Sustainable Communities In Every Sense

Posted on: June 17th, 2011 by Julia Rocchi

Here at National Trust HQ we recently celebrated Go Green Week, an event designed to deepen staffers' knowledge about green office practices and environmental issues. As part of our education, we had the chance to meet Nora Johnson and Danielle Arigoni from the Office of Sustainable Communities (OSC) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They joined us over lunch to talk about the interagency partnership between HUD, DOT, and EPA, and what it means for creating sustainable communities in every sense of the word.

Formerly known as the Smart Growth program, OSC takes a holistic view to community development. It combines tenets from smart growth -- such as walkability, open space, and transportation -- with those of environmentalism, like protection and conservation. The resulting livability principles touch on everything from land use and design to climates and water. No stone (literally) is left unturned.

As Arigoni put it, “communities are our main clients," and she outlined her office's three key strategies for serving them:

  1. Change the conversation. This includes a new comprehensive website (, talks, and awards to spread the gospel about sustainable communities. One great example is their Greening Historic Communities Symposium, which just happened this week in Wilmington, Delaware.
  2. Work with the willing. In their goal to be as responsive as possible to communities, EPA partners with a variety of organizations and agencies to offer analysis and technical assistance. Program examples include Smart Growth Implementation Assistance, Greening American’s CapitalsSustainable Communities Building Blocks, and Governor’s Institute for Community Design.
  3. Change the rules. OSC is working within the regulatory framework to achieve their goals -- and advocating for change when necessary. For example, the EPA is focusing right now on the community-focused International Green Construction Code (IGCC) and fighting against proposals that weaken the code from an environmental standpoint.

A prime example of all these strategies coming together is OSC's ongoing preservation-related work in Concord, New Hampshire. National Trust staffer Kimberly Kooles covered the project in detail earlier this year -- get your refresher course here.

If you're looking to accomplish similar work in your area, be sure to check out the grants listings on the OSC site, as they have both new and improved funding options available to eligible communities. And if you want to learn more about preservation's intersection with sustainability in general, take a minute to browse our blog posts on the subject and our Sustainability section on

So from our community to yours -- Happy (belated) Go Green Week! Good luck with all your greening goals.

Julia Rocchi does content, marketing, and web-monkeying for the Digital + New Media team. Her favorite part of the inaugural Go Green! Week (besides this talk, of course) was the office supply swap, in which she was able to give a neglected 3-hole punch a new lease on life.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.