The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Mike Jakubal adjusts his mobile, narrow-kerf bandsaw mill on a logging site in northern California.
Image by Seth Zuckerman.

Economic Capital

Economic capital is currently concentrated in the hands of a few. A large percentage of it is tied up in assets that will have little value in A Conservation Economy.

Economic Capital should be invested in sectors and activities consistent with A Conservation Economy. This will require it to be rooted more locally, in Local Economies and Bioregional Economies, and spread much more in Household Economies.

Green Businesses are the economic engines of A Conservation Economy. They make use of Renewable Energy, Sustainable Materials Cycles, and Resource Efficiency. They provide Community Benefit and are stewarded with Long-Term Profitability in mind.

Currently, Green Businesses suffer from a lack of True Cost Pricing, sometimes making their products more expensive than those of competitors that externalize social and environmental costs. However, increasing demands for sustainable products and services, particularly those with reliable Product Labeling systems, is creating strong new market niches and premium prices. As social and environmental taxes are gradually instituted, Green Businesses will be in position take positions of market leadership.

Financial institutions that understand the benefits of A Conservation Economy will play a vital role in shifting Economic Capital from sunset industries to 21st century restorative industries, including wind power, hydrogen fuel cells, Ecosystem Services, Green Building, Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Forestry, and holistic healthcare. Commercial and investment banks, venture capital funds, loan funds, and other financial institutions that make loans based on Social Capital and Natural Capital as well as economic performance will ultimately finance the Just Transition to A Conservation Economy.

Economic Capital should be understood primarily as a tool to meet Fundamental Needs while maintaining the health of ecosystems. When Economic Capital is broadly distributed and locally accountable, it can serve this function well. Therefore, in A Conservation Economy, patterns of ownership, financial institutions, and policies all favor broadly shared wealth rather than narrow accumulation, and Local Assets rather than transnational flows of capital.

Find ways to finance the just transition of economic capital from sunset industries to the sectors of a conservation economy. Root capital in place and make it much more broadly distributed.

Examples of this pattern in action:

The key features of our Environmental Industrial Park that differentiates it from a typical industrial park are: -a recovery center built with energy efficient recycled content materials -a manufacturing center -a community center -a sales and marketing center -an environmental business center -a closed loop system with minimal effluent and emissions. -highly visible park

EIP's key features. -The anchor for this EIP will be a resource recovery facility encompassing reuse, recycling, remanufacturing, and composting. (We have five companies now looking to move and expand their operations.) -Our recruitment strategy will build from this base to include other companies including plants in the park's vicinity, whose participants and energy inputs or outputs will help build a web of by-product exchange. Other potential recruits will be in areas of new renewable materials and energy manufacturing. -The project will demonstrate the potential for reindustrialization based on emerging trends toward a resource efficient and renewable energy and materials economy. -Site selection and planning will emphasize ecological values in balance with economic issues. The site will be "landscaped" to reflect native ecosystem characteristics. -Design of the park infrastructure and buildings will emphasize energy efficiency, use of renewable energy and material, and pollution prevention.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Interface Flooring



Carrier (Air Conditioners)



Graedel, T.E and B.R. Allenby. Industrial Ecology. Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 1995.

Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. Little, Brown, and Company. Boston, MA. 1999.

Jackson, Tim, ed. Clean Production Strategies: Developing Preventive Environmental Management in the Industrial Economy. Lewis Publishers, Inc.. Boca Raton, FL. 1993.

McDonough, William and Michael Braungart. . Atlantic Monthly. Boston, MA. 1998.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling