New Guide, Fresh Approach

First published by Land Stewardship Centre in 2009, with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), Alberta Environment, Alberta Municipal Affairs, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Shell Environment Fund and City of Calgary, the original Green Communities Guide was developed to help growing communities plan and implement strategies to conserve water, protect water quality, preserve agricultural land, and protect critical open spaces and wildlife habitat.

With the changes in technology and innovation in stewardship that have taken place since 2009, and the focus on sustainability, including the move towards utilizing nature-based solutions (NBS) to address development challenges in growing communities, there was a pressing need to update the Guide to ensure it can continue to be a reliable, impactful resource for municipalities, developers, real estate professionals and more.

Launched in 2021, this new Green Communities Guide takes a fresh approach to supporting municipalities and businesses in their efforts to develop land sustainably and reduce the risks of climate change on infrastructure through the implementation of NBS.

Building on a Solid Foundation

Over the years, the Guide and its content has resonated deeply with municipalities and the stewardship community across Alberta. Municipalities, including the MD of Foothills, Parkland County and County of Vermilion River to name a few, have continued to utilize fundamentals from the original Guide (2009) to support their sustainability and land-use planning efforts.

To ensure this resource addresses current needs and demands, Land Stewardship Centre has updated the Guide content and format with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF). With a refreshed focus on NBS and new methods of delivery including a more accessible online format, this new Guide presents audiences with nature-based solutions for climate change that promote and support sustainable development and conservation of valuable natural resources. Available online, this digital resource is readily accessible to real estate professionals, municipalities, land use planners, community groups and developers across Alberta, to help plan and implement strategies to conserve valuable natural assets as communities develop and expand.

Advancing Nature-Based Solutions

Natural assets – sometimes referred to as natural capital, an economic term for the finite amount of physical and biological resources on Earth – are encompassed in a “complex web of biological, chemical, and physical processes,”[1] called ecosystems that support all life on Earth and impact human quality of life. Ecosystem Services (ES) are the benefits that humans receive from nature. These benefits include provisioning services such as food and clean water, regulating services that affect climate, floods and water quality, cultural services that provide recreational benefits, and supporting services such as soil formation.[2]

The functions that nature provides to communities beyond core services and infrastructure protection are invaluable to the overall health and well-being of a community. Additionally, there have been advancements in the field as people begin to better understand how it can be applied.

Ecosystem services are vitally important in land use management decision making because they support the delivery of core local government services, including flood protection, water management, climate regulation, etc., while doing so much more.

Real-World Benefits

This updated Guide conveys knowledge that helps to advance development solutions that offer climate, biodiversity, and other mutual benefits for people and nature. Additionally, the updated version looks more deeply into nature-based solutions for urban communities and links these types of infrastructure with societal benefits, climate change adaptation, and the municipal role in delivering and supporting ecosystem services. The revised focus on utilizing nature-based solutions to support community resiliency is a key and emerging need among developers and municipalities given the issues associated with global climate change. And considering the current global pandemic, building back better - building community health, sustainability, and resiliency - is more critical now than ever.

Tangible Examples

The new Guide features case studies and tangible examples of municipalities and others who have incorporated NBS into their communities. The Guide is aimed at informing municipal planners, developers, community groups, and real estate professionals about the innovative approaches that can be taken to avoid, mitigate, or reduce the impacts of growth and community development, support and maintain the flow of ecosystem services from their landscapes, and create more sustainable and resilient communities.

Users will find the Guide directly applicable to them as content includes real-life examples of organizations and communities that have implemented nature-based solutions to save on costs (economic), boost community happiness (mental health), and enhance community resiliency (especially as news of flood, fire, and drought events become more prominent).