Design for Life: Community Grows at Home

Steps to create a neighborhood feeling in the suburbs.

| May/June 2008


A neighborhood get-together can foster relationships, a sense of community and an emergency network.

When I moved from downtown to a suburban neighborhood two years ago, I knew there would be challenges. For the first time in a decade, I couldn’t walk to do errands. And I rarely saw a pedestrian from my home office window.

I expected to meet my neighbors and join the community, but I was too shy to knock on doors. I met a few people while gardening in the front yard, but I lacked a sense of belonging. I had fantasies of study groups, produce-sharing networks and community gardens. But I didn’t know where to begin.

Meet the neighbors

Three doors down, Rebecca Valentine also longed for community. She’d lived on our street for 10 years and hardly knew anyone. She envied friends who had block parties, emergency networks and a sense of neighborhood camaraderie. She also had a keen interest in the challenges posed by climate change and resource depletion, and wondered how neighbors could work together to address these issues. But, like me, she worried about whether political or religious disparities might get in the way.

Rebecca and I are not alone in our longing for community. As Dan Chiras and David Wann point out in their book  Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods (New Society Publishers, 2003), "Many residents of suburban neighborhoods, where the majority of the American population now lives, express a longing for a stronger sense of place, including stronger connections with people, local traditions and nature."

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!