History of USDN

In 2008, a handful of first generation municipal sustainability directors working in cities across the United States began to get in touch with each other to share ideas and experiences. They wanted honest exchange in a safe environment and to make sure that they were not reinventing wheels for lack of communication.

Global Philanthropy Partnership agreed to sponsor their efforts to connect. The group of original members scanned the country to find others doing similar work and found a growing number of people within local government taking on the role of sustainability director. Each member reached out to five others and asked them to join them in forming a peer network.

By the time the network had its first annual meeting in 2009, it had grown from 35 to 70 members. USDN has continued to grow since then, reaching 120 members in 2013, with additional participation from hundreds of associated city staff. Each year, the network has evolved and added new collaborative activities, but it continues to focus first and foremost on peer-to-peer exchange.


USDN members, their cities and stories are profiled in "The Guide to Greening Cities" by Sadhu Aufochs Johnston, Steven S. Nicholas, and Julia Parzen (2013).  This is the first book written from the perspective of municipal leaders with successful, on-the-ground experience working to advance green city goals. Through personal reflections and interviews with leading municipal staff in cities from San Antonio to Minneapolis, the authors share lessons for cities to lead by example in their operations, create programs, implement high-priority initiatives, develop partnerships, measure progress, secure funding, and engage the community. Additional case studies are available on the companion website. The book is available for purchase through Island Press.