Sarah James, co-founder of the IEMEA and of the first American Eco-municipalities with Torbjörn Lahti, as well as co-writer of the book “The Natural Step for Communities” (2004) with Torbjörn Lahti also, carried out a survey among the American Eco-municipalities with Cindi Contie, who organizes Sustainable Tours for American participants through the Full Circle Discovery. At this occasion, three of those cities (Lawrence Township, New Jersey ; Town of Concord, Massachusetts ; City of Portsmouth, NH) have expressed their will to have a Swedish sister-city. See in the frame below the details Sarah James sent to us.


October, 2017

Introduction: For the past few months, the Institute for Ecomunicipality Education & Assistance (IEMEA) has been carrying out a small survey of people active in the emergence of ecomunicipalities in the United States from 2005 to the present. Fourteen people from nine ecomunicipalities were interviewed. These included present and former mayors of U.S. ecomunicipalities, city and town managers, and citizen activists and “fire souls” who started or supported ecomunicipality initiatives in their local regions. In three cases, respondents indicated they thought their local municipality might be interested in a sister city relationship with a Swedish ecomunicipality. The following is a description of three US ecomunicipalities who might be interested in such a relationship. If there is interest from particular Swedish ecomunicipalities, feel free to contact Sarah James, IEMEA, at who can provide more information and local contacts.

Lawrence Township, New Jersey

Population: 33,472

Total area: 57,143 km2 (22 sq. mi)

Location/geography: Rural/suburban region of the state of New Jersey. Within an hour’s commute of two major cities – New York, NY and Philadephia, PA

Type of municipal government: Town Council, Mayor, and Town Administrator

Distinguishing sustainability work: strong local organic agriculture production, strong work integrating sustainability, including sustainable local organic food production, into local education and schools. Has a private high school (Lawrenceville Academy) very active in sustainability work and sustainability education in public schools. Other sustainability accomplishments include green buildings, solar power, and open space preservation. Has been very successful at developing community sustainability work at the regional and state levels.

Ecomunicipality history: A local citizen activist brought the ecomunicipality and TNS concepts to the community around 2005. IEMEA conducted community ecomunicipality workshops and talks there in 2005+. This citizen activist and the then Mayor of the municipality formed a community non-profit organization called Sustainable Lawrence and procured ongoing funding for it. Sustainable Lawrence continues to this day and is the driver of the local ecomunicipality process and sustainability work. In 2010-11, the Lawrence Township Town Administrator joined a US delegation of mayors and officials, organized through the US Embassy in Sweden, the US National League of Cities, and IEMEA to participate in the Stockholm Ecocity Conference. Lawrence Township and Sustainable Lawrence hosted a Swedish intern for some months, again through a US Embassy in Sweden program.

Driver of local ecomunicipality work: Sustainable Lawrence, the local community non-profit organization. The current Executive Director of Sustainable Lawrence is a former Mayor of the Township and who also runs a local organic farm.

Other sustainability work: The founders of Sustainable Lawrence also started a county coalition of sustainable communities including its neighbors, who work together on common sustainable development interests and meet regularly. They also helped to found and develop Sustainable Jersey, a statewide organization that certifies New Jersey municipalities as to their level of sustainable development accomplishments.

For more information:

Municipal government of Lawrence Township, NJ:

Sustainable Lawrence:

Lawrenceville Academy:          See Green Campus Initiative

Sustainable Jersey:


Town of Concord, Massachusetts:

Population: 17,669

Area: 67.4 km2 (25.9 sq. mi)

Location/geography: Rural/suburban community within 30-45 minutes’ drive of the city of Boston, MA. It is a historical town, being the location of the first battles in the American Revolutionary War. It was the home of well-known authors and Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Concord has sister cities in Japan, Portugal, France, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Ecuador.

Type of municipal government: Open Town Meeting with overseeing elected Board of Selectmen, and appointed Town Manager.

Distinguishing sustainability work: First community in the United States to ban plastic water bottles (2012). Electric school buses. The high school is an energy efficient building which has won awards. Different groups in town have formed a food collaborative between town and private groups. Emphasis on local organic farming. There is much housing development going on and concerns about its affordability.

The Town voted to adopt the Paris Climate agreement goals: 25 % reduction by 2020; 80% by 2050. The vote was almost unanimous. The Town has its own light plant[unusual in the U.S.] that voted to completely convert its electric purchases by 2020 to green sources. Town voted to ban plastic bags, polystyrene, water bottles, Planning Board will look at new housing development proposals in terms of Paris goals. Green recycling of building materials.

Ecomunicipality history: an active local community climate change organization called Concord CAN brought the ecomunicipality concept to the Town of Concord and its local town government. They succeeded in bringing the 4 ecomunicipality sustainability principles to the Concord Town Meeting – the legislative body of the Town consisting of all citizens – where the 4 principles were adopted by a 2/3 vote as official Town sustainability policy. The Town then commissioned training (by IEMEA) of Town Department heads and staff in how to use the 4 principles as a tool to bring about systematic change in department policies and activities. Since then, the Town does an annual review of how its sustainability work is going relative to the four principles. Concord CAN still carries on much of the community education work on sustainability.

Driver of local sustainability work: The Town Manager (administrator), the Board of Selectmen, and the Concord CAN community organization.

For more information:

Town of Concord, MA:

Concord CAN:


City of Portsmouth, NH:

Population: 21,485

Area: 40.5 km2 (16.8 sq.mi.)

Location/geographic region: Portsmouth is a historic seaport in the New England region of the U.S. and is a popular summer tourist destination. It is about a 1+ hour drive from Boston, MA. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located across the river in Kittery, Maine, is a working U.S. naval shipyard. Portsmouth has 6 sister cities, located in Ghana, Japan, Estonia, Russia, and Hungary.

Type of municipal government: Mayor/City Council, City Manager

Driver of ecomunicipality work: The municipal government, its City Manager and City Sustainability Director.

Distinguishing sustainability work: Taking a systems approach to sustainability throughout municipal departments and agencies. Green municipal buildings, solar arrays on municipal buildings and schools. Extensive use of study circles for citizen sustainability education. Integrating the four ecomunicipality principles into zoning and planning regulations.

Ecomunicipality history: Began as a citizens’ initiative to bring the issue of sustainability into a city comprehensive planning initiative. Two “fire souls” brought the ecomunicipality concept to the municipal government and community, resulting in two strong community organizations doing citizen sustainability education, study circles, and working with the municipal government and local businesses. Inspired the municipal government to participate in ecomunicipality trainings for department staff, boards and agencies.

For more info: