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Green Communities in Southwest Michigan

This page is designed to be a resource page that lists voluntary programs, initiatives and ideas to become a Green Municipality in Southwest Michigan.


Consider becoming a member of the Michigan's Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum to network with others becoming more sustainable in their business practices.  Michigan's Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum (MGSSBF) mission is to educate and assist its members in developing and promoting business practices, and vendor relationships, that are not only cost-effective but encourage environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic vitality.  Learn more at MGSSBF's website.




The Five Tests of Smart Growth
(Adapted from the North Carolina Smart Growth Alliance)
1. Popsicle Test:

  • Can can you walk home from the store before your popsicle melts?
  • Can most daily needs be met by walking or biking?  

2. Smooch Test:

  • Is the place comfortable, safe, attractive, and intimate, suitable for a date-night stroll?
  • Are people-and their ears- shielded from high-speed car traffic?
  • Would you feel good about taking a visitor there?  

3. Kid Test:

  • Can children safely explore a world beyond their own backyards?
  • Can older kids get around on their own, safely developing a sense of self-reliance and autonomy?

4. Seniors Test:

  • Are elder citizens a welcome part of the mix of residents?
  • Are they engaged and active? Can they get out and about and get their needs met when driving is no longer an option?  

5. Commons Test:

  • Does the development contribute to the overall community something greater than what it takes in terms of natural and community resources?
  • Will it age gracefully and adapt to future uses, or is it designed to be disposable?
  • What does it leave for future generations? 


Policies that Work:  A Governor's Guide to Growth and Development

All across America - from Maine to Arizona, from Washington State to Florida, and from Louisiana to Michigan - governors have recognized how important their actions are in shaping the communities of their states. Even when most land use authority rests at the local level, state actions still have a large and direct impact on economic development, land conservation, environmental protection, transportation, education, and the provision of water, sewer, and other infrastructure. State actions directly or indirectly help determine whether land should be developed or protected, farmed or subdivided, served by transit or crisscrossed by roads, and much more. In state after state, governors are searching for ways to make smarter land use decisions. An increasing number of governors are looking for tried and trusted policies that can help them produce more cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable patterns of growth.


10 Smart Growth Principles

  • Create Range of Housing Opportunities and Choices
  • Create Walkable Neighborhoods
  • Encourage Community and Stakeholder Collaboration
  • Foster Distinctive, Attractive Communities with a Strong Sense of Place
  • Make Development Decisions Predictable, Fair, and Cost-Effective
  • Mix Land Uses
  • Preserve Open Space, Farmland, Natural Beauty, and Critical Environmental Areas
  • Provide a Variety of Transportation Choices
  • Strengthen and Direct Development Toward Existing Communities
  • Take Advantage of Compact Building Design


Transportation Projects and the Environment

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) published a guidance document designed to promote good planning practices and endorse consideration and integration of environmental issues into transportation projects.


Filling the Gaps

How we use our land is the foundation of environmental quality. Statewide there are more than 1800 units of local government that have the authority to make land use decisions. FILLING THE GAPS was created to equip local officials with important information to consider when making local land use plans, adopting new environmentally focused regulations, or reviewing proposed development.


Water Sense

WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency, makes it wasy for Americans to save water and protect the environment.   www.epa.gov/watersense

The Natural Step 

Since 1988, The Natural Step has worked to accelerate global sustainability by guiding companies, communities and governments onto an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable path.  More than 70 people in eleven countries work with an international network of sustainability experts, scientists, universities and businesses to create solutions, innovative models and tools that will lead the transition to a sustainable future.


Clean Energy Environment: State and Local Program

States and localities are developing initiatives aimed at providing an increasingly clean, renewable, and efficient supply of energy; supporting the development and deployment of emerging technologies; and achieving energy cost savings through greater end-use efficiency in residential and commercial buildings, municipal facilities, and transportation.



Municipal Green Building Policies: Strategies for Transforming Building Practices in the Private Sector

The Environmental Law Institute has published a new report, titled Municipal Green Building Policies: Strategies for Transforming Building Practices in the Private Sector. The report reviews more than 30 municipal policies that aim to advance green building in the private sector by (1) establishing mandatory green building criteria; (2) providing expedited review as an incentive for green building; or (3) offering other direct financial incentives for green building, including grants, fee waivers, tax breaks and bonus development.



ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainablility

Is an international association of local governments and national and regional local government organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development. More than 815 cities, towns, counties, and their associations worldwide comprise ICLEI's growing membership. ICLEI works with these and hundreds of other local governments through international performance-based, results-oriented campaigns and programs.



Energy Star

The ENERGY STAR Challenge is a national call-to-action to improve the energy efficiency of America's commercial and industrial buildings by 10 percent or more.  We can all do our part - Take the ENERGY STAR Challenge and use the free Challenge Toolkit to help build a better world.



EPA Green Power Partnership

In buying green power, your organization can receive valuable recognition and help protect the environment. Green power can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the environmental impacts associated with your organization's conventional electricity use. By partnering with EPA, you can also receive technical support in identifying green power products that meet your organization's needs and goals. Become a partner today!



WasteWise Program

WasteWise is a free, voluntary, EPA program through which organizations eliminate costly municipal solid waste and select industrial wastes, benefiting their bottom line and the environment. WasteWise is a flexible program that allows partners to design their own waste reduction programs tailored to their needs. All organizations within the United States may join the program. Large and small businesses from any industry sector are welcome to participate. Institutions, such as hospitals and universities, non-profits, and other organizations, as well as state, local, and tribal governments, are also eligible to participate in WasteWise. www.epa.gov/smm/wastewise


Heat Island Effect

For millions of Americans living in and around cities, heat islands are of growing concern. This phenomenon describes urban and suburban temperatures that are 2 to 10°F (1 to 6°C) hotter than nearby rural areas. Elevated temperatures can impact communities by increasing peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution levels, and heat-related illness and mortality. Fortunately, there are common-sense measures that communities can take to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.



Cool Cities

All over America, communities are taking action to help solve global warming. From hybrid vehicle fleets in Charlotte, to green buildings in Austin, and homes powered with renewable energy in Seattle, local governments are moving forward with innovative energy solutions that curb global warming, save taxpayer dollars, and create healthier cities. These local leaders are moving America toward a safer and more secure future.



This page last updated on 4/23/2020.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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