Our built environment influences our lifestyle choices and ultimately our health. Many Chester County residents live in communities where home, work, and shopping require the use of a car. This situation has encouraged a sedentary lifestyle that has contributed to health-related issues. A more sustainable approach to the built environment offers healthy lifestyle choices.
Importance of Social Sustainability
Maintaining our health is a personal aspect of sustaining our environment. Yet, over sixty percent of adults and one in three children in Pennsylvania are obese. Our physical environment plays a critical role in this situation, yet through our zoning, subdivision and land development regulations, we have historically "designed-out" opportunities for routine exercise and physical activity from our communities. In 2009, only one percent of children bike to school and only twelve percent walk, while over eighty percent take the bus or are driven by parents. The development pattern that has dominated since the second half of the 20th Century means that we must drive our cars to work and drive for almost all of our shopping and other trips. If we continue this pattern, we may create for the first time a generation of children who are not as healthy as their parents.1
Our built environment therefore influences our lifestyles to a large extent. Much of this situation is due to the regulations that govern how and where we build; suburban sprawl ensures that we must rely on individual cars for much of our transportation; our homes, workplaces, and shopping areas are separated by significant physical barriers, and our built environment ensures that we must consume extensive amounts of energy. A forward-looking and Sustainable lifestyle and health philosophy recognizes that these are not conditions that can endure indefinitely without creating costs that we will not want to accept. We need to make healthy lifestyles "easier". Our Sustainability program will help identify ways to reduce our dependence on energy-intensive building patterns and create more choices and opportunities for healthier lifestyles.
1 Alice Yoder, MSN, RN, Lancaster General Health, Community Health and Wellness Coordinator