Best practices for local sustainability

The benefits of the dissemination and sharing of good environmental practices are widely recognized. As innovative and reproducible projects, they can be used as models for local governments that pursue a path towards sustainability, understood as a balance between environmental protection, economic development and socialequity.

A definition of good practice is "... an action, exportable to other realities, which allows a municipality, a community or any local government, to move towards forms of sustainable management at local level" (General Directorate of Environment of the European Union 1997). An action is considered a good practice when is compatible with to the concept of sustainability, that is a model of development that  "... meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland Report - " Our Common Future" UNCED, 1987).

The collection of good practices should be a representative set of project initiatives with respect to the variety of actions actually realized. It should exemplify by providing a categorization of different types of experiences, areas of intervention, territories and scales of intervention (local, regional, national or community), different types of implementing subjects (public and private) and recipient subjects. The innovative character, that is the ability to produce new solutions or to interpret creatively solutions already tested, and the transferability and reproducibility, that is the ability to replicate some aspects of the proposed model in other contexts or apply them to the resolution of other problems, are among the most important features of what is defined “a good practice”.

Since local governments are tasked to address and resolve the current environmental, economic and social problems, providing immediate and concrete answers, information and dissemination activities play a key role, allowing the experiences of each to be a valuable support to the work of everybody. Besides, access to this information facilitates new partnerships between municipalities that share policies and objectives or alliances between local actors around specific projects. For this reasons ISPRA’s annual Report on Urban environmental quality provides information on the good practices of the cities included in the panel. This annual and consolidated contribution is realized according to the selection criteria used in ISPRA’s GELSO project (GEstione Locale per la SOstenibilità - Local management for sustainability), which consists in a website and database on good practices for local sustainability. The collection of good practices is  based on the direct collaboration of local administrations, on the analysis of the information available on the internet and on the consultation of the database GELSO. The main object is to identify the main activities of each administration and give information about their projects that can be considered "good practices", cataloged according to the areas of intervention of the database GELSO (Integrated strategies and public participation initiatives, , Agriculture, Building and Urban Planning, Energy, Industry, Mobility, Waste, Land and Landscape, Tourism).

The new good practices identified, after being published in the Report, are entered into the online database GELSO, for which it has been recently developed a totally new site and a flexible search engine to browse through the good practices database, based on the one developed by the European Agency for the Environment.