Sustainability and Resilience in Communities


Communities that are sustainable and resilient are those that can confront changing conditions, absorb disturbances with flexibility, and utilize existing resources and local partnerships to achieve community goals without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Importantly, striving for community sustainability and resilience is a process not an end-goal. Even cities that have focused on enhancing sustainability and resilience for decades still have work to do! Everyone can do something to support more sustainable and resilient living.

Sustainability and resilience engage all aspects of community life: government, business and industry, jobs, food systems, natural environment, water resources, energy, housing, health care, education, transportation and infrastructure, workforce development, and more. Sustainability and resilience can be incorporated into policies and programs, community initiatives and priorities, capital projects, and at commercial and residential levels. It is important to remember that every step taken to create a more sustainable and resilient community is meaningful, and there are plenty of opportunities to build in community sustainability and resilience as a piece of other community priorities and actions!

Communities may pursue sustainability and resilience for a variety of reasons or anticipated benefits, and may take different approaches to pursuing sustainability and resilience based on their motivations and goals. In short, sustainability and resilience approaches are likely to be unique to each community and their circumstances. These may include but not be limited to:

  • Leading by Example: local governments can lead by example by identifying opportunities to change operations and governance to support sustainable resilience in policy, practice, regulation, and legislation. Leading by example can also jump start cost-savings and promote sustainable resilience more broadly in the community.
  • Risk-Management, Resilience, and Emergency Preparedness: FEMA reports that every dollar spent in preparation and mitigation of disasters saves a community an average of four dollars after a disaster.  Tennessee communities are required to develop a hazard mitigation plan, submitted to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), to qualify for many types of funding. For many communities, risk-management, hazard mitigation, and emergency preparedness are a natural entry point for sustainable resilience.
  • Community Stakeholder or Topic-Driven: Community stakeholders may vocalize specific concerns with individual topics and catalyze action to change policy, operation, and legislation. Engaged stakeholders who are committed to supporting community change can be a critical driver in moving sustainability and resilience forward.
  • Recognition and Rating: formal recognition and rating systems can provide a comprehensive baseline and recommendations for next steps toward sustainable resilience across many sectors of community life. Using recognition and rating systems can also help to unify existing sustainability and resilience efforts.

The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation’s Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices has scoured many existing sustainability and resilience models and tools and developed a clearinghouse of resources designed to assist you and your community. These resources provide a great start; combined with partnerships between citizens, the private sector, local, state, and federal government, academia, and non-governmental organizations, your community can become more sustainable and resilient.



Jennifer Tribble


This Page Last Updated: November 10, 2021 at 10:19 AM