In a study whose results were published two years ago, the Brookings Institution found that city-dwellers, on average, have smaller carbon footprints per capita than those living in rural regions of the country. There are obviously many factors that go into such statistics, but undoubtedly, smaller communities have more limited access to the resources that enable eco-friendly living. To help develop sustainability specifically in rural areas, the University of Alberta in Canada has launched an innovative new pilot project called the Rural Capacity Paid Intern Program, reports the UAlberta Express News.

As part of the program — which is funded and organized by the Alberta Center for Sustainable Rural Communities — three students have been placed in rural communities in Canada, where they’ve been helping with everything from designing a sustainable tourism package for local hotels to researching alternate sources of water for a small town. One of the students has teamed up with the council of his community to work on increasing the tax base and stimulating the development of empty lots that have already been purchased; another works with officials to find ways to keep small-town youth engaged and gainfully occupied.

"I grew up knowing how small communities work and I really like the feeling of community you get here," one intern, Heather Holte, told the Express News.

This seems like a good idea worth emulating in the United States. Do you know of a program that engages students with sustainability development in rural communities in the US? Please use the comments field below to let us know!