What Is Sustainability?
A widely accepted definition of sustainability is "...meet the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs" (Brundtland Commission, 1987). We must find new and improved ways of
reducing resource consumption and ensuring equitable access to resources if we
are to avoid irreversible environmental degradation and resource-driven
This is a particularly important challenge for Americans who consume more per
person than any other country on the planet. If everyone on Earth (the current
global population) consumed as much as the average American, we would need the
resources of four more planets! We have the knowledge and technology to bring
about a different future, but we also require the will to make it happen.
Sustainability is not solely about environmental stewardship, although many
people associate the term with the environment. As the graphic below
demonstrates, the social and economic dimensions are equally important and round
out what is referred to as the "triple bottom line," a standard of ethical
responsibility many corporations, institutions, and governments have adopted as
a guiding principle.