Kitchen Table Sustainability: What Readers Say

child in library

Heads up for the brilliance and warmth of Kitchen Table Sustainability! This rare offering invites remembrance among the long-divorced facets of modern civilization – starting with the pots, pans, and tea cups of the authors – kitchens and flowing seamlessly outward to propose recipes for learning, healing, and governance among gatherings of people, whole communities and cultures, and the planet itself. Because the book is rooted in the human scale, it exudes the aroma of possibility.


Chellis Glendinning, author of six books including My Name Is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization (1994), New Mexico USA and Bolivia


Leading practitioners of community engagement, Wendy Sarkissian and her colleagues provide a thoughtful and extremely thought provoking reflection on the power of civic processes to transform public outcomes. Skillfully illustrated with highly accessible graphics, Kitchen Table Sustainability poses important and probing questions about the future of the planet while also demonstrating how imaginative and emotionally intelligent processes can bring people together to work for change.

Sarkissian is already well known for her detailed, user-friendly, and comprehensive guides to public engagement; this book lets the reader see inside the conversations and deeper reflections of a rare group of important reflective practitioners taking a holistic approach to improving communities and places.


Ann Forsyth, Professor of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University


Even if there were whizzbang solutions to our sustainability crisis, it wouldn’t be enough. People have to be the solution, not recipients of handed-down ideas. Like the community processes described within, this book provides the ethical and pragmatic ways to get there.


Gordon Price, Director, The City Program, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver


In the lineage of Jane Jacobs, this book offers accessible, insightful thinking about the most daunting challenge facing 21st century cities. It advocates a holistic, community-based approach to the transition to sustainability, using not preaching but exemplary success stories.


Leonie Sandercock, Professor, University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning, Vancouver


This is a book that comes not only from the heart. Filled with stories drawn from a lifetime of experience on three continents and a wide reading of the pertinent literatures, it is a primer of community planning for a turbulent age.


John Friedmann, Professor Emeritus School of Public Affairs, UCLA


Wendy Sarkissian and her authorial team have brought together their extensive practical experience and wisdom in an immensely accessible book with which everyone can engage. This isn’t a manual, but a well organised and very well presented collection of stories and ideas for anyone who is interested in being part of a sustainable community. Appropriately for a book set at a metaphorical kitchen table, the central message is ‘EATING’ (Education, Action, Trust, Inclusion, Nourishment and Governance).

The authors suggest so many good questions for us to ask and offer us a storehouse full of useful ingredients for making our own ‘meals’ or actions. Creatively written, without jargon, the book includes references to some excellent texts and websites for the ‘meat lovers’. There is definitely a place for everyone at this kitchen table.


Jean Hillier, Professor of Town Planning, Newcastle University, UK.


‘Kitchen Table Sustainability’ is that needed gust of fresh air in the sustainability debate. It reminds us that unsustainability is ultimately a socio-behavioural problem, that community engagement, social cohesion, and mutual trust – perhaps even a dab of mutual coercion – will move us closer and faster to the goal of human-nature harmony than all the techno-fixes the world has to offer.


William E. Rees, Professor, University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning, Vancouver


Traditional sustainability prescribes treatment for a diseased people. Wendy Sarkissian and her co-authors remind us that making us feel bad about ourselves is unlikely to bring about meaningful change. This book is about how to create processes and places that make us feel good, engaging our natural desire to protect the things we love.


Stephen Hynes, called the “Communitarian Capitalist”, President, Hynes Developments, Vancouver


This is a most inspiring, stimulating and truly important book! Sustainable development is about the many small decisions and steps taken by all people in everyday life. Sarkissian and her co-authors have really captured the essence of community engagement!


Henrik Nolmark, Managing Director, Urban Laboratory, Gothenburg, Sweden


Kitchen Table Sustainability is a book to be savoured. It should be used for experimentation and then taken as the basis for the community to achieve some real outcomes. The process will generate hope and ? like a good meal or a good piece of jazz ? will help communities to face whatever else life will throw at them. I hope to hear some of the great stories that no doubt will be generated from Kitchen Table Sustainability.


From the Foreword by Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University, Western Australia


Active citizen engagement has long been recognized as the critical component in building sustaining communities. This book is essential for those who want to know what needs to be done and how to go about creating this necessary engagement.


Penny Gurstein, Professor and Director, University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning / Centre for Human Settlements, Vancouver


The perfect recipe book for those committed to creating a sustainable future. The authors have combined their wisdom built on decades of experience to provide us with the essential ingredients to effectively engage communities in sustainability planning and work. How delicious!


