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What is Sustainability?

If you ask 20 people this question you will likely get at least 18 different answers. In the industry, it’s considered to be: “The ability to serve the needs of one generation without sacrificing future generations.” Is that what you think of when you think sustainability?

I feel that one of the biggest reasons besides politics getting involved in sustainability is not teaching it down to a household level. I feel that when we learn about waste, the cost savings of refusing and reusing, and how to manage our homes more sustainably, we then create the habits that force industries to change. Once we buy less and reuse more we start to look for more durable goods and it forces manufacturers to increase quality. You can buy one spatula for a lifetime of use instead of 20 spatulas in your lifetime.

It is this learning we do that reconnects most of us with our grandparents who already lived this way. I remember looking in grandmas refrigerator, was it butter or leftovers? We make the changes that they already lived 50+ years ago and start to become examples to our children. Change never happens overnight. We want it to happen overnight which is why many of us treat waste reduction and other sustainability factors like a fad diet. Even TV shows and Facebook groups promote the all or nothing mentality about conservation and that just isn’t how things change. The mentality changes through generations and over time.

Now there will be the ones who say that we must hurry to prevent irreversible damage to the Earth. First of all, that has already been done. The climate clock in New York has been created as a reminder and to help create some urgency but the climate is already changing and it will never be like it was in the past. As an engineer, we now engineer for the change in climate and we no longer discuss stopping climate change. That ship has sailed. It’s this all or nothing mentality that causes these long drawn out delays in change. In the age of misinformation, change is even slower than it was in the past unless you can envoke emotions like hate. Habit change is a process. We all take the steps to get better while teaching our children the same.

There is no away. If we continue to think that there is and teach our children the same, we will never make one step or progress. You can vote for people who you think have the same standpoint as you on sustainability, you can vote with your dollars buying better longer lasting goods and you can become a sustainability mentor to your children who will be dealing with the damage we collectively caused. Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the current generation without sacrificing the needs of future generations. This becomes easier when we reduce our needs.

What have your refused or reduced, tell me in the comments below, and thank you!

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