What is Being Sustainable mean?

Webster’s dictionary defines sustainable as 1: Able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed 2: Involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources and 3: Able to last or continue for a long time.

These definitions of sustainability help us articulate and understand that we and our natural resources have limits. In fact, there is a movement within the sustainable community that focuses on and believes we need to limit our population and economic growth to a zero-sum game. In other words, we should not have a population level that depletes resources beyond what the Earth can sustain.

Over the years we have added to our understanding of sustainability the term “eco-friendly.” We believe that you can’t be sustainable in terms of resource utilization while destroying the environment. This would be counterproductive for the planet and its ability to sustain life as we know it. We are clearly already seeing negative consequences for the planet through the impact of human activity that has led to the development of climate change. Sustainable activity and environmentally friendly activity go hand in hand if we are going to talk about what it means to be sustainable.

It is easy to see why a healthy planet is needed as the backdrop for life. Yet, do we want to limit ourselves to thinking of being sustainable in such a way that it is connected with resource utilization and creating an eco-friendly environment only? While important, perhaps these don’t go far enough.