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Smart Growth

Tools and Resources for Sustainable Communities


To help communities develop and support neighborhoods that provide transportation choices and affordable housing, increase economic competitiveness, and direct resources toward places with existing infrastructure, EPA has compiled this list of useful tools and key resources. This page will be periodically updated.

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Tools for Sustainable Communities

Climate Change

Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X)
EPA’s Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X) is an interactive resource to help local governments effectively deliver services to their communities even as the climate changes. Decision makers can create an integrated package of information tailored specifically to their needs. Once users select areas of interest, they will find information about: the risks posed by climate change to the issues of concern; relevant adaptation strategies; case studies illustrating how other communities have successfully adapted to those risks and tools to replicate their successes; and EPA funding opportunities.

Household Carbon Footprint Calculator
This EPA calculator can help communities educate residents about their personal greenhouse gas emissions, which can help support community-wide efforts to reduce climate impacts.

Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments
This EPA program provides technical assistance, analytical tools, and outreach support to state, local, and tribal governments on energy issues.

Smart Growth and Climate Change
This page describes how smart growth and climate change intersect in two main areas: mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions from development) and adaptation (making communities more resilient to the effects of a changing climate). 

Smart Growth Fixes for Climate Adaptation and Resilience: Changing Land Use and Building Codes and Policies to Prepare for Climate Change
This publication describes specific changes communities could make to their land use and building policies to prepare for climate change while gaining other environmental, economic, health, and social benefits in the short and long terms.

Planning Framework for a Climate-Resilient Economy
This tool can help communities assess how climate change could affect their economy, improve their economic resilience, and think creatively about ways to prosper in a changing climate.

Transportation, Air Pollution, and Climate Change
This site offers information on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources, including information about relevant EPA regulations and what you can do to reduce your transportation emissions.

Green Power Partnership
EPA's Green Power Partnership is a national voluntary program that supports the organizational procurement of green power by offering expert advice, technical support, tools, and resources. Partnering with EPA can help your organization or community lower the transaction costs of buying green power, reduce its carbon footprint, and communicate its leadership to key stakeholders. Green power is electricity produced from a subset of renewable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and low-impact hydro.

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Codes, Ordinances, and Land Development Regulations

Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Rural Planning, Zoning, and Development Codes
This publication describes policy options that can help rural communities strengthen their economies while preserving rural character.

Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes
This publication describes zoning changes communities can make to their zoning codes and regulations based on common issues and themes confronting urban and suburban governments.

Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities
This tool lets communities evaluate their existing policies to create healthy, environmentally resilient, and economically robust places.

Smart Growth Implementation Toolkit Exit
Tools in the Smart Growth Implementation Toolkit can help your community grow smarter, including a quick diagnostic of existing conditions, a policy audit, a code audit, an audit summary mechanism, and a project scorecard to assess potential updates.

Codes that Support Smart Growth Development
This page provides a sampling of effective, smart growth-supportive codes that could be used as models for communities trying to update their zoning. These examples include unified development codes, form-based codes, transit-oriented development, design guidelines, street design standards, and zoning overlays.

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Economic Development

Local Foods, Local Places Toolkit: A Guide to Help Communities Revitalize Using Local Food Systems
This toolkit can help communities use local foods to support downtown and neighborhood revitalization. It provides step-by-step instructions for planning and hosting a community workshop and creating an action plan.

Framework for Creating a Smart Growth Economic Development Strategy: A Tool for Small Cities and Towns
This step-by-step guide to building a place-based economic development strategy is intended for small and mid-sized cities, particularly those that have limited population growth, areas of disinvestment, and/or a struggling economy.

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Environmental Justice and Equitable Development

Environmental Justice
EPA works to ensure the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has numerous resources, including grants, to help communities work toward the goal of ensuring that everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

EJSCREEN is an environmental justice mapping and screening tool that uses a nationally consistent dataset and approach for combining environmental and demographic indicators. Users choose a geographic area; the tool then provides demographic and environmental information for that area. The tool includes a method for combining environmental and demographic indicators into EJ indexes.

All-In Cities Policy Toolkit Exit
This toolkit from PolicyLink can help communities in the areas of good jobs, economic security, homegrown talent, healthy neighborhoods, housing /anti-displacement, democracy and justice. Each tool contains information on what the policy is, key considerations, who can implement it, and examples of where it is working.

Public Involvement Plan and Toolkit for Las Cruces
This toolkit can help communities develop strategies that invite and maintain the participation of all residents, especially ethnically diverse, low-income populations and others that have had little or no involvement in community planning and design.

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Funding Resources

National Funding Opportunities
Smart growth and sustainable communities-related funding opportunities from federal agencies, as well as links to national directories of funding sources.

Regional, State, and Local Funding Opportunities
Smart growth and sustainable communities-related funding opportunities from state governments and other entities.

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Green Building

Energy Star
Energy Star is a joint program of EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. This site offers resources for homes and businesses.

Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments
EPA Region 4 developed this toolkit in response to local governments' requests for assistance to help them identify and remove barriers to sustainable design and green building in their permitting processes. The toolkit addresses the local codes of ordinances that affect the design, construction, renovation, and operation and maintenance of a building and its immediate site. It contains an assessment tool, a resource guide, and a guide to developing an action plan for implementing changes to the permitting process. It can also be used by members of the development community, local government "green teams," and other building professionals.

Tribal Green Building Toolkit
This toolkit provides information on how tribes and other communities can prioritize and implement green building codes, policies, and practices.

U.S. Green Building Council Exit
USGBC certifies green buildings and neighborhoods under the LEED rating systems. LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) integrates the principles of smart growth and green building into the first national rating system for neighborhood design.

