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A friend recently asked us to define the term “Sustainable.”
What was a rather simple question stimulated 4 hours of debate – a likely result for three people who have devoted the past 3 years to an endeavor that is centered around the concept.
We will not recount the evening of rants and flying objects below. Rather, some thoughts…
To be sustainable is to consciously and systematically strive to improve our environmental, economic and financial future for an individual, family and community. Sustainability reaches beyond our personalized actions. To be sustainable we need to educate, share and empower others to participate in the environmental and economic savings. Sustainability revolves around the idea of spreading the word, gathering the masses and creating avenues for positive change in order to make a lasting difference. Individually each of us is a drop in the bucket. Together we make a splash. This is the importance of infusing the ideas of sustainability into a community movement.
The discussion moved into a debate about the difference between “green” and “sustainable”.
Green connotes environmentally friendly attitudes and actions, but it fails to emphasize a long-term relationship between us and the environment. In addition, key to the concept of “Sustainability” is economic sustainability, and the understanding that many environmentally positive actions are associated with financial savings. Sustainability speaks to the idea that “being green earns you green,” and every unit of energy saved has an economic benefit. The new green awareness is inspiring , but to sustain it’s momentum it will have to be more than an upper-middle class cause.
We then touched on the linkage between “sustainability” and “organic”, “local” and “natural” products.
Organic once meant locally, small scale production goods. This is no longer the case with agribusiness realizing large economies of scale with mass-organic production, while reaping the price premium at the register. Locally produced goods should be championed, both from an environmental and financial perspective. Environmentally, local goods require less transportation, less packaging and less waste. Financially, locally produced goods keep financial benefits and jobs from the production process flowing back into the community (For an excellent read on this subject, see Bill McKibben’s, “Deep Economy.”)
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