I think everyone can agree sustainability has become a terribly popular buzz word in recent years. It is used so often in fact, that its actual meaning has all but lost us. For our purposes we need to have a clear understanding of what it means to be sustainable and secondly why we want to be sustainable.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Sustainable as an adjective meaning
- able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed; able to last or continue for a long time
Google defines it as:
- able to be maintained at a certain rate or level; conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources
What’s the take away?
Something that is sustainable lasts, doesn't destroy itself and can be maintained; continuously operating in balance with its resources so that it can continue on functioning into the future.
For now on, Sustainable = a system which lasts into the future with balance and without degradation of its resources; the functioning of a system so that its inputs and outputs can be maintained continuously into the future.
So why be sustainable?
The quickest and probably strongest answer to this very valid and important question is so that we don’t destroy what we have and hold dear. In order for not only ourselves but also future generations to enjoy the lifestyles we have now, if not better ones, they must have access to the same resources.
Unfortunately, we are using our resources faster than they are being replenished which means we are not leaving anything for the future. Now if you don’t mind most of the world’s life forms, including humans, dying due to lack of food water, and effects of pollution then being sustainable isn’t really your issue. However, for everyone who does want to see life continue, with forests, oceans, plants and animals all thriving together ect. then living sustainably and leaving resources for the future must be a priority.
On the opposite side of the coin is waste, because a sad consequence of using some of our resources is the high production of waste. Waste can make a system non-sustainable, for even if there is plenty of a resource to go around it is not sustainable if its waste products harm some other system. So we must be careful about choosing systems that really work in the long run and we must avoid quick fixes.