Karen Umemoto, PhD, Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Hawai’i at Manoa


Our Centre increasingly is focusing on community mobilization as an essential component of sustainable development. We are therefore delighted to add Kitchen Table Sustainability to our teaching and research resources.


Mark Roseland, PhD, Director, Centre for Sustainable Community Development, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver


Kitchen Table Sustainability is a very significant, highly accessible, community-based approach to the challenges facing all of us who wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Exemplary success stories and pragmatic guidance will inspire readers to sit at their own metaphorical kitchen tables and plan for more sustainable futures.


Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita, Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley


A powerful reflective contribution by this great pioneering Australian practitioner and her team on the vital importance of community engagement for achieving local and global sustainability. Everyone concerned will find something inspiring here.


Nick Wates, author of The Community Planning Handbook and site editor of


Wendy Sarkissian and colleagues come through again, giving us fresh ideas and perspectives showing how our public and private lives interweave, so that we can rethink how our everyday lives shape our environment, our neighborhoods, our homes, our lived worlds.


John Forester, Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University


The face-to-face intergenerational sharing of knowledge and mutual support, which the authors of Kitchen Table Sustainability describe so eloquently, reminds us that nourishment not only comes from food, community-building relationships, and the self-renewing capacity of natural systems ? but is a metaphor for understanding the differences between participating in the other non-monetized aspects of the cultural commons and participating in the environmentally and community destructive consumer-dependent lifestyle.

Essential reading for anyone who thinks in terms of technological solutions or has lost sight of the potential of what is shared in common as a source of wisdom.


C. A. Bowers, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Portland State University and author of Education, Cultural Myths, and the Ecological Crisis: Toward Deep Changes (1993)


Kitchen Table Sustainability offers a great summary of common-sense and practical ways we can all help heal and save our planet.


Thom Hartmann, New York Times best-selling author of nineteen books, including The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and what We Can Do Before It’s Too Late (2004)

An excellent resource with great ‘recipes’ for those who hunger to make lasting, positive change in their community.


Andres R. Edwards, author, The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift (2005).


What makes this book about engagement with sustainability so unusual and so impressive is its core understanding of these issues as profoundly ethical and value-based. Full and true engagement on behalf of a sustainable future requires an ethical commitment to include and deeply listen to the many voices with a stake in this future. The authors’ metaphor of a kitchen table is brilliant, and this is a large and welcoming table, indeed, with room for all to squeeze around it: the young and the old, future generations, nature and the many other creatures with whom we share our planet. And there are no privileged voices around this table; all are considered and heard: local knowledge and native wisdom, passions and rationalities and religious perspectives of all sorts.

This is a book rich in practical insights and advice, useful process and engagement tips and strategies, successful stories told and cases presented, but made all the more compelling because the underlying ethical assumptions and necessary moral guideposts for engagement are not pushed aside or ignored or buried in technical and process minutiae, but rather are brought to fore, made the foundation of community engagement ? indeed the very legs of the kitchen table.


Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia


The challenge of climate change and sustainable living is increasingly permeating every engagement conversation. Kitchen Table Sustainability is a rich dipping book with a strong narrative, simple structure and useful mix of frameworks for the strategy and techniques for the practical elements of community engagement.

This book is a fine example of practical kitchen table innovation for everyone committed to the future ? involved in communities, leading community or community engagement initiatives.


Anne Pattillo, Vice President, International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)


Wendy Sarkissian and her team draw on their wealth of experience to offer practical strategies for working with communities and building a future based on care for each other and the planet. But this book is also a heartfelt reminder that this future is already here, if only we can take the time to create the spaces for listening to the wisdom that is all around us.


Jenny Cameron, Associate Professor, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia


Here, at last, is a book which transcends present anxieties, outdated myths, and the paralysis resulting from a constant diet of bad news, scare mongering, half-truths and finger pointing. Instead, we are offered eminently practical yet nourishing recipes for re-engaging with our innate desire for better futures and a more holistic sense of community. Stories told within these pages offer hope and inspiration, together with proof, if needed, that we are capable of redesigning the underlying frameworks of our civilization in ways that do not deplete the quality of our lives.


Dr Richard David Hames, PhD, Distinguished Professor & Director, Asian Foresight Institute, Dhurakij Pundit University, Bangkok, Thailand


The powerful stories and clear recipes in Kitchen Table Sustainability remind those of us in the development community of the need for the basic ingredients of thoughtful community engagement processes and a heartfelt response to community views to achieve the sustainable outcomes we all seek.


Darren Cooper, National Councillor, Urban Development Institute of Australia


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