City of Madison

Sustainability Header

the natural step


Our entire community – individuals, institutions, businesses, and our local government – will bear the impacts of unsustainable policies and practices. Therefore, we all share the responsibility and the opportunity to create positive change.

Increasing costs of operation
Fuel Costs:  Not only does the City bear the extra costs when fuel prices go up, but we also bear the costs of poor air quality and those impacts on our health (respiratory issues due to poor air quality.)
Refuse Collection:  Not only does the City bear the cost for sending refuse to the landfill, but we will also bear the cost of the land use impacts on our community when our landfill is full.

Increasing demand for social services
Community Centers:
The City bears some of the cost in operating the community centers throughout the City, but we also bear the cost of increased graffiti, vandalism and other crimes when youth is not positively engaged.
Day Care Center:  The City provides funding to help family afford quality daycare, but we also bear the cost of the achievement gap when young children do not get quality care at an early age.

Increasing regulations & compliance requirements
Air Quality:  Not only does the City bear some costs regarding air quality issues such as ozone and particle matter, but there is the added possible economic loss if business choose to locate where these regulations are not in effect.
Water Quality:  Not only does the City bear costs regarding water quality issues such as decreasing suspended solids and increasing infiltration, but there would be much greater costs to our community if the quality or quantity of our water was diminished.

Increasing uncertainty about the future
Metro Transit:  When the city doesn’t know what fuel prices will be this can lead to unexpected fare increases or service cuts because of a budget shortfall.
Businesses:  Decide not to expand or invest because the future is uncertain.
Individuals:  Pay more for fuel or don’t get a raise because of uncertainty, which leads to further pressures on government to provide services.

All of the above lead to...

Decreasing opportunities for business
  • decreasing ability to attract and retain employees
  • decreasing natural and capital resources to support local businesses
Decreasing quality of life
  • decreasing ability to attract and retain residents & businesses

Nature’s systems are declining at the same time that we are putting increased demands on them. One way to view this is that we are moving deeper into a funnel whose narrowing sides leave less and less room to maneuver in order to avoid “hitting the wall.”  If we want to have a sustainable society, one in which the needs of today are met in a way that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, we must reverse these trends. We must reduce the demands we have been making on natural systems and help them recover their potential.