Green Plans

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Green plans

Green plans are comprehensive environmental strategies that are intended to improve environmental quality and make rapid progress towards sustainability. (In its use here, the word "green" is non-political and non-ideological, and merely refers to a context of environmental protection and sustainable development.) Green plans are characterized by a longer-term view, while being thorough in their consideration and integration of environmental issues. Green plans also take account of economic realities, while consistently ensuring an appropriate degree of protection of environmental quality and natural ecological values (such as the needs of endangered species and rare ecosystems).

Green plans represent an extremely important tool for the longer-term protection of environmental quality, conservation of natural resources and ecological values, and achievement of a sustainable economic system. Green plans do this by proposing sustainable alternatives to the many kinds of modern activities that are causing damages to the environment and biosphere . Green plans attempt to integrate the economic, scientific, and political interests of society to develop a strategy that can achieve a sustainable prosperity for present and future generations of humans and their economic systems, while also supporting other species and natural ecosystems.

Green plans are designed to replace more conventional methods for protecting the environment. These conventional methods include the following:

  1. Sectoral structures of government and administration. This type of structure can be a problem because there is often a lack of integration among sectors, even though there may be important environmental linkages. For example, environmental management by government typically involves separate agencies responsible for air pollution , water pollution , forestry, agriculture, fisheries, metal resources, fossil-fuel resources, industrial development, human health, biodiversity (i.e., the conservation of indigenous species and ecosystems), and other environment-related mandates. Because the responsibilities of these agencies are not well integrated, they often work at cross-purposes. For instance, agencies responsible for managing harvests of timber may not take adequate consideration of the interests of agencies concerned with pollution , endangered species, or rare ecosystems (such as old-growth forests). This commonly results in environmental and ecological damages being caused by timber harvesting, with attendant controversies.
  2. Single-issue policies. Single-issue policies may result from the actions of special-interest groups, which are seeking to advance their particular environmental, ideological, or socio-economic agendas. This can, however, result in poor integration among issues, and divisive political and socialcontroversies that can impair the development of policies that would achieve balanced levels of environmental protection. Single-issue policies often result in regulation through short-term objectives and standards that focus on individual issues, such as the concentrations of particular chemicals , or the abundances of certain species. This can result in actions that focus on compliance with narrow regulatory criteria, rather than the more comprehensive, longer-term environmental goals that are pursued by green plans.

Green plans can be implemented by agencies of government at all levels (that is, federal, state or provincial, county, and city or town), and by companies of any size. Green plans can be designed by any of these organizations, but this is done in close consultation with the public, nongovernmental organizations, and environmental specialists. In fact, multi-sectoral and multi-organizational discussions are one of the most important aspects of green plans. This process allows a broad degree of understanding to be reached among the spectrum of interest groups, allowing green plans to bridge political and ideological differences concerning environmental issues.

Green plans have already been implemented by the national governments of Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Singapore. Green plans are also being developed or seriously considered by the national governments of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and by the European Community as a whole. In addition, many state and provincial governments, municipalities, and companies in some of those countries have implemented green plans. Non-governmental environmental organizations are also advocating that green plans be designed by federal and state governments and companies in the United States. Unfortunately, significant actions in this regard have not yet been undertaken in that country. It is likely, however, that green plans will also be developed in the United States, once their benefits become more broadly recognized.

[Bill Freedman Ph.D. ]



Johnson, H. D. Green Plans. Greenprint for Sustainability. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.


"A Green Plan Primer." Green Plan Center. May 1997 [cited July 2002]. <>.