Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything we need for survival & well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates & maintains the conditions under which humans & nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, & other requirements of present & future generations. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have & will continue to have, the water, materials, & resources to protect human health & our environment. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition.
Sustainability is a stimulating term evoking powerful, diverse emotions with an extensive reach overflowing with numerous interpretations. The usage is becoming more prevalent by the day, e.g., cities, governments, buildings, businesses, individuals, food, etc. are declaring sustainability.
On the surface sustainability is a relatively simple concept. Closer examination showcases knowledge filled with holes where understanding is lost in translation, creating a web of chaoticness.
Sustainability cannot be a unilateral approach to all locations, as needs are distinctive from point to point. Global sustainability can only be accomplished when sustainability is in harmony locally & regionally.
Individualism creates emotional attachment, distinct personalities, & traditions that doesn’t allow a template to work. Understanding the history, culture, development, economy, operations, social & environmental behaviors, & population growth will allow for a better strategy creating a culture of sustainability. Maintaining the unique history, while increasing economic innovation & inclusion.
True sustainability harmoniously intertwines people & planet’s demand via a web built on evolving ideas, i.e., advantageousness, accessibility, opportunity, diversity, profitability, growth, demand, efficiently, & equality. Taking care of the less fortunate, young, & old by providing opportunities that are financially realistic. Growth leading to community benefits, rather than displacement.
Unifying a clear understanding or should I say an understanding that will continually evolve leading to true sustainability requires perspectives diverse as the actors involved, i.e., individuals, communities, cities, & countries.
Researching sustainability only provides solutions convoluted by bias, however that is not a bad thing. If an individual is willing to spend the effort, a lot can be learned from the infinite stances. Opinions are accompanied by optimism & pessimism bursting with passion. The nerve it touches is encouraging because it allows the flow of ideas, potentially leading to an improved awareness.
Industries are handcuffed by their acceptingness of sustainability. Interpretations only allow businesses, communities, & individuals a certain amount of capability. Look at all the ‘sustainability/green’ products, businesses, cities, etc. promoting their ideologies. They are meeting their standards, but is it truly sustainability?
Unfortunately, sustainability is a term becoming antiquated because of the misunderstandings evolving from commerce interpretation. Our environment only allows us to understand certain facts, taking action typically profit obsessed.
For a city to be sustainable all the parts of the system must be connected, functioning as one. One building or one community doesn’t make sustainability. Sustainability is about integrating environmental, social, & economic priorities by unlocking the past, present, & future affecting the entire city.
A lot of cities are beginning to focus on sustainability, which are making impressive strides in creating a culture of sustainability. Portland, Vancouver, New York, London, & Amsterdam are always mentioned as a sustainable city. Is this really the case?
Learning has never been this easy. Numerous sustainability certifications exist, allowing for anyone to begin the journey. There are sustainable products for everything, e.g., soap, food, cars, investments, etc. Organic is another great start. Unfortunately, an individual action doesn’t create a sustainability culture it only continues the faux sustainability cycle.
The first mainstream tool for green education was the USGBC, which lead to the International Living Future Institute. Both are great resources addressing their goals. Unfortunately, it only addresses a small discipline: buildings. Cradle to Cradle is another great resource, but again it doesn’t address True Sustainability, but it does get a little closer. Unfortunately, certifications were created with developed countries in mind & not developing countries. The triple bottom line, i.e., economically, environmentally, & socially, is also highly discussed.
All should have a disclaimer, ‘use with caution, as can lead to a cycle built for limited growth potential.’ Certifications are stating that if a person follows certain rules, you are being sustainable. Don’t worry about anything else out there, just this checklist or product.
Sustainability checklists, certifications, & products are definitely a great start, but it must be regarded as only a start. If not careful, it can continue the lack of sustainability in our culture. This will not create the changes vital to generate a truly sustainability culture. I want to see cities make strides fighting & meeting the expectations the country & planet requires. Sustainability plans need to improve the environment, but also improve social issues for all residents, i.e., fighting poverty & health issues, growing the economy, provide opportunities, improving education, etc.
I completely understand cities, businesses, & communities have limited resources, but I want to see more. Let me clarify that, I expect to see more. I want to see urban & rural areas connected. I want to see all communities working together for the advancement of the city. I want to see cities renovating downtowns, historical areas, & suburbs. I want to see all schools working together creating a prosperous future for our children. I want to see improvement.
Combine ideologies from USGBC, Cradle-to-Cradle, & the triple bottom line. Create a baseline for cities, business, & individuals that will continually adjust to improvements.
Numerous individuals, organizations, businesses, groups, etc. were at the forefront of sustainability. Their dedication & forethought brought this movement into the mainstream. It’s time we move sustainability into everyday life, affecting everyone on the planet.
A new ideology is required to fight the global issues degrading this beautiful planet. For the movement to continually evolve we must reach the people that don’t understand & or don’t care.
Where is the roadmap for future prosperity, detailing the correct choices for future growth meeting the necessities of communities & the planet? There needs to be a better understanding of what comprehensive sustainability is capable of & truly deserves to accomplish, along with what is truly essential for growth nationally & globally? We need to show it in our actions, habits, & compromises by selecting & acting to create a culture of sustainability.
All of the little actions occurring in communities all over the world are a great, great starting point for a prosperous future that needs to overflow into the modern day system. Actions benefiting large populations, not just small populations. Little actions are great for homes, or communities, but it will not change our current path. We demand change that affects billions. If true sustainability were to be followed, it would happen.
Improved quality of life for all, not a select few.
- Is a city sustainable if poverty exists?
- Is a neighborhood sustainable, if the education for our children is poor?
- Is a building sustainable, if it only provides for one?
- Is a product green, if the package is not?
Is there such a thing as true sustainability in today’s culture? This was the question I asked to the Sustainability Professional’s group on LinkedIn. The responses were educational & diverse in nature. However one recurring theme emerged, passion in all the response. This was great discussion.