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Environmentally Sustainable Development in the Developed World

Examples of sustainable development


Interface Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia in the USA is the world’s largest manufacturer of carpet tiles. Carpet manufacturing is petroleum-intensive. Ten years ago, Interface president Ray Anderson read The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken and was greatly influenced by it. Anderson believes that the goal of business should be “restorative economy: putting back what we’ve taken”. Since 1994, Interface has reduced 'carbon intensity' by a third, and greenhouse gas production by 46%. It has also reduced the number of factory chimneys and waste pipes, and lowered its water usage. To reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Interface changed from coal to natural gas for its boilers and has been using methane gas piped from landfill sites, biomass and wind energy. At some of its facilities, it generates its own electricity from photovoltaic cells. Its Terratex fabric is made entirely of recycled polyester and reclaimed wool. Among several other product innovations, Interface uses recycled vinyl backing for its carpet tiles and makes a residential carpet from a corn-based recyclable fibre.

Herman Miller Inc. of Michigan, USA designs furniture that can be reused and re-manufactured several times. Its Mirra chair also uses fewer plastic components, which are fossil fuel-derived, and a thermoplastic elastomer instead of PVC.

Nike has its Reuse-A-Shoe programme. The upper fabric, inner foam and rubber soles are used to make flooring and surfacing for playgrounds and sportsgrounds.

Eco-industrial parks

Eco-industrial parks or estates are locations where industries are placed together to co-operatively manage the environmental impact of their operations and to share resources. Sharing resources is also economically efficient. The eco-industrial park at Kalundborg in Denmark has businesses that trade by-products. There is a power plant, a plasterboard factory, a manufacturer of sulphuric acid and an oil refinery, which each produce a waste that is valuable to other industries in the park: for example, the ash produced by the power station is used to make cement. The park has reduced its water and oil consumption as well. In total there are now about 20 different projects. Kalundborg was established some time during the 1970s and has been financially successful.

Kalundborg has been used as a model for other eco-industrial parks, for example at Cape Charles in Virginia. The Virginian state government is offering financial incentives to companies to relocate or establish themselves there.

Sustainable cities

Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain dates from the Middle Ages. This city has implemented a policy of mixed land use and high-density development along its transport corridors. It has decentralised its social services and there is evenly distributed access to open spaces. It has a well-developed public transport system and there are bicycle paths and pedestrian zones. Despite its current population being nearly four times its size in 1950, Vitoria-Gasteiz has managed to maintain and develop a compact, but high-quality urban environment with a surrounding green belt.


The Gaia Trust has identified several well-established settlements. These include Solheimer in Iceland, Findhorn in Scotland, Crystal Waters in Australia and Lebensgarten in Germany. All of these would have been built to minimise consumption of energy and resources and to minimise the production of waste. For example, the Crystal Waters Permaculture Village’s training centre is a rammed earth building which is cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It has photovoltaic panels which feed into the mains electricity grid and a biolytic (antibacterial) toilet system. Rainwater is collected from the roof. All water used in the building is treated in the biolytic filter and used to irrigate plants.

There is also an eco-village project within a large city - this is the Los Angeles Eco-Village Project in the Wilshire Center, Korea Town area of Los Angeles. The project includes a 40-unit apartment building, fruit trees and small gardens, and about 500 people live there. There is a children’s farming co-operative and a weekly organic farmers’ market. About 15% of the village’s food supply comes from the local gardens and orchards.

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