Sustainable Communities: A Key to Happiness?
When you begin doing your research for purchasing a new home, investigating the health and sustainability of a particular community may be the key to setting yourself up for long-term happiness. Likewise, if you are putting your home on the market, sharing the intangible factors that make up your current neighborhood can be major selling points in getting the asking price that you’re looking for.
What Is Happiness?
Happiness within a community can be defined as an overall sense of well being. It includes having a sense of inclusion, protection, security, and purpose. The location of your home often determines the likelihood of finding a community that suits you and your family. Asking the right questions before purchasing a new home, or offering certain details in your posting when selling your home, can be major attractants for buyers. When selling your home, these factors can also determine your asking price, and how long it might sit on the market.
There are elements that can be easily researched for peace of mind, such as crime rates and emergency response times, but there are a bevy of other factors that can only be discovered by spending time in the neighborhood. It may be of value to know how often, if ever, there are neighborhood block parties, if your preferred place of worship is nearby, or if there are committees or neighborhood organizations that you can join to give back to others. When you participate in the activities that make up a healthy neighborhood, it serves as a mirror and that happiness reflects back upon you.
Common Traits of Healthy Communities
Ties between your lifestyle and your environment are the equation to your perceived health of a community. Whether you are looking at purchasing a vacation home or your first home, there are common traits that you will want to look for before making a purchase.
Sustainability can be defined as nurturing the economic and environmental health, as well as social equity for a prolonged amount of time. There are many elements that play into building the foundation of a sustainable community, like everyone would be expected to do their part to protect the air and water quality, and moderate efficient land use. Members would contribute to the economic health of the area and aim to provide a healthy lifestyle for all that live within the community — no matter their age, gender or ethnicity. At the very core of it, sustainability is ensuring that the location of your home contributes to your own happiness, as well as others.
Sustainability isn’t achievable without a group of members who are engaged and committed to certain shared values and goals. Sustainability efforts may be the feature that helps turn a neighborhood into a true community, and the glue that keeps that community together. If an HOA or neighborhood charter mentions things like sustainability initiatives, that may hint at a deeper link between the homes in the area.
Value of Education
If your family has school-aged children, proximity to quality school districts is going to rank high on your list. A sustainable community should foster their education system and invest in their younger generations. The World Happiness Index lists six key variables that have been found to support the well being of sustainable communities, and two major aspects are social support and income. Educated populations are less likely to be unemployed, and more likely to make a higher income than those that receive less than a high school diploma. When you are not stressed about your level of income, it contributes to elevating your level of happiness.
The support of your community is needed to ensure that appropriate funding is offered to the local school district by encouraging them to vote on education issues. By making a choice to move to a location that places value in education, you can aid in providing your children with a key to happiness.
An organization called Blue Zones teamed up with National Geographic to research the areas in the world that had the longest life expectancy, and to uncover the commonalities that these places had — one of which turned out to be eating a mostly plant-based diet. Nearly 23.5 million people in the United States live in a food desert (further than 10 miles from a supermarket). The result of this can be a diet that consists of mostly pre-packaged, processed foods.
When researching the location of your home for purchasing or selling purposes, consider the locale and access to fresh foods. Healthy neighborhoods thrive when they are in close proximity to local farmer markets, community gardens and have access to grocery stores that carry local and organic products.
Bringing Sustainability to Your Neighborhood
Consider doing a self-evaluation of your own home to explore what you can do to contribute to the sustainability of your community. Start with the exterior of your home. Design your front yard to be both aesthetically pleasing, as well as environmentally friendly. This may mean giving your curb-appeal a facelift and some new landscaping. Landscaping to fit the climate of your local area will require you to think outside the box of a plush, green lawn.
Many areas throughout the western United States have been experiencing drought and cannot support the water usage needed to keep yards from turning brown and yellow as temperatures rise in the summer. If you are particularly attached to having a large green lawn, compromise by reducing the amount of grass you maintain. Your yard could possibly be the one that sets an example for others when you adopt xeriscaping with native perennial plants. Replacing areas of your yard with plants will greatly reduce the amount of water needed to keep your yard healthy and thriving while also adding abundant and vibrant color.
If you have a natural green thumb, contribute your talents by giving back to your neighborhood and establishing a community garden. It is a natural way to get your healthy community moving while offering a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables. This can be done in a local park, an unused lot or by simply replacing the grass in your front yard with raised beds for others to access.
What makes a happy and healthy neighborhood is determined by your own set of core values. Doing your due diligence when purchasing a home can ensure you find not just the ideal property, but a community to call “home.” And for sellers, offering the right information can be what sets your house apart from other homeowners and draws the right buyer to your home.