-makers, and is a tool for the public to take action in our region.  The report presents 20 different indicators organized by compass points of sustainability:  North = Nature, East = Economy, South = Society, West = Well-being.  

With input meetings held around the region, the report was created through a public process to develop long-term goals for our region and measures of success.  The indicators provide feedback to both decision-makers and the public at large about past trends that are shaping the future.  They help focus on pressing problems, celebrate successes, and make smarter decisions.  

Through the interactive website, the public is encouraged to submit additional content such as related actions and measures and other indicators.

Sustainable Pittsburgh encourages communities to create their own local indicator projects and simultaneously released the "Community Indicators Handbook" -- a how-to guide for municipalities and neighborhoods.  Both reports can be downloaded from the website. 

Here are a few of the Findings from this report: 

  • Sprawl is Out of Control.
    Urbanized land grew by 42.6 percent between 1982 and 1997 -- even though population was shrinking in that period by 8%. 

  • Use of Resources is Becoming Less Efficient.
    What we know about energy use suggests that it is continuing to rise, and our recycling efforts are hardly keeping up with our growing garbage production. 

  • Poor Families Face a Looming Housing Crisis.
    The gap between what a low-income family can afford and what a reasonable apartment costs to rent is growing. 

  • The Economy is in Surprisingly Good Shape.
    Wages are keeping up with inflation, unemployment has been low (even when rising nationwide), and houses have remained affordable for purchase by median income families.

"The SWPA Indicators Report gives cause for both celebration and concern.  The Equity Analysis provided relative to each indicator evidences that our expanding prosperity has not reached everyone or everywhere.  Disparities in employment, poverty, education, and health mark the continued alarming trend indicating we have a long way to go toward all sharing equally in high quality of life.  The fact that too many people are being left behind, particularly African Americans cannot continue to be ignored.  In order to be considered as a "truly" sustainable region, we must advance beyond the current parochialism and take immediate action towards reversing these trends."

Cameil Williams, Director, Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Enterprise

Diversity Among Elected Officials in the Pittsburgh Region in 2002

4/16/03 Sustainable Pittsburgh released today "Diversity Among Elected Officials in the Pittsburgh Region in 2002" a report on the region's diversity make-up of elected officials representing the region -- from municipalities and school districts to cities, counties, and state and federal representatives. 

The study conducted by Ralph L. Bangs and Monique Constance-Huggins of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Social and Urban Research and funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and The Executive Women's Council finds that women and African Americans continue to be seriously underrepresented in elected office in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties, from school boards to Congress. Also reviewed in the report are cities around the nation that have high levels of diversity of elected officials compared to population shares and insights to reasons for success that are relevant to the Pittsburgh region. 

The numerous organizations partnering with Sustainable Pittsburgh to guide the study are now focusing on collaborations to enhance existing and create new initiatives to increase the diversity of elected officials. Inventory of such projects is forthcoming through convening sessions partnered through the Collaborative Strategy for Talent Attraction and Retention (C-Star).

Senator Allen Kukovich Remarks on Sustainability
June 4, 2002

Senator Allen Kukovich spoke at Sustainable Pittsburgh's Second Annual Smart Growth Summit.

Sustainability Assessment:  Northern Sections of the Proposed Mon-Fayette Expressway

This Sustainability Assessment of the Mon-Fayette Expressway's Northern Sections (MFE/NS) is intended to pose issues and questions to which the public should find answers when formally reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

"Community Indicators Handbook"

To both help motivate and monitor their ongoing efforts, communities all over the world are developing new measures, indicators and benchmarking systems - referred to as sustainability indicators - to chart their progress toward joint economic, social, and environmental goals. Sustainable Pittsburgh encourages communities to create their own local indicator projects and has published an easy to follow "Community Indicators Handbook" -- a how-to guide for municipalities and neighborhoods on how to facilitate community dialogue to set long-term goals and measures of community livability. 

