The term “sustainability” has definitely become a 21st century buzz word. Yet, is it truly understood or through excessive use, rapidly become abused or confused?
Recently, newly elected Vice President for the National Garden Clubs Nancy Hargroves of Manakin-Sabot VA described the role of garden clubs as more than beautification work – “they’ve gotten into sustainable practices.” But, what does this mean in terms of greening landscapes in our communities?
Ed Snodgrass of Knoll Farms says, “Sustainability means we don’t take more out of the Earth than we are able to put back.” Similarly, Scott Kyle of Full Scale Architecture says the best definition he has heard comes from the Native American perspective of ‘providing for the needs of the current generation without sacrificing the needs of future generations’. “Still,” says Kyle “many folks and groups appear to corrupt its meaning which is a shame, because the term should mean a product or service that is truly green.”
“Those of us in natural resource management fields,” says Ellen Powell a Conservation Education Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Forestry, “think of sustainability as the “truest” green. To us, it means balancing human consumption with ecological viability, so that the resource remains viable for all purposes. In today’s world, it’s unrealistic to think people will simply stop using renewable resources, such as forests. For example, if we stopped using wood as a building material, our alternatives would be materials that require more energy to manufacture such as steel. And, most of these alternative products are from finite, nonrenewable sources; in other words, not very green! On the other hand, we can provide both forest products and ecosystem services. Because land conserved through sustainable forestry is land conserved for clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, recreation, carbon sequestration, and a host of other benefits.”
Similar to Ellen Powell’s perspective, Somphit Kham of Giving Sustainability defines sustainability as a product and/or service that is eco-friendly and contributes to social responsibility. On the other hand, Patricia Stansbury, principal of Epic Gardens has found the definition to be more philosophical or spiritual. “I have been invited to speak at a number of venues including churches about environmental stewardship as a matter of faith, and schools about how choosing locally produced food and consumer goods produces a more sustainable economy.”
Anne Bedarf of GreenBlue Institute found it disturbing when Provost Tim Garson of University of VA described sustainability as ‘only about eco-efficiency’. She and her classmates forwarded a letter stating, “Sustainability is the ULTIMATE green; but it’s not a thing; rather, sustainability is a process, or a framework, by which our economy, people and planet can move toward equity and be self-sustaining. My work at (SustainablePackaging.org) is a sector in which industry, government and nonprofits work together to define sustainable packaging. So, I believe each sector of society should develop a definition of what sustainability means for them.”
And, therein, as Bedarf acknowledges, sustainability appears to represent more than ‘green’. It is a way of living in the world with an ethical outlook that recognizes the impact of where we live, how we commute to class or work, what we eat, and what we buy as it relates to impacting other cultures and ecosystems near and far.
As the Sustainable Land Development Initiative located in Dubuque IA says, “Sustainability is symbolized as a geometrical algorithm that balances and integrates the triple-bottom line needs of people, planet and profit into a holistic, fractal model that becomes increasingly detailed, guiding effective decisions throughout the community planning, financing, design, regulating, construction and maintenance processes while always enabling project context to drive specific decisions.”
Although there may be differences of opinion related to a definition of sustainability, all are similar in focus: move America’s landscape from eco-weak to eco-chic, creating a legacy of healthy green. In fact, commitment is not limited to personal or neighborhood spaces; and instead, such commitment is taken to work with you, encouraging employers to measure their eco-footprints. Then, collectively whether a garden club effort or another activity, ensure urban green, nation-wide – commit to greening our Nation’s landscape, creating eco-cities. For additional tips and strategies, visit web site www.TheWrightScoop.com or share comment, contact Sylvia@TheWrightScoop.com or post below.