Sustainable Prosperity

Photo: kate hiscock via Flickr Creative Commons

State-of-the-art sustainability practices can transform traditional economic development and poverty alleviation strategies. Creating resource efficiencies in areas such as water, transportation, energy, and material use makes communities more equitable and resilient while lowering the cost of living.

As economic and environmental volatility becomes the new normal, CNT’s Sustainable Prosperity program is focused on recovery from these related crises. Sustainable Prosperity is a national initiative built on local economies’ unique assets to address their individual challenges and provide quantifiable real-world benefits. It is a practical, implementable toolkit that tailors strategies to work for local people, businesses, and institutions.

Elements of an anti-poverty program may be common from place-to-place, but solutions must be grounded in the political, social, and economic reality of a location if they are to create real change. The Sustainable Prosperity framework identifies a city’s specific needs and untapped opportunities, using these to lift people out of poverty and bolster economic and environmental resilience. These solutions are designed to raise incomes and decrease household costs by increasing resource efficiencies, improving access to jobs and services, and creating new employment opportunities.

How does this affect you? Our work has shown that:

  • Targeting the benefits of location and resource efficiency initiatives can help cities create jobs and help put people on track to a lower-poverty, higher-wage future.
  • Making these efficiency upgrades creates jobs, both temporary and ongoing.
  • When people can participate in the economy on more than a subsistence level, they are able to fully contribute their talents to the workforce and community.
  • The benefits of Sustainable Prosperity impact more than just those in poverty. For example, reducing energy use and expanding public transit options leads to less air pollution, which can improve asthma and heart conditions. Efficient homes and businesses will be more comfortable and safer. Reduced dependence on individual auto travel will make streets less congested, saving drivers time and money, and enhancing overall livability.

Projects + Tools

“The cost of living is going up faster than income. The majority of people, particularly those without long-term assets, are exposed to the ups and downs of living costs. It’s hard to save money in a situation like that. If your community gives you transportation choice, you’re less exposed to those ups and downs. ”

Scott Bernstein
President and Co-Founder, CNT

Research + Further Reading

Industrial EcoDistricts: Primer

June 27, 2017

This paper presents CNT’s recent research on a range of innovations for Industrial EcoDistricts in the areas of energy, water, transportation, and waste. Our work looks at district-scale interventions through the lenses of: What is it?, Why do it?, and What does it cost? with practical, real world examples and financing strategies to help implementers and decisionmakers create next-generation industrial districts in their communities. 

This paper examines: 

  • Energy: Renewables, Storage, District Energy, Microgrids, Energy Efficiency, and Demand Management 
  • Water: Water Efficiency, Demand Reduction, and Water Reuse
  • Transportation: Urban, Transit-Served Locations, Goods Transportation, and Logistics
  • Waste Systems 

We also discuss the several essential implementation factors, including site selection, governance, engagement, financing, policy, and documenting benefits. 

While all of the strategies and technologies we have looked at are being tried in one form or another, for the most part they have yet to be brought to scale. As we begin to reimagine what infrastructure means in our communities, Industrial EcoDistricts present a way to create jobs while saving energy and water, addressing climate change, and creating an economic benefit for businesses and communities.


Food Incubator Energy Systems

Jen McGraw, CNT Director of Sustainability Innovation
April 4, 2017

With the recent uptick in manufacturing around the United States, the importance of food manufacturing to local economies has come into focus for its roles in creating jobs and building on the local culinary and cultural assets of a community. With this focus has arrived an interest in supporting food manufacturing entrepreneurs as they start and grow their businesses. As a result, food manufacturing incubators and shared commercial kitchens are sprouting up in cities around the county.

To explore these issues, CNT convened a group of experts in December 2016 to workshop potential energy savings for the Hatchery, a food manufacturing incubator in Chicago. The goals of the workshop and this resulting white paper were 1) to help the Hatchery team make the operations as efficient as possible and 2) to share the workshop findings with the broader food manufacturing incubation industry to build understanding of the best energy saving options for such operations.