Healthy Economy

Biosphere Reserves strive to achieve four pillars of sustainable development:

Environmental sustainability: all actions should enhance and protect environmental health upon which human health & the economy depend;

Economic sustainability: we must support local livelihoods, create a vibrant economy and foster long term wealth for our citizens;

Social sustainability: our institutions and infrastructure must foster healthy family and community life over the long term;

Cultural sustainability: we must preserve our rich and diverse cultural heritage, while fostering an atmosphere that encourages expression, communication and interaction in the arts, recreation and well-being of our citizens and visitors.

What is a Sustainable Community?

The concept of a “sustainable community” does not describe just one type of neighborhood, town, city or region. Activities that the environment can sustain and that citizens want and can afford may be quite different from community to community. Rather than being a fixed thing, a sustainable community is continually adjusting to meet the social and economic needs of its residents while preserving the environment’s ability to support it.

A sustainable community uses its resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations. It seeks a better quality of life for all its residents while maintaining nature’s ability to function over time by minimizing waste, preventing pollution, promoting efficiency and developing local resources to revitalize the local economy. Decision-making in a sustainable community stems from a rich civic life and shared information among community members. A sustainable community resembles a living system in which human, natural and economic elements are interdependent and draw strength from each other.

Potentially significant employment opportunities, consistent with more sustainable patterns of development, exist in many economic sectors. Redesigned and improved infrastructure, knowledge-based services, environmental technologies, improved management and use of natural resources, and tourism are all rich areas for private sector investment, supportive government policies, and expanded training.

Some of the most promising employment opportunities include:

  • Upgrading the efficiency of energy use in buildings, products, and transportation systems
  • Adopting and implementing sustainable forestry, fisheries, soil, and watershed management practices
  • Expanded delivery and use of information technologies
  • Sustainable tourism activities centred around areas of environmental, cultural, and historic significance
  • Recycling and remanufacturing of solid and hazardous waste into marketable products
  • Accelerated and expanded development of marine and freshwater aquaculture (although there are risks associated with this)
  • Adding value to fish, agricultural, and forest products
  • Developing, manufacturing, and marketing products, services, and technologies that reduce environmental burdens
  • Designing energy-efficient and people-friendly cities

Sustainable employment includes:

  • turning “wastes” into resources (e.g., recycling)
  • improving efficiency with regard to energy and materials
  • converting to greater reliance on renewable energy sources
  • increasing community self-reliance (e.g., food and energy production)
  • and sustainable management of natural resources (e.g., community forestry).

This shifts our economic development emphasis from the traditional concern with increasing growth to reducing social dependence on economic growth.

Examples of sustainable community development include:

  1. car cooperatives to reduce the cost and necessity of car ownership (Vancouver),
  2. sustainable employment plans to create jobs, spur private spending, and reduce pollution through public investment in energy conservation and audits (San Jose, California),
  3. new product development to encourage manufacturers to develop environmentally-friendly products through municipal R&D assistance (Gothenberg, Sweden),
  4. increasing affordable housing supply through zoning codes that promote a variety of housing types, including smaller and multi-family homes (Portland, Oregon),
  5. experimenting with local self-reliance by establishing closed-loop, self-sustaining economic networks (St. Paul, Minnesota),
  6. community supported agriculture to preserve farmland and help farmers, while making fresh fruits and vegetables available in city neighborhoods (Vancouver; London, Ontario; New York City),
  7. local currencies such as LETS: Local Employment and Trading Systems (Toronto),
  8. a local ownership development project with a revolving loan fund to encourage employee-owned businesses, which are considered more stable over the long term and more likely to hire, train and promote local residents (Burlington, Vermont),
  9. and a community beverage container recycling depot which employs street people – “dumpster divers” – and provides them with skills, training, and self-esteem (Vancouver).

From:  Simon Fraser University, Centre for Sustainable Community Development

The Gateway to CED Resources is a self-study tour of CED including principles, case studies, methods, tools, etc. This Gateway can be found at

Background In 2004, UNESCO recognized the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve as a unique area of natural and cultural heritage, validating the community’s intention to protect, promote, and celebrate the richness of this heritage while it strives to maintain and develop the economic base needed to ensure a high quality of life.
Georgian Bay has a rich history of Aboriginal settlement, commercial fishing and shipping, logging camps and railway lines. As resources became scarce in the mid-1800s, the economic history shifted to recreational cottage development. Small service communities along the coast continue to rely on seasonal tourism, although due to increasing pressures on southern and central Ontario, they face greater residential and retirement developments.

While its southern end is located only 165 km from the Greater Toronto Area, eastern Georgian Bay has very little road access in comparison to surrounding areas. The large amount of Crown Land set aside in parks and conservation reserves makes the coast one of the longest and largest corridors of almost continuous protected landscape in south-central Ontario. There is great potential to foster economic and human development because of the high quality environment for tourism-based jobs, scientific research, educational pursuits, and healthy lifestyles.

Integrating conservation with sustainable development is the overarching purpose of UNESCO biosphere reserves. Recently, the Severn Sound Environmental Association developed a Community Sustainability Plan. Several Cottagers’ Associations have also initiated major Community Plan documents that are meant to inform Official Plans at the municipal level. These processes will influence both conservation and development along the eastern coast of Georgian Bay.

Tourism is currently a strong economic driver in the region and the GBBR Inc. is committed to fostering sustainable tourism. It recognizes that this region provides both opportunities as well as challenges.  Existing retail and non-profit organizations like museums, art galleries, resorts, restaurants, festivals/events are eager to move into the tourism industry but require assistance with training, product development and knowledge of the region’s assets in order to do so.  Private and public sector funds are being utilized for improved product marketing and training, but not necessarily in the most logical and measurable means and not in the context of sustainability.

The GBBR Inc. adopts the definition of Sustainable Tourism as developed by Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and the Parks Canada Agency, in the spring of 2005:

“Sustainable tourism actively fosters appreciation and stewardship of the natural, cultural and historic resources and special places by local residents, the tourism industry, governments, and visitors.  It is tourism which is viable over the long term because it results in a net benefit for the social, economic, natural and cultural environments of the area in which it takes place.”