Sustainable Communities Share Vision & Purpose
An important part of a community is unity. The word unity can be defined as “a condition of harmony; the quality or state of being one” (Merriam-Webster). Without unity, members of a community have no sense of responsibility towards one another, no sense of preservation, and no sense of pride. Without these things, a community cannot achieve goals and grow together.
In many cities in the United States, unity is lacking due to overall communal poverty. When this happens, local small businesses suffer, jobs are lost or sought elsewhere from the lack of opportunity, and community building stops being a priority.
A social issue can stem from urban situations like this – particularly from a lack of environmental responsibility. In today’s world, environmental responsibility is becoming an increasingly central issue to communities, businesses, and individuals. However, when an urban area with a high carbon footprint is suffering economically, environmentalism will never take priority.
Environmentalism here refers to being conscious about preserving natural resources in our daily lives within sustainable communities. Generally, it is more expensive (with respect to money and time) to buy local food than imported food; to use paper or reusable bags instead of plastic; to upgrade drafty doors and windows to decrease energy cost and consumption than to keep existing ones; to recycle all plastics, papers, and metals used in a facility than to throw them away; and the list goes on. What’s the answer? To change the way we think.
To do this, communities will need to change their behaviors. In Newark, New Jersey – a city with 25% of its population living poverty – Karen Brown-Stovell, Executive Director of Forward Ever Sustainable Business Alliance and long time city enthusiast, is working hard to make that happen. For Newark, there are many challenges to overcome in order to bring back that sense of unity, but the city is “Ready to move Forward…Ever” (Science & Sustainability Conference, Rutgers 2013). Karen is helping the community understand the multi-layered meaning of sustainability and why it ‘s so important.
“Forward Ever is the first urban affiliate of 80+ networks of the esteemed Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) the fastest growing business alliance of value-aligned entrepreneurs, and LOCAL FIRST business networks in North America. Forward Ever’s mission is to provide a support network for local independently-owned businesses that facilitates cooperative promotion and purchasing, rebuilds local supply chains and food systems, and leads to ‘Buy Local’ initiatives, sustainable communities, and job creation in the Greater Newark area.” (ForwardEvernj.com)
This approach is completely centered on the idea of localism – an approach set out to “help communities and independent businesses connect and thrive” by providing market development, education, and social connections. Localism in an urban setting reaches farther than buying locally farmed produce. It encompasses the idea of growing community entrepreneurship in order to bring money back into the community and keep it there.
“We believe that Greater Newark, NJ can be a national model of self-sufficient urban economy where unique, locally-owned businesses define our local character and charm, and are the foundations of safe walkable neighborhoods” (ForwardEvernj.com). To make that vision a reality, education needs to become a priority. Forward Ever has hosted many events and collaborations including Newark’s first city-wide TEDxBroadStreet to help spread their message.
Forward Ever differentiates itself in the business support marketplace by educating and providing information about sustainable programs to local, independent entrepreneurs in the following ways:
- Promoting cultural, civic, and business engagement and leadership
- Increasing small business visibility via an online business directory designed to foster localism.
- Promoting and identifying environmentally sustainable business strategies for business owners to increase their efficiency.
- Helping foster cooperation between business owners, retailers and citizens.
- Offering referral services to already existing business support organizations.
- Serving as an advocate for Newark businesses in the community.
Currently, Forward Ever is working towards designing a training module to allow businesses to reach their environmental and economic efficiency goals. These modules will help businesses understand what avenues they need to take to reach these goals and to better serve their community.
Sustainability means more than environmental responsibility. It means continued economic, social and environmental prosperity. Without a strong sense of community values, this can never truly be achieved. Organizations like Forward Ever help to show our struggling communities what taking the extra steps towards community building can really accomplish. More importantly, it helps sustainable communities which share vision and purpose go further in rebuilding their economies.