An Assessment of Sustainability Indicator Programs in Large US Cities
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Sustainability is a concept wrought with meaning and importance in today’s world. Although many different definitions and uses of the word exist, the most common definition comes from the Brundtland report (1987), “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (paragraph 49). This definition, along with mandates set out by the United Nation’s Agenda 21, have spurred the growth of Sustainability Indicators (SIs) (United Nations, 1993). SIs are measurable metrics, statistics, or other data that can assess progress towards a desired sustainability goal.
This study aims to answer the question, “How many US metro regions have sustainability plans and are measuring their success with Sustainability Indicators?” It then attempts to create a comparable list of SIs being used in the 40 largest metro areas in the United States by using the International Urban Sustainability Indicators List (IUSIL).
The results of this study indicate that 35 out of the 40 largest US metro areas use sustainability plans. Additionally, 23 out of the 40 metro areas use Sustainability Indicators to measure progress towards the sustainability goals set forth in their plans. This means 46% of the US population live in cities using sustainability plans, and 29% of the population live in cities using Sustainability Indicators. The study also reveals only a 17% average compliance rate with the IUSIL. The study recommends that communities use the STAR Community Index for a comprehensive list of Sustainability Indicators.