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GreeningUSA 12 Traits of Sustainable Communities Rating System Assess, plan and grow!
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Sustainable communities save money and boost quality of life by going green

GreeningUSA Community Membership for municipalities—apply today!

NEW! GreeningUSA's 12 Traits system and Nov. 2012 launch of the Green Bag Lunch Series (presentation slides; pdf, 1.7 MB)


GreeningUSA’s 12 Traits program is the most comprehensive sustainable community rating system in the country. It’s both an in-depth rating system and a public recognition program for any size city, town, village or county. The 12 Traits program is available free of charge to GreeningUSA Member Communities as a benefit of their annual membership.

For municipalities striving to save money through focused sustainability leadership—balancing economic, environmental and social priorities—implementing the 12 Traits program will benchmark the community’s current level of sustainability performance. This is the first step in launching a local government’s “assess, plan and grow” action plan to enhance the community’s economic, environmental and social well-being.

The program enables detailed assessments of community sustainability in the following 12 areas (traits):

  • Governmental Leadership
  • Economic Development
  • Land Use Planning & Resource Management
  • Transportation & Parking
  • Water Infrastructure/Systems
  • Buildings & Housing
  • Energy Use & Generation
  • Waste Management
  • Cultural Resources & Entertainment
  • Education
  • Health, Food & Safety
  • Community Involvement

"It is an honor to be named a Sustainable Community by GreeningUSA. As the first community in the nation to complete the 12 Traits of Sustainability assessment, we are proud to be working with GreeningUSA on this innovative program," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. "This assessment will provide the roadmap Syracuse needs to develop a clear and ambitious action plan for making our city a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable community."
GreeningUSA Presents First 'Sustainable Community' Award (May 2011)

Each of the 12 traits addresses the 3 categories of sustainability: economy, environment and social equity. This creates 36 specific criteria for measurement and scoring based on a points system. The assessment and scoring of all 36 criteria occurs in each of the following two levels:

  • Objective sustainability performance data such as the air quality index, unemployment rate, sprawl index and housing affordability.
  • Recognition of the community’s sustainability initiatives currently underway based on “best practices” from around the country.

A maximum achievable score of 5,040 points is possible from these two assessments. Based on the total score received, a community will be designated as achieving one of four award levels and recognized as a GreeningUSA Member Community, Sustainable Community, Highly Sustainable Community or Highly Sustainable Community of Distinction.

GreeningUSA’s 12 Traits program committee members are available as a resource to answer questions and provide guidance to member communities as they’re completing the 12 Traits assessments.

Upon completing the 12 Traits program, the GreeningUSA member community has a full set of baseline data to begin planning its transformation into a more sustainable community! GreeningUSA offers the following types of support to help with this effort:

  • Online collaborative tools currently being developed that will provide easy access to industry experts and best practices.
  • Individualized consulting services at highly competitive and affordable rates.

Whether GreeningUSA provides a lot or little planning assistance, developing a good plan based on the 12 Traits results takes some time, but the end outcome is well worth it. Ultimately, it’s the member community that’s responsible for creating a vision of how sustainable it wants to be and developing an action plan that will get them there.

Once the GreeningUSA member community has created its sustainability vision and plan, this is where the whole community is encouraged to get involved. Everyone has a stake in going green. Securing solid community support for the plan will foster greater involvement, more effective implementation and enthusiasm while monitoring the results/progress. GreeningUSA also offers various types of support during this stage, including communications/publicity tools to help promote the community’s sustainability efforts and successes.

Are you motivated to help your community become more sustainable and have it recognized for going green? Sign up your municipality as a GreeningUSA Member Community so you can begin implementing the 12 Traits of Sustainable Communities program!

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