Sustainable communities in America

When we think of sustainable communities in America we think of urban areas that owe their achievement to development pressures, abundant talent, and available investment. Rural towns, on the other hand, don’t have these same means. But this reality doesn’t always discourage rural residents from improvements. Now, thanks to less bureaucracy and more agility, it can be easier to achieve sustainability goals in small-town America. Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) is a perfect example of this. The top 20 sustainability policies of rural communities include community recycling, trails, energy audits, support for local markets, and much more. Does this sound familiar? It should, because this is all happening right here. You can experience the sustainability yourself, traveling through NEPA.

Let us first visit the Lacawac Sanctuary. Located on the shore of Lake Wallenpaupack and made up of 510 acres of forest, wetlands, and a pristine glacial lake, you will have miles of beautiful hiking trails to devour. After the hike, drop in at the Visitor Center where you can learn about the solar array that provides nearly 90% of the electricity used in the building.

Hungry? Among small-town sustainability efforts, Here & Now Brewing Company stands out. Housed in a 160-year-old building, it was renovated into a bustling bar and restaurant, preserving many of its architectural qualities and upgrading to the most energy efficient equipment available. Compared to the last tenant, Here & Now pays 60% less in energy costs and is a treasured place for tourists and residents alike. When visiting, ask to see their huge kombucha scoby that has been growing in a giant jar for years.

The Himalayan Institute, a pioneer of integrative health services, offers a forgotten apple orchard that continues to endow delicious fruit in the fall. In terms of sustainability, the Institute partners with local businesses and organizations to achieve its zero-waste goals. To top this, the largest commercial solar thermal system in Wayne County is installed here and provides 70% of the Institute’s hot water needs.

And while you’re nearby, try out the Hawley Farmer’s Market for seasonal produce from local, eco-minded farms and businesses. Describing the amazing vendors in NEPA deserves a post of its own, so pop in at the market and meet them all in person! The market runs Fridays 2-5pm through October 2020, in the Hawley Park.

As you discover sustainable NEPA, it will be difficult to leave and many do end up staying for good. So beware and enjoy your travels!

Olga Trushina is the Executive Director of SEEDS of Northeastern Pennsylvania, whose mission is developing local renewable energy infrastructure and promoting energy efficiency and sustainable living in our region. For more information or to sign up for the e-newsletter, visit: And follow @SEEDSofNEPA on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube for updates!