Sarah James & Associates
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Sarah James wins 2007 Dale Prize for excellence in ecological design & planning! (Read review)

Welcome to Sarah James & Associates

Sarah James & Associates is a consulting firm offering services in city/town planning and community development. We specialize in planning that is oriented toward the goal of sustainability, and community development that is also sustainable development. We also specialize in citizen-based participatory approaches to city and town planning, and planning for sustainability.

Founded in 1986, our firm has worked with more than fifty municipal and non-profit clients throughout New England and beyond. We work with towns and cities in the preparation of master, or comprehensive plans, developing these through a carefully-designed, “bottom-up” citizen-based approach. In this approach, community residents and business people identify their vision for the “town they want”, and then work to identify, with technical assistance where needed, the strategies and techniques, appropriate to their particular circumstances to achieve these.

Community citizens work in brainstorming groups to plan for the future community they want.

For communities that wish to orient their master plans and municipal practices in the direction of sustainability, Sarah James & Associates offers a comparable, “bottom-up” approach, coupled with education and training in principles of sustainability, that involves citizens and municipal employees in identifying sustainable visions and then feasible action plans to reorient land use and municipal policies and practices toward this critical direction. This process is similar to ones employed by over 60 Swedish cities and towns to successfully reorient their policies and operations toward sustainability.

Presentations and Workshops

Sarah James also offers presentations and workshops on the topic of sustainability and what it means in particular for communities – cities towns, as well as regions. Workshops include introduction of a framework of principles for identifying sustainable practices, case examples, and a process for how these can be integrated into municipal or organizational policies and operations.

About Sarah James

Sarah James is a city and town planner by education and trade with over 25 years of experience in housing, planning, community development, and sustainable community planning. She specializes in participatory planning approaches and in planning for community sustainability.  She is a co-author of the American Planning Association’s Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability, adopted by APA in 2000. She holds a Masters Degree in City Planning from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. In 2007, she was awarded the Dale Prize from the California Polytechnic Institute at Pomona for her contibutions to ecological planning and excellence in urban and regional planning. Read more

Institute for Eco-municipality Education & Assistance (IEMEA)

Sarah James is also the Co-Director of IEMEA , together with Swedish planner Torbjorn Lahti. IEMEA provides training, education, and process leadership for existing and emerging eco-municipalities – local governments officially committing to a particular set of sustainability principles and a participatory process for implementing these throughout their departments and larger communities. For more information about ecomunicipalities, you can go to the Ecomunicipalities page on this Web site or visit

The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities & Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices, New Society Publishers, 2004. 

Sarah James co-authored this award-winning book with Torbjorn Lahti, published in 2004. In 2005, this book received the Top Ten Book Award in planning and design from Planetizen. It has inspired thousands of citizens and scores of local governments to take action toward becoming a sustainable community. Many sustainability study circles use this book as their sustainability study guide.  For more information, see the Publications Page on this Web site. Book

U.S. Eco-municipality Initiatives

Inspired by talks and workshops by Sarah James and Torbjörn Lahti, or their book The Natural Step for Communities, a growing number of U.S. cities and towns have made official commitments to become eco-municipalities – local governments and their larger communities who officially adopt either the American Planning Association’s four guiding sustainability principles or the Natural Step system conditions for a sustainable society on which the APA objectives are based. Madison, WI, Duluth, MN, Ashland, Bayfield, and Washburn, WI, Johnson Creek, WI, Douglas County, WI, and Portsmouth, NH are among the communities that had made an official commitment to become ecomunicipalities. Hanover, NH, Lawrence Township, NJ, and Vandergrift, PA are also moving in this direction. In June, 2004, Sarah and Torbjörn led a pivotal meeting of most of these communities in Madison, WI, out of which emerged the North American Eco-municipality Network.
 Links to other sites:

Institute for Ecomunicipality Education & Assistance (IEMEA)
American Planning Association’s Policy Guide Planning for Sustainability 
Information about Sustainable Sweden tours of the Swedish Ecomunicipalities

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