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Developing Housing for the Workforce — A Toolkit Exit
This tool includes case studies and examples of financially feasible, for-profit developments and features a section on public and private programs that are being used to encourage the development of workforce housing.

Housing and Transportation Affordability Index Exit
A tool that calculates the true cost of housing by measuring the transportation costs associated with the housing location.

Walk Score®Exit
Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by noting its distance from nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, and other amenities.

Smart Growth and Affordable Housing
Resources and a discussion of how a smart growth approach to affordable housing—compact in nature, green in design and construction, and transit-rich in options—can help communities and their residents be better stewards of the environment and achieve more affordable, livable communities.

Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development
This resource helps communities that seek to locate, design, and develop housing — particularly affordable housing — in a way that reduces household costs, improves residents' quality of life, and invests public resources more sustainably. The guidelines can serve as a checklist for local officials, state or regional policy makers, developers, and community members to ensure that programs, plans, and proposed developments incorporate the elements needed at the location, site, and building levels to result in more sustainable, affordable housing. 

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Land Reuse and Revitalization

Brownfields and Land Revitalization
EPA has a variety of programs to help eligible entities assess, remediate, and restore brownfields sites to productive use and revitalize affected neighborhoods. This site links to grants, success stories, and other resources for communities.

Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities: 30 Strategies to Help Local Governments Overcome Obstacles and Encourage Infill Development in Distressed Communities
This publication helps economically distressed communities determine their readiness to pursue infill development and identify strategies to better themselves to attract infill development.

Center for Community Progress Exit
The center provides information resources, tools, and assistance to support vacant property revitalization efforts.

Cleanups in my Community
This mapping tool makes it possible to identify properties throughout the U.S. that have been contaminated by hazardous materials and that have been cleaned up under EPA's Superfund, RCRA, and/or brownfields cleanup programs.

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Sustainable Materials Management

Excess Food Opportunities Map
This national, interactive map can help you save money, feed people, and keep food out of landfills. This resource is intended to give users the tools to understand the potential magnitude of excess food in their communities and help make connections between generators and recipients so that more food is diverted from landfills and put toward beneficial uses.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Resources for communities to promote reuse of materials rather than disposing of them or recycling them. Information includes material exchanges, guides for donations, and building material reuse stores.

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Context Sensitive Solutions Exit
Context-sensitive solutions involve all stakeholders in a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to develop transportation facilities that fit their physical settings and preserve scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility.

Infrastructure Financing Options for Transit-Oriented Development
This publication offers a comprehensive overview of existing tools and implementation strategies for transit-oriented development and emerging, innovative models for financing.

Mixed-Use Trip Generation Model
This spreadsheet tool makes it easy to estimate trips generated by a new mixed-use development to more fairly assess these projects in development review processes.

National Transportation Library: Rural Transport Toolbox
The Transportation Toolbox for Rural Areas and Small Communities was designed to assist public and private stakeholders in planning, developing, and improving rural areas and small communities, especially through transportation and related projects.

Tool Kit for Integrating Land Use and Transportation Decision-Making
A user-friendly source of methods, strategies, and procedures for integrating land use and transportation planning, decision-making, and project implementation. Thirty tools, including CommunityViz, PLACE3S, and Paint the Town are included, along with implementation examples and additional information.

Transportation, Air Pollution, and Climate Change
This page includes information on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources, including information about transportation's contribution to total GHG emissions, relevant EPA regulations, and what you can do to reduce your transportation emissions.

Smart Growth and Transportation
This page describes transportation and land use strategies that enhance quality of life and protect human health and the environment.

Smart Location Calculator
This simple tool, developed by EPA and the U.S. General Services Administration, explores how workplace location affects worker commute travel. Indicators include worker commute greenhouse gas emissions, mode-share, vehicle miles traveled, and workplace accessibility via transit.

Smart Location Mapping
This webpage includes three tools:
  • The Smart Location Database summarizes more than 90 different indicators associated with the built environment and location efficiency. Indicators include density of development, diversity of land use, street network design, and accessibility to destinations as well as various demographic and employment statistics. 
  • The Access to Jobs and Workers Via Transit Tool provides indicators of accessibility to destinations by public transit. Indicators summarize jobs accessible by transit as well as workers, households, and population that can access the block group via transit. 
  • The National Walkability Index provides walkability scores based on a simple formula that ranks selected indicators from the Smart Location Database that have been demonstrated to affect the propensity of walk trips. 

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Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWiz)
GIWiz is an interactive web application that connects communities to EPA's green infrastructure tools and resources. Users can produce customized reports.

Water Quality Scorecard
This scorecard was developed to help local governments identify opportunities to remove barriers and revise and create codes, ordinances, and incentives to better protect water quality. It guides municipal staff through a review of relevant local codes and ordinances across multiple municipal departments to ensure that these codes work together to support a green infrastructure approach.

Impervious Surface Growth Model
This simple spreadsheet tool estimates net impervious surface growth associated with development proposals based on the development location.

Green Infrastructure
Documents and resources to help communities understand and implement green infrastructure, an approach to wet weather management that is cost effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.

Soak Up the Rain
Links to EPA tools that communities and individuals can use to soak up the rain to help prevent water pollution, reduce flooding, protect water resources, beautify landscapes, and bring many benefits to communities.

Green Values Stormwater Toolbox Exit
Provides an overview of how the Great Lakes landscape works and describes methods to minimize stormwater runoff without expensive infrastructure projects.

Sustainable Water Infrastructure
In many parts of the nation, sewer and drinking water infrastructure is aging, and EPA is promoting sustainable practices that will help to address the funding needed to rehabilitate and replace these facilities. This site offers information on best practices for project and asset management, full cost pricing, water efficiency, and watershed approaches.

Watershed Academy
Offers a variety of self-paced training modules for a basic and broad introduction to the watershed management field.

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