Building Better Communities: Sustainable, EQUITABLE Development & The Built Environment


Sustainable Development

1000 Friends of Iowa promotes responsible development that improves the quality of life for future generations. “Sustainability,” according to Webster’s American Heritage Dictionary, is to “keep in existence; maintain.” Sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity.

Iowa is experiencing changes in the ways that development is occurring; yet many of these development patterns are unsustainable over the long-term. Iowa is experiencing a dramatic population shift from rural areas and small towns toward large urban areas. Farmland and natural areas are impacted by poorly planned, low-density sprawl subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Many of Iowa’s inner city and historic neighborhoods have experienced decades of disinvestments, including redlining, which has led to neighborhood decay. Check out Undesign the Redline here.

Our communities are predominantly being designed to be auto-dependent, although a wide consensus has occurred that the days of cheap gas and endless fuel sources are over.

Sustainable development also helps us meet goals of energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector produces about one-third of the total U.S. CO2 emissions, and transportation plans and investments are directly tied to how land is used.

1000 Friends is the lead organization in Iowa that is advancing solutions on responsible land use and building more equitable and sustainable communities that allow Iowans to accomplish more with less driving. Some are common sense solutions yet many people haven’t yet connected the dots to energy issues, like how revitalizing our Main Streets with small businesses and jobs means that residents in small town Iowa won’t have to drive far away to get to work, creating mixed-income, walkable neighborhoods. Some are more technical solutions, like measuring the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) associated with auto-dependent, sprawling development versus urban revitalization, improved transit choices, and mixed-income walkable neighborhoods. Reducing VMT means weaning our dependence on imported oil, making wiser use of energy-intensive biofuels, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

1000 Friends of Iowa supports a shift in development patterns that will better meet the needs of future generations, while providing economic, social, and environmental benefits to communities. Across Iowa and the nation, many realtors, architects, citizens, and governmental leaders have embraced principles of “smart growth.” Smart growth gives us great communities with more choices in housing and transportation, a better return on public investment, and provides benefits to everyone in the community.

Building better communities is possible through changes in public policy, shifting taxpayer dollars away from sprawl and toward innovations in sustainable development, and collaborating with decision-makers and stakeholders to implement smart growth.

1000 Friends of Iowa supports the creation of local community-driven sustainability committees that can work with cities to realize their sustainability and climate goals.

Check out our series of webinars about important sustainability issues in our communities. 

Are you interested in being part of an existing committee or forming one in your community? Contact 1000 Friends of Iowa at or call 515-288-5364 for more information!



Check out this webinar to teach us how to use a great website full of information on sustainable city codes

People United for Responsible Land Use