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Empowering and Rewarding Best Practices in Sustainability

Cities around the world are home to about 50 percent of the world’s population and they generate 80 percent of our planet’s greenhouse gases – the primary human contributor to climate change. Meanwhile, many communities are bracing for the increasing threats of fires, droughts, floods, severe weather, population displacement, and others. Community leaders and citizens around the world must be informed, motivated and empowered to become part of the solution.

“Cities must take responsibility for our contributions to global climate change,” says Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Unfortunately, few local communities have the ability to engage their citizens in developing a common vision around this issue. Some need guidance on a collaborative process to achieve consensus. Others need help outlining the spectrum of actions that they can take to cut pollution, save energy, conserve water and promote health and sustainability. Other communities around the world already are in contingency mode and need help mitigating the impacts of climate change on their homes and businesses.

Many community leaders need coaching to bring all stakeholder groups to the table to discuss opportunities, threats, resources, and priorities. As communities begin planning, they need comprehensive guidance regarding the full range of possible actions to consider in their plans. Many communities are limiting their sustainability visions to the energy efficiency of city buildings and vehicle fleets. They need to learn from other cities that have embraced a broader spectrum of possible actions such as investments, tax policies, water use, tree management, open space, expanded recycling efforts, and many others.

This powerful but simple program that will inspire, empower, and reward innovation and effectiveness in sustainability around the world.


The concept of sustainable living is not new, but it is experiencing growing interest again because of rising energy costs, depleted natural resources, polluted natural resources, population growth, and concerns about climate change and diminishing resources. At the local level, comprehensive and collaborative visioning and planning efforts, followed by numerous actions, will be a key to success. Civic leaders need guidance and resources to engage all stakeholders. They need role models, case studies, networks, mentors, financial assistance, and incentives to help them exchange experiences and resources. These resources and processes can help minimize civic gridlock and promote rapid progress in our race for sustainability for future generations.

“It’s in the cities that the battle to tackle climate change will be won or lost,” said former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

The results of a recent survey conducted by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), the first of its kind, measures how and to what extent local governments are acting to promote sustainability. It indicates that most city leaders need help on many levels to develop successful sustainability plans.

“Sustainability has emerged as a major public policy issue facing countries throughout the world,” writes James H. Svara, director of the Center for Urban Innovation and Professor in the School of Public Affairs. “Sustainability requires a broad range of actions that must include contributions from all levels of government, from all sectors of the economy, and from all of the citizenry. City and county governments are uniquely positioned to make a significant contribution to the effort. They are directly involved in providing or regulating many of the human activities that affect resource use, promote economic development, and affect the protection and inclusion of persons from all economic levels and racial and ethnic groups.

The Problem

Overall, the responses to the ICMA survey demonstrate two opposing tendencies: most local governments are becoming active in sustainability, but most governments are involved at a relatively low level and most of the possible sustainability actions are not being widely utilized. Most governments lack goals, targets, or specific plans. Only a quarter of local governments have citizen committees and staff dedicated to sustainability, and only one in six have a separate budget to promote sustainability although local governments are spending money on specific actions.

Although the motivation for local action is on the rise, most communities still lack the direction and framework for quick and effective visioning and planning on sustainability. They need guidance to develop and undertake comprehensive and collaborative planning that can make a difference. Although the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and other programs are taking steps in the right direction, they are limited in scope and fail to offer comprehensive guidance, including collaborative planning that specifically embraces citizen engagement and empowerment. Communities need a toolkit of resources and a template that can guide localized efforts to overcome possible political gridlock. Local leaders need the guidance and tools necessary to educate, inspire, and manage stakeholder input from all segments of their communities. They need to form a collective brain trust for communities around the globe. In addition, many civic leaders need funding to assist with planning and implementation. The Greener Cities program also can  help facilitate funding for some initiatives through Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and carbon offsets to finance some of the projects (voluntary and regulated  offsets).

“Where national governments can’t or won’t lead, cities will,” said former Toronto Mayor David Miller.

The Solution: The Greener Cities Awards

The Greener Cities Award program will help fill this void with two core components – a comprehensive and dynamic online portal and a prestigious international awards program. Both can be hosted in your city and produced in partnership with other stakeholders, which will help attract thousands of influential leaders to England each year. As a partner in the Greener Cities program, the host city will further position itself as the leader in international business and sustainability.

To help jump start the program and fuel the online component, we plan to start the “Nobel Prize” in sustainability. We will host the first award ceremony on Earth Day 2013. A prestigious annual award will help us reach our objectives in many ways, while further positioning Singapore and our founding members as leaders. This high-profile award will attract thousands of global leaders and media from around the world to Singapore every April. We can host seminars, workshops, tours, and a world-class trade show to add value and momentum to the annual event.

In collaboration with the host and the sponsors we will refine a program that will generate massive amounts of news around the world. We can recruit high-profile judges, announce the call for entries, and announce the winners. We will offer a $1 million prize for the municipal role model of the year in sustainability (made possible by sponsors and entry fees). It will generate millions of dollars of media coverage, millions of dollars in meeting/convention revenue, and a social media frenzy. Most importantly, it will encourage and empower cities and communities around the world to make a difference for future generations.

The portal and the award will include all categories of sustainable practices, including:

  • Urban planning
  • Renewable energy
  • Green building
  • Commercial and residential energy efficiency
  • Green vehicles and fleets
  • Transportation alternatives
  • Urban forestry
  • Rooftop gardens
  • Waste reduction and recycling
  • Water conservation, collection and recycling
  • Flood prevention and coastal defense
  • Purchasing programs
  • Investment strategies and options
  • Public education, empowerment and motivation programs
  • Encourage various partnerships to realize efficiencies, along with resource and best-practice sharing among communities.
  • Public policy

Although some award programs already exist, they are not as comprehensive, collaborative or international as our vision. Nor do they have a world-class prize.

Program Outcomes and Benefits

The Greener Cities program will help communities develop better and more comprehensive plans faster because it will help engage all segments of a community and it will encourage the consideration of multiple strategies. While it will promote sustainable living and efficient uses of limited public resources, it also will help many communities plan for eventual changes caused by climate change.

Although the intent of this program is to improve the community visioning and planning process, it also will positively impact the quality of life in these communities. Those impacts will include improved communication across entire communities and better cooperation among stakeholder groups.

This program also provides the opportunity to move quickly in the fight to minimize the impact of human activity on the critical environment that sustains all forms of life. Instead of a process involving large institutions and organizations, this effort will motivate and empower entire city/county/provincial governments and millions of their citizens quickly. In summary, this program will:

  • Empower hundreds, even thousands, of local communities and millions of citizens to become active in developing and implementing solutions to climate change.
  • Increase the capacities of local leaders to engage citizens to collaboratively develop solutions to climate change.
  • Create both online and personal networks of community leaders and citizens who can share experiences, ideas, and resources in their pursuit of local and regional solutions.
  • Promote a new grassroots perspective about sustainability and climate change, which is necessary to promote vital behavioral changes and new policies on all levels.
  • Maintain a healthy planet that can sustain life for future generations.
  • Further position the host and our founding members as leaders in sustainability.
  • Generate valuable global media coverage.
  • Generate new revenue streams for the host city and the founding members.


Greener Cities and Communities is a collaborative program developed by Earth News and Crossbow Communications We encourage your city and community to join us on this path and portal. Please submit your best practices, case studies, and other resources that can help communities and businesses around the world learn from your experiences.

We seek the involvement of corporations, universities, and NGO’s from around the world. Please submit your information and suggestions to Gary Chandler at Crossbow Communications