What Does Sustainability Mean?
What are the best sustainable practices in 2021 ?

What is Sustainability?

What is the definition of sustainability? What are sustainable practices? 

It is the animating concept of a growing consciousness, an awareness that human activity is imposing tremendous costs on the natural environment, costs which we would like to rein in as part of a broader attempt to restore our relationship with nature. 

The Industrial Revolution and the modern world have brought us prosperity, but they have also brought us the fruits of greed: polluted air, polluted water, species diminishing and dying. To be aware of these trends is to experience a deep sense that civilization, in the form practiced by human beings since the advent of industrialization, is waging war on the planet itself. 

It would be all too easy to succumb to pessimism and gloom, but the reality is that it does not have to be that way. A growing number of people are awakening to the call to practice more ethical, sustainable consumption, to buy products that are produced by people who are conscious of environmental impacts and social impacts, who care deeply about conserving the resources of the natural environment and about reducing deleterious social impacts, particularly in the developing world. 

A great movement is afoot across many industries, from textiles to coffee to flowers to organic agriculture generally. The movement is concerned with sustainability, with finding better ways to bring human activity into harmony with nature and with each other.

This movement is made up of imperfect people and processes, and there is still a great deal to be done. Nevertheless, as the examples provided here demonstrate, there is also a great deal of grounds for hope. 

Sustainable Textiles, What are sustainable practices?

Sustainable Textiles

Sustainable Textiles

One of the most promising developments toward sustainability in the textile industry is organic fabrics, such as organic cotton. 

The idea of organic cotton may seem novel, but it is an idea whose time has come, given the environmental impacts of conventional cotton. Conventionally-grown cotton is both one of the most widely-grown crops in the world, and one of the most environmentally detrimental. 

The key to conventionally-grown cotton’s impact is the pesticide chemicals used to protect it, pesticides and herbicides which are among the most toxic according to the classification system used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And things are even worse in developing countries, which account for a great deal of cotton production: in many of these countries, conventional cotton production is not only environmentally dangerous but also a hazard for the workers who are exposed to these chemicals. 

This is what makes organic cotton such an exciting development for sustainability. The seeds are GMO-free and not treated with fungicides or pesticides. It is grown in healthy soils subject to crop rotation, and the increased organic matter helps to retain moisture. 

Many wonderful examples of organic cotton textiles can be found at SynZenBe, including organic cotton fleeces, Eco Stretch organic cotton superclean fleece spandex, and organic cotton denim, among others.

Recycled polyester is another exciting development. Because the consumer products landscape is already awash with plastic products, such as plastic bottles and other common wastes, one way in which to mitigate the impact of these products is by recycling them into polyester

The secret to this environmental boon is that both polyester and plastics are made from petroleum, so it is quite possible to take polluting plastic wastes and recycle them into beautiful polyester. SynZenBe offers recycled polyester fabrics, such as Tencel Blend Soft Ponte Roma

Wool is another excellent development in sustainable textiles. Because wool comes from sheep, it is completely renewable. It even functions as a way to trap small amounts of carbon, which comes from the plants eaten by the sheep that grow the wool. In fact, 1 kg of clean wool accounts for about 1.8 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO20-e). 

Wool has other environmentally-friendly attributes. It’s very long-lasting and durable, so it reduces the need to buy clothing for a longer period of time than many other textiles. It’s also completely, 100% biodegