Welcome to IEMEA - the Institute for Ecomunicipality Education & Assistance. Our purpose is to provide support for emerging ecomunicipalities and those communities interested in a systematic, comprehensive approach for changing to sustainable practices.
What is an ecomunicipality? It is a local government – a municipal or county government – that has officially adopted a particular set of sustainability principles and has committed to a systematic, participatory approach for implementing them. The first ecomunicipalities developed in Sweden, beginning in the 1980s. The work of the early ecomunicipalities became the model for Agenda 21, the Guide for Local Sustainable Development that emerged from the 1992 Rio Summit – the U.N. World Conference on Sustainable Development. As of 2010, there were 79 ecomunicipalities in Sweden, constituting almost 30 percent of all municipalities in that country.
In the city center of Umea, Sweden, bikes and pedestrians predominate, not cars.
This movement has spread to the United States and beyond. Inspired by the Swedish movement, many U.S. cities, towns, and county governments have officially declared themselves to be eco-municipalities, adopting the same sustainability principles as their Swedish counterparts and working to systematically change their local government and larger community to sustainable practices. Many other communities and local governments are inspired by their efforts, and are coming to realize that a systems approach to sustainable development is more effective than a “silo approach” that works project-by-project or on a single-issue at a time.
Who We Are
Torbjörn Lahti and Sarah James, co-authors of the award-winning book The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities & Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices (New Society Publishers, 2004) are the Directors of IEMEA. Torbjörn Lahti, planner and economist, is the founder of the Swedish eco-municipality movement, and has worked with over 100 municipalities in providing ecomunicipality education and assistance. Sarah James, city and town planner, and co-author of the American Planning Association’s Planning for Sustainability Policy Guide (April, 2000), has worked with U.S. municipalities for over fifteen years in a bottom-up participatory planning approach closely resembling that of the Swedish ecomunicipalities. They offer a combined 50 years of hands-on experience in working with local government to bring about successful community change.