Sustainability takes root in urban environments

Urban communities across the country are looking deep within themselves to restore hope. Community members are becoming energized thanks to powerful initiatives to revitalize neighborhoods, stimulate economies, empower the workforce and provide accessibility to healthful food options.

Aetna is pleased to celebrate African American men and women whose life work has guided them to transform their communities from the ground up, and in many cases, quite literally.

They have planted urban gardens to feed schoolchildren and neighbors. They have given disadvantaged mothers the chance to succeed by providing fulfilling employment. They have taught at-risk teens how to build and run small businesses. They are nurturing the soil, while caring for their neighbors. They are creating natural living cities by believing it can be done from the community within.

In this 33rd annual Aetna African American History Calendar, you will meet 13 passionate and motivated individuals who believe communities can thrive when neighbors understand the problems and become part of the solutions.

In each month, you will discover the positive impact they are making in their urban neighborhoods. We also have included a relevant sustainable fact on each month. And you can read each individual’s response to Aetna’s what’s your healthy?℠, a campaign that shares personal health messages.

There is still much work that has to be done to transform urban communities, especially those that have experienced unforeseen hardship. Voices are being lifted; action is being taken; and children are growing and eating colorful, nutrient-rich produce. The groundwork is now being laid across the country, and sustainability is beginning to take root.

About the production of this calendar:

  • 2,318 trees preserved for the future
  • 6,694 pounds of water-borne waste not created
  • 108,965 pounds of solid waste not generated
  • 984,837 gallons of wastewater flow saved

A movement toward self-sufficiency in urban communities

Building sustainable communities has become my life’s work. I am certain that all the individuals featured in this year’s calendar feel the same way I do about encouraging community-based solutions to difficult social and economic challenges.

We are passionate about ensuring children; families; and anyone with the desire to live safe, healthful, productive lives can do so. We do this by creating fruitful connections to neighbors and building meaningful community environments. We are working diligently to ensure future generations can enjoy these options.

Sustainability is not a new concept by any means. At the midpoint of the last century, examples of community development in the United States incorporated now-popular concepts such as recycling, urban farming and reclamation of brownfields. This was done out of necessity. Marginalized communities had limited resources through which to generate livelihoods, build shelter and assure a food supply. So they used what was at hand.

The concept of sustainability gained mainstream interest with the work of the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development. A 1987 report delivered by the commission suggested that in a world with finite resources, focus must move toward using renewable resources and encouraging environmental stewardship so that future generations could enjoy access to and use of natural resources.

Sustainability is now at the forefront of contemporary community development practices. Over the past 40 years, the community development movement in the United States has supported residents working together, with the help of public and private sectors, to build affordable housing, encourage small business growth and train the unemployed. Collaborative efforts have brought significant swaths of urban and rural communities back to life. Communities are now seeing the need to be more sustainable, not just because of limited choices, but because sustainability is now being accepted as an operating principle.

They are growing their own food. They are building their own local economies through the exchange of goods and services. They are training residents for work. They are leveraging opportunities through housing deconstruction, which brings the reclamation and reuse of building materials from existing structures. There are many examples of sustainable practices emerging in communities across the country.

The important work of the individuals featured in this year’s calendar illustrates the search for sustainability, the search for collaboration and the search for community. They are beacons who will help take the concept forward in their own creative way. They are champions who illustrate that community development and community sustainability are two sides of the same coin.

Dr. Roland V. Anglin is associate research professor and director of the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. His 20-year career has focused on promoting economic and community development in and for marginalized communities.