"Competing in the Age of Talent: Environment, Amenities, and the New Economy"

Richard Florida 

The rise of the new economy has radically altered the ways that cities and regions establish and maintain their competitive advantage. In the new economy, regions develop advantage based on their ability to quickly mobilize the best people, resources, and capabilities required to turn innovations into new business ideas and commercial products. The nexus of competitive advantage has thus shifted to those regions that can generate, retain, and attract the best talent.

This report summarizes the key findings of a yearlong study of the role of talent in the new economy. The study looked specifically at how amenities and environmental quality affect the ability of regions to attract talent and to generate and sustain high technology industry. To do so, it examined the performance of regions across the country on these dimensions, explored what leading regions are doing to be successful, and conducted focus groups with young knowledge workers in technology-based fields to better understand how they choose places to live and work.

The key findings of the study confirm that amenities and environmental quality matter in the attraction of talent and development of high technology regional economies. 

Sponsored by the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Sustainable Pittsburgh


Diversity and Civic Engagement Focus Group Report -2001

Report on the issues and trepidation of Pittsburghers and why they are choosing to leave the region: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.


East Light Rail Transit Community Design Report Summary - 2000

This study, prepared by Otak, Inc. - a nationally recognized engineering, architecture, and planning firm specializing in transportation and livable community" related issues ( analyzed the opportunities and constraints of extending the LRT system through the eastern corridor of Pittsburgh.

To obtain a copy of the full report, contact Brian Nogrady at

This study was commissioned by the East Light Rail Transit project team and does not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Pittsburgh.  The information above was provided by the organizing institution or one of its representatives. Our distribution does not imply endorsement.

A copy of the introduction and a summary of the report can be downloaded here in PDF.


Pittsburgh Metro Politics: A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability

Myron Orfield of the Metropolitan Area Research Corporation reports to the Heinz Endowments.

"Regional Environmental Performance and Sustainability: A Review and Assessment of Indicator Projects"

Richard Florida and Tracy Gordon

Regions and cities in the United States and around the world are developing new tools and strategies for linking the environment to economic development. For much of the past, it was assumed that environmental progress and economic development were at odds. The environment was viewed as a source of raw materials and energy and a place to dispose of industrial wastes. Often, it was thought that environmental progress generated costs that came at the expense of wealth generation, industrial expansion, and jobs. 

But, today, the environment is increasingly seen as a key element of economic development. Innovative cities and regions are forging new strategies for integrating environmental assets into their economic development agendas by targeting environmental technology firms, supporting efforts to implement advanced pollution prevention technology in industry, positioning firms to tap into rapidly growing green markets, and improving their quality of life through investments in their environmental amenities or natural capital. Across the world, many regions have sought to unify their economic development, social, and environmental agendas under the rubric, "sustainable development".  

To both help motivate and monitor their ongoing efforts, regions are developing new measures, indicators and benchmarking systems - referred to as environmental/sustainability indicators - to chart their progress toward joint economic, social, and environmental goals. 

This report examines leading regional efforts around the United States to develop environmental or sustainable development strategies, focusing on regional projects on environmental performance/sustainable indicators.

The report has 4 parts:

Regional Environmental Performance and Sustainability A Review and Assessment of Indicator Projects

Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and Sustainable Pittsburgh

The Goals and Indicators Project:
Picking up where we left off

Sustainable Pittsburgh recently completed the Goals and Indicators Project, a process of engaging 250 local leaders to deliberate about our region's future and principles for sustainability. This project identified goals, strategies, indicators, and hundreds of excellent examples of initiatives that demonstrate where economy, environment, and equity meet. The Goals and Indicators Project succeeded in bringing people together to focus on things like cleaner and healthier places to live and work, conservation of our natural resources and citizen participation. We are now working to take this process even further and build an action agenda for community decision-making and long-term planning. The first step in this process is the creation of Affiliate Network Topic Teams.




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