Defining Sustainable Living

What is Sustainability 

What does sustainability mean to you? I'll give you my definition of sustainability, how I arrived at it and we'll see if we agree.

As an engineer that works in the built environment, I have heard many different descriptions of the term. I have heard it thrown around as a way for people to let you know they are hip to the trend. However, I have discovered that not everybody has a concise definition of what it means to live sustainably.

A walk on the Sustainable Side

Not too long ago I was performing a building audit walk-through with the building's manager. My mission was to identify potential energy efficiency measures that would improve the buildings energy efficiency.

As we toured the building I used the words sustainability & sustainable in describing the measures I would be recommending. As the walk-through was coming to an end the manager pulled me aside and said, “I have a slightly embarrassing question I need to ask you.” He had a serious look in his eye and frankly, it made me a little uncomfortable. I thought “what the hell does this guy want?”  He then said, “I’m not really sure what sustainability really means, how would you define it?”

Relieved that his question wasn’t something weird I began describing examples of sustainability. However, I didn't give an exact definition of it. I found it difficult to formulate a concise definition of it off the top of my head.

As I was giving the building manager example after example he nodded his head and said, “thanks I think I got a better handle on it to now.” After leaving, I kept turning over the conversation in my mind. I felt that the way I had answered his question was too cumbersome and long-winded.

The Origin of Sustainability

That encounter set me on the task to find a concise definition, a “sustainability elevator pitch” if you will. I really love entomology  because of how powerful an exact understanding of the true meaning of a word can be. First, I looked up the meaning of sustainability in Webster’s. Next, I drilled down on the two root words, sustain & ability. Finally, I boiled down the definitions to help clarify meaning, here is how I broke it down:

Origin of Sustain (1250–1300; Middle English): To undergo, experience, or suffer; endure without giving way or yielding.

Origin of Ability (1350–1400; Middle English): The physical, mental, or legal power to do something.

Origin of Sustainability (1907, in a legal objection, 1972, General use in economics, agriculture, ecology)

  1. Using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.
  2. A lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods, sustainable society.

Interesting Side Observation: Note the year of origin in the first two above definitions and compare them to the third definition. Humans always had the ability to sustain themselves for hundreds of years before they created a definition for it.

My Interpretation of Living a Sustainable Life

I interpret the definitions to mean that to live sustainably I must be conscious of ALL of my choices that would deplete or permanently damage any of the resources I consume. Seems simple but we all know it's not. The ripple effect of everything we consume is huge and to a large degree invisible to us. This is where the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road for me. This is one of the key ideas behind what inspired me to create Blended Tribes. Just like it says on our homepage:

Our goal is simple.   To share Sustainable Living Strategies

For Every Aspect of Life.  Innovative People, Places & Things

To Inspire You To Live Better Through Better Choices!

Opportunities in Sustainability

Sustainability has rapidly grown into a big subject of study. Schools all over the world offer exciting and innovative programs. Now to design your own degree in sustainability.Degrees in sustainability include:

  • Business
  • Leadership
  • Engineering
  • Policy
  • Healthcare
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Management
  • More disciplines are being added all the time

Get a degree in an area of sustainability that you truly passionate about. Seize the opportunity to get paid to do something you love while saving the planet. For Real.

A Lifestyle of Health and Sustainabilit

In addition to higher education, there is also a growing market segment that is filled with potential for future growth, have you ever heard of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market?

It has a $355 billion US market segment and a $546 market segment worldwide with market growth at approximately 10% a year. It is the inevitable response to non-sustainable practices.

What's Driving the Sustainability Market?

Consumers in this market are driven by values that are deeply rooted in the preservation of the planet's resources.  Market niches include:

  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Health
  • Human Rights
  • Relationships
  • Fairtrade
  • Sustainable practices
  • Spiritual/Personal Development.

This market is going to continue to experience accelerated growth. Especially as living sustainability grows as a status symbol. One example to consider is the electric auto manufacturer Tesla. In Tesla's early year's people willingly over $100,000 to be on a year-long-plus waiting list. They were paying substantially to buy into a car concept that hadn't yet been thoroughly tested in society at large. Tesla made electric cars sexy!

A Good Starting Place

With this post my goal was twofold;First was to define a definition of sustainability that was concise and easy to remember. Secondly was to crack open the door to the opportunities that exist within the field of sustainability. I think that’s a double check.

I hope this quick post helped you and/or inspired you. I’m passionate about promoting people, places & things that are Environmentally Responsible & Earth Friendly

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