Neighborhood Sustainability Indicators Guidebook

How to create neighborhood sustainability indicators in your neighborhood

This 68-page guide is focused upon one specific challenge: How do neighborhood residents ensure that their neighborhood becomes more sustainable in the long term?

PDF icon Neighborhood Sustainability Indicators Guidebook

Measuring SustainabilityWith the help of an environmental assistance grant, the Longfellow and Seward neighborhood associations in Minneapolis worked with the nonprofit Crossroads Resource Center to develop measures of linked social, environmental and economic issues in their neighborhoods.

A list of those measures, the thinking and data sources behind them, and the process that led to their creation are explored in a style that mixes scholarly analysis with stories from residents and others. The guide features a well-annotated bibliography, appendices, an extensive list of background reading and a list of assistance providers for other neighborhoods who want to develop their own sustainability indicators.

The guide was originally developed for urban neighborhoods, but it is also useful for small towns, rural counties and suburbs—any locale where people are active at the grassroots level, defining a long-term future for their community.


Four types of sustainability indicators were developed:

  • Data Poetry Indicators are unique to each neighborhood and express complex, linked issues in a concise way. For example, Seward's "friendly spaces" indicator will be measured by volunteers looking for 60 different features that help residents to get better acquainted with each other (e.g., gathering spaces, front porch swings).
  • Core Indicators offer ways of assessing neighborhood sustainability, both inside neighborhoods and across neighborhood boundaries. The affordable housing indicator assesses whether neighborhood rental and ownership opportunities are affordable to residents of all income levels.
  • Background Indicators show less linkage among social, environmental and economic issues than the previous indicators, but allow better cross-neighborhood comparisons. For example, air quality at nearest collection point.
  • Deep Sustainability Indicators assist local stakeholders in defining a longer-term vision for life in their community. For example, percent of energy consumed from renewable sources.


This guide was produced through a FY1997 grant to the Urban Ecology Coalition, and written by Ken Meter of Crossroads Resource Center.