Sustainable Communities 2008

Green experts explored the field that will determine the future of our cities and our planet -- sustainable communities

Thirty years ago the environmental movement began to integrate the ideas of conservation with differing ways of “living lightly on the land” and the idea of Sustainable Communities emerged. In many ways the issues confronted and addressed then foreshadowed the challenges we face today. The oil embargo in 1972 highlighted a fundamental challenge in energy conservation, but there were other complementary concerns: the nature of our food and farming systems, the chemistry of our waste and water systems, our modes of transportation, in sum, the kind of communities we built. Energy was just the tip of the iceberg. Out of this came Sim Van der Ryn’s notion of Sustainable Communities, a concept still at the center of much needed standards for change.

On September 26, 2008, Van der Ryn and his colleagues came together in San Francisco for a rare one-day seminar on the past and future of sustainable communities. With Jacky Grimshaw of the Center for Neighborhood Technology moderating, they explored the juncture of ecology and urbanism that's now more critical than ever.

Honoring a giant in green design

The CNU Athena medal is given to design and development leaders who laid the groundwork for today’s re-emergence of urbanism and green community design. As ecological and economic challenges mount, the solutions initiated by Sim Van der Ryn become more relevant. CNU awarded Van der Ryn with an Athena Medal at the event. "He is the Albus Dumbledore of green architecture,” wrote Patricia Leigh Brown in the New York Times. "Long before the Prius hit the road and sustainability became the buzzword du jour, there was Sim Van der Ryn….the intrepid pioneer of the eco-frontier."

Read coverage of Sustainable Communities 2008 in the July/August issue of New Urban News.


Agenda and Event Description.


Check out audio and slideshows from this event in our Presentation Archive.


Learn more about the participants:

Sim Van der Ryn, Judy Corbett, Peter Calthorpe, Stewart Brand , Ann Nothoff, Peter Schwartz, and Shelley Poticha.

Partner Organizations

Reconnecting America
Local Government Commission
Natural Resources Defense Council
Transportation and Land-Use Coalition
Sierra Business Council
AIA San Francisco
California League of Conservation Voters