The following sequence of articles provides an introduction to the SLDI perspective.
The idea of starting “a New American Revolution for Sustainability” was born in 2005 in Washington D.C. as industry experts attended a national conference where keynote speaker William McDonough used his bully pulpit to call for a “Cradle to Cradle” approach to land development. Following McDonough’s speech, a seedling from the oldest known tree in the world was gifted to the Washington National Cathedral by land development representatives who later toured George Washington’s National Masonic Memorial and his Mount Vernon estate.
This is the story of Washington’s life you didn’t read about in your history books.
Individual components of sustainability have come together, but were initiated and promoted by seperate advocates and frames of reference. This article provides some historical foundation behind today’s reality: while we all acknowledge the need for equity between economic, social and environmental concerns and work passionately to promote it, the sustainability movement continues to struggle.
Throughout history, land development has been the backbone of civilization. By enhancing conveniences and quality-of-life opportunities for people everywhere, development has nearly always been perceived to be beneficial. Well, that’s certainly changed. Today, 83% of Americans don’t want new development in their community and ineffective processes and practices lead to distrust, inefficiency, waste and failed results everywhere. There’s a new way to approach our problems – a better way that leads to lower resistence, increased effectiveness and greater profit.
SLDI is a unique organization in that it combines a purposeful industry mission with the embracing of business-like discipline, innovation, and the pursuit of economic gain to achieve greater benefits for members. Many governmental and non-profit efforts have fallen far short of the industry’s expectations and needs. SLDI is an industry-led organization of stakeholders joining together to promote land development around the world that balances the needs of people, planet and profit – for today and future generations.
The predominant industry focus to date has been on making buildings more efficient and healthier to inhabit. That’s a great start, but it’s not near enough to achieve true sustainability. Biodiversity, soil and water management, waste management, and much more needs to be integrated – and that’s just the environmental concerns. Social and economic needs must be considered as well. What makes SLDI unique is that it possesses the comprehensive perspective to bring together all the various perspectives and segments to address the full breadth of problems we face today.
A holistic strategic perspective enables the greatest results within each of the specialized areas of land development. As such, a specific set of foundational objectives buoy all three legs of sustainable land development. Then each of those legs encompass its own respective set of objectives. Together, these objectives form a comprehensive strategic plan designed to achieve sustainability.
SLDI recently conducted a survey of land development professionals designed to gauge the industry’s perceptions of who/what is responsible for the current economic situation, what will be needed to improve it, the industry’s overall acceptance of and receptivity to sustainable land development principles and practices, and the industry’s current level of implementation of the most common “green” programs currently available. The results offer valuable insight.
The nine SLDI guiding principles provide the framework for the 27 interrelated sustainable land development goals. Naturally, not all of these goals can be fully maximized on every project. Rather, these goals can be thought of as the ideals of holistic sustainable land development. The specific best management practices in each of these areas (and ultimately, the products and services employed) that provide the greatest leverage and value depends on the specific geographic and political landscape of each individual project. Not every product and/or process (best practice) is practical or effective on every project, but working through the decision model toward achieving each of the goals in a comprehensive fashion right from the beginning of the project can result in a project which delivers maximum sustainability.
SLDI announced recently that it has completed and is releasing the world’s first comprehensive sustainable land development best practices system. “The SLDI Code” balances and integrates the triple-bottom line needs of people, planet and profit into a holistic model that becomes increasingly detailed, guiding effective decisions throughout the community planning, financing, design, regulating, construction and maintenance processes while always enabling project context to drive specific decisions.
Amid all the bad news and demands being placed on the President-elect Obama transition team prior to his inauguration, SLDI offered a reason to hope for the future by formally submitting its offer of assistance to help boost the team’s economic recovery plan and policy agenda – and save the country billions in the process. Unfortunately, the politics of money has continued to rule Washington and little has been done to improve our dire circumstance.
It is the combination of life forms, and their interactions with each other and with the rest of the environment, that have made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity is the foundation upon which human civilization has been built. In addition to its intrinsic value, biodiversity provides goods and services that underpin sustainable development in many important ways.
Earth restoration will not only restore our natural systems – it will restore our faith in ourselves and our hope for the future. The opportunities for each of us as environmental entrepreneurs are greater than at any time in human history. We can make money, save the world, and have fun! Who says you can’t have it all?!