Sustainability Training
Services & Qualifications
About the Book

Sarah James wins 2007 Prize for planning excellence!

The Natural Step for Communities:
How Cities and Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices

by Sarah James & Torbjörn Lahti (New Society Publishers, 2004). About the book. Winner of the 2005 Top Ten Book Award for Planning & Design by Planetizen (2005 Planetizen Top 10 Book List). Also being translated into Korean & Japanese.

Welcome to Sarah James & Associates

Sarah James & Associates is a consulting firm offering services in city/town planning and community development. We specialize in planning that is oriented toward the goal of sustainability, and community development that is also sustainable development. We also specialize in citizen-based participatory approaches to city and town planning, and planning for sustainability.

Founded in 1986, our firm has worked with more than fifty municipal and non-profit clients throughout New England and beyond. We work with towns and cities in the preparation of master, or comprehensive plans, developing these through a carefully-designed, “bottom-up” citizen-based approach. In this approach, community residents and business people identify their vision for the “town they want”, and then work to identify, with technical assistance where needed, the strategies and techniques, appropriate to their particular circumstances to achieve these.

Community citizens work in brainstorming groups to plan for the future community they want. Click photo to enlarge.

For communities that wish to orient their master plans and municipal practices in the direction of sustainability, Sarah James & Associates offers a comparable, “bottom-up” approach, coupled with education and training in principles of sustainability, that involves citizens and municipal employees in identifying sustainable visions and then feasible action plans to reorient land use and municipal policies and practices toward this critical direction. This process is similar to ones employed by over 60 Swedish cities and towns to successfully reorient their policies and operations toward sustainability.

Presentations and Workshops

Sarah James also offers presentations and workshops on the topic of sustainability and what it means in particular for communities – cities towns, as well as regions. Workshops include introduction of a framework of principles for identifying sustainable practices, case examples, and a process for how these can be integrated into municipal or organizational policies and operations.

Sustainable Sweden

In August, 2001, Sarah James took part in a tour of Swedish “eco-cities and towns” that have adopted and widely implemented sustainability principles in municipal policies and practices. The experience of these communities – by some estimates 10 years ahead of ours in the journey toward sustainability – can serve as examples and inspirations for U.S. cities and towns interested in moving in the same direction. This Web site includes brief synopses and photos of some of those communities.

In Umea's city center, bikes and pedestrians predominate, not cars.

About Sarah James

Sarah James is a city and town planner by education and trade with more than 25 years of experience in housing, planning, and community development. She specializes in participatory planning approaches and in planning for community sustainability. She co-authored The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities & Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices with Torbjörn Lahti. She is a co-author of the American Planning Association’s Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability, adopted by APA in 2000. She holds a Masters Degree in City Planning from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Inspired by talks and workshops by Sarah and Torbjörn, or their book The Natural Step for Communities, a growing number of U.S. cities and towns have made official commitments to become eco-municipalities – local governments and their larger communities who officially adopt either the American Planning Association’s four guiding sustainability principles or the Natural Step system conditions for a sustainable society on which the APA objectives are based. Madison, WI, Duluth, MN, Ashland, Bayfield, and Washburn, WI, Johnson Creek, WI, and Douglas County, WI. Portsmouth, NH, Lawrence Township, NJ, and Vandergrift, PA are also moving in this direction. In June, 2004, Sarah and Torbjörn led a pivotal meeting of most of these communities in Madison, WI, out of which emerged the North American Eco-municipality Network.

Sarah James offers workshops, training, and process leadership for municipal officials and staff, planners, community citizens in how to become an eco-municipality.

For more information:

About Sustainability Workshops

Examples of “eco-municipalities”

Statement of Services and Qualifications

bulletPresentations Given
bulletPublication List

Available Papers & Publications


Links to other sites:

American Planning Association’s Policy Guide Planning for Sustainability, co-authored by Sarah James

The Natural Step U.S.

Further information on Sustainable Sweden tours

Contact Information


47 Cogswell Avenue #12
Cambridge, MA 02140
Webmaster: robin@cambridgecohousing.org

Site visits: Hit Counter


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