The European Day for Sustainable Communities is a celebration of local communities taking action for a better, more sustainable world. It gives local communities an opportunity to join with others to showcase their work and inspire the wider public. We invite local communities who are working to create a sustainable, resilient and inclusive Europe to organise an event to mark the day, and to register it on our dedicated European Day of Sustainable Communities website.
In 2017 communities in 15 European countries celebrated the day. This year, at the end of August, communities in 17 countries have already registered!
As part of the celebrations ECOLISE is once again co-hosting a conference with the European Economic and Social Council (EESC) in Brussels. It is a learning conference entitled Civil Society and municipalities – building sustainability through collaboration.
The conference is being organised in collaboration with the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Transition Network and takes place at the EESC, Rue Belliard 100, Brussels 1000. It will be a blended meeting so participants can join online.
Citizen and community-led action on climate change and sustainability has spawned a dynamic, grassroots movement, with thousands of communities across Europe striving to redefine our relationship with the natural world by designing and testing new economic, social and environmental innovations that promote regeneration and sustainability.
There is growing evidence and recognition that these bottom-up approaches are as an essential complement to top-down approaches in achieving the radical, structural and lasting lifestyle changes necessary for creating an equitable, sustainable and low-carbon society.
Increasingly, these community initiatives are engaging in dialogue with municipal partners, helping to inspire and even reorient municipal activities, in line with longer term climate and sustainability goals.
This kind of local alignment or integration can be a powerful means of mobilising support and engagement on common goals.
This conference will facilitate a conversation in which participants can share experiences, and explore ways to encourage and support this type of collaboration.
European Day of Sustainable Communities in 2017
Communities in 15 European countries celebrated the inaugural European Day of Sustainable Communities in September 2017.
From the Balkans to the Baltic Sea and along the western fringe of Europe, there was an impressive diversity of events!
There were ecovillage open days in Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, a lecture on rural eco-tourism in Serbia and conversations about Transition in Spain. In Poland leaders of social change gathered to share their experience of techniques and methods for alternative education, in Wales there was a 30th anniversary celebration of a wildlife conservation farm and in Northern Ireland there was a gathering to inspire woodland social enterprises in a community-owned wood. In Germany there was a bike tour and a food fermentation workshop, in Luxembourg the launch of a community garden and throughout France and Belgium there were some 1500 events as part of La Fête des Possibles. In the Netherlands people were exploring simple actions for social and ecological well-being, in Portugal there was a gathering in the permaculture garden at Lisbon university and in Croatia there was an international co-creative gathering for transformational learning.
Amalurra Ecovillage in the Basque country, Spain, hosted an apple pressing day
Suderbyn Ecovillage, Sweden, opened its café doors for coffee, cakes and goodies, as well as tours workshops and theatre
Transition Monaghan, Ireland also hosted an apple pressing for making fresh juice and cider
Red de Transción (Transition Spain) organised a participatory live online video conference ‘Conversation in Transition’
Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Ireland opened its doors with tours, theatre and music
At a conference co-hosted with the EESC in Brussels on Friday 22nd 2017 ECOLISE representatives showcased for policy makers and other stakeholders the huge diversity of ways that local communities, such as those celebrating the European Day, are taking action on critical global challenges, driven by the desire of ordinary people, throughout Europe and the world, to be part of the solution rather than the problem. The event also contributed to the action week that celebrates the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
During the conference there was a live video link-up with the five countries showcasing a selection of these Europe-wide events.
Participants at the European Day of Sustainable Communities launch event included EU policy-makers such as the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the EESC, government representatives, and community leaders, including ECOLISE members, partner organisations, associations and NGOs.
A booklet – ‘A community-led transition in Europe: Local action towards a sustainable, resilient, low-carbon future‘ – which gives a snapshot of these community-led initiatives, was officially launched at the conference.
The results are impressive, not just in terms of the scale of the mobilisation (now counting some 15,000 ecovillages worldwide, over three million permaculture practioners, and around 1,200 Transition initiatives) but also the positive environmental impacts: studies of CO2 emissions in Danish ecovillages, for example, find they are 60 per cent lower than the national average, while Findhorn ecovillage in Scotland has the lowest documented ecological footprint of any settlement in the industrial world.
Transition initiatives are also achieving impressive results. The Transition Streets project in Totnes, England, involves 468 households, each saving at least 1.3 tonnes of carbon annually.
The EU-funded TESS project (2017) recently concluded that: ‘If just five per cent of EU citizens were to engage in effective community-led climate mitigation initiatives, the carbon savings would be sufficient for nearly 85 percent of EU-28 countries to achieve their 2020 emissions reduction targets.’
Just as significant as the direct carbon savings, however, are the wider environmental impacts, the awareness raising, the social cohesion, the creation of local livelihoods and retention of wealth in local economies and the feeling of empowerment that citizens experience by working together to bring about change.
Community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability are helping to mobilise citizens, change mind-sets and behaviour, and catalyse decentralised solutions based on social and technological innovations. However, these bottom-up approaches need a policy framework that enables action and fosters the spreading of such initiatives.