Torbjörn Lahti

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Torbjörn Lahti is the project director for Sustainable Robertsfors, a five-year sustainable community demonstration project. He was the project planner for Sweden's first eco-municipality, Övertorneå, a town of 5,000 that had 25 per cent unemployment and had lost 20 per cent of its population during the previous 20 years. Lahti and his colleagues engaged the community - getting participation from 10 per cent of residents - to create a shared vision of a local economy based on renewable energy, public transportation, organic agriculture, and rural land preservation. In 2001 the town became 100 per cent free of fossil fuels. Public transportation is free. The region is now the largest organic farming area in Sweden and more than 200 new businesses have sprung up. Subsequently Torbjörn was instrumental in the formation of SeKom, the Swedish national association of eco-municipalities.

The story of the eco-municipality movement is documented in his book, The Natural Step for Communities; How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices (2004; ISBN 0865714916) written with American planner Sarah James. Today there are more than 60 eco-municipalities in Sweden - representing 20 per cent of the population - and this movement for social and ecological sanity has spread throughout Norway, Finland and Denmark as well.