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Eco-Districts: Putting the Unity Back in Community

When was the last time you had dinner with your neighbors? The last time you did a workshop on community gardens with them? The last time you even acknowledged them or went out of your way to say hi to them? For many of us, the answer is not very often or maybe even ever.

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Los Angeles suburbs. Image by Ron Chapple via Corbis.

In the two years that I have lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles, I have greeted my immediate neighbors a total of three times. I think to myself every time I see them, “I have things I have to do, and I am sure they have things to do too.” Now I know not all neighborhoods are like this, but many of them are, and that is what eco-districts aim to change. Eco-districts are smaller scale neighborhoods taking on lifestyle practices that focus on promoting community efforts and individual interaction, with a goal of gradually establishing a sustainable city. By striving to make changes on social, economic, and environmental levels, eco-districts bring unity to the community.

West Coast Represent

The West Coast is rich in eco-villages mainly due to the commitment of the three states, Washington, Oregon, and California, to establish environmentally friendly practices. As for large scale sustainable cities within these three states, we look at their role in the progression of eco-districts, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Future-Seattle-Eco-District-Rendering

Future Seattle eco-district rendering. Image via VenhoevenCS & Remingtonstyle.

Yesterday

When one thinks of a green city in Washington, there is usually only one city that comes to mind, Seattle. The home of the Space Needle, Microsoft, and Starbucks, is also home to some of the most developed eco-districts in the nation. The land of little sunshine has an incredibly diverse community that is focused on branding itself as a city of sustainability. As with each eco-districts tendency to focus on major areas of growth in regards to environmentally friendly practices, each of the eco-districts in Seattle put an emphasis on community, transportation, energy, water, habitat, and materials. It is obvious that Seattle has no plans to slow down its efforts in expanding on it eco-district communities any time soon based on the projects under way and in the planning process. Seattle is a city that has a tremendous amount of pride, and although sunshine is usually what is needed to make people happy, the people there seem pretty content with Starbucks and sustainability.

future-portland-eco-district-rendering

Future Portland eco-district rendering. Image via VenhoevenCS & Remingtonstyle.

Today

When one thinks of a green city in Oregon, Portland stands out above the rest. The land of plenty, with Voodoo Doughnuts, rooftop gardens, and bike lanes galore, is also one of the most proactive cities in the nation in regards to eco-districts. Portland’s city council is actually on board with the eco-districts because of their ability to capitalize on sustainability and community through city-wide revitalization efforts specific to the districts; rainwater harvesting, green roofs, and recycling. The buildings that are usually occupied by eco-districts are often newly designed or retrofitted buildings that are no longer in their prime. The revitalization of these buildings invites businesses, innovative ideas, and people of different walks of life to occupy them, all the while making a statement that old can easily be made new again. By redefining community through the success of eco-districts and sustainable life practices, Portland is able to connect to people and planet alike as the sustainable city of today.

Future-Los-Angeles-Eco-District-Rendering

Future Los Angeles eco-district rendering. Image via VenhoevenCS & Remingtonstyle.

Tomorrow

When one thinks of a green city in California, San Francisco is usually the city to come to mind. Although it only has one eco-village, and not even a well-known one, Los Angeles holds great potential in becoming the eco-district capitol of California. American writer Dorothy Parker once said, “Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city,” which makes it the perfect model for eco-district communities. By incorporating eco-districts one neighborhood at a time, it allows L.A to gradually become the sustainable city of tomorrow. However, the first step in establishing city-wide environmental efforts needs to focus on establishing community. Often people move to L.A. by themselves and never really branch out, as it is easy to just find a niche within the city and stick to it. Sure people like their privacy and independence, but humanity is based on community; that is the way it always has been, and the way it always needs to be.

The more isolated and disconnected we are, the more shattered and distorted our self-identity. We are not healthy when we are alone. We find ourselves when we connect to others. Without community we do not know who we are… When we live outside of healthy community, we not only lose others, we lose ourselves… Who we understand ourselves to be is dramatically affected for better or worse by those we hold closest to us.

-Erwin Raphael McManus, Author

Feature Image: Tri-Photo -Downtown Seattle, Michael Riffle 2011; Portland Skyline, Aster 2005; Downtown Los Angeles, Gabriel Guerra.

About The Author

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As a recent transplant in the city of Los Angeles, I have a way of looking at the city that natives themselves have not been able to. My focus in school is urban planning, environmental science, sustainable design, and rooftop gardens. Follow me on my adventures throughout L.A. to see all that this sustainable city has to offer.