In recent years, a number of cities and counties in the United States andelsewhere have developed indicator programs aimed at tracking their progress toward becoming more sustainable. At the same time, programs have been launched in several cities that aim at measuring the quality of life and more specifically, quality of community life. These programs have used either a series of objective measures to assess quality of life or resident surveys that tap the attitudes and behaviors of citizens. Seldom have both types of measures been employed. Typically the programs have been designed to inform policy decisions of local governmental, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. This paper suggests that such programs, if appropriately funded and designed, can also create rich opportunities for exploring empirically people-environment interactions, thereby advancing the field theoretically and methodologically. To illustrate this argument, the paper first describes a major program of research aimed at assessing the quality of community life in the Detroit metropolitan area. The program is viewed as a mechanism for monitoring social and environmental change in the region and involves the collection and analysis of demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and environmental data. Sources of data include sample surveys using faced-to-face interviews and mail questionnaires, the 2000 U.S. Census, aerial photos, and GIS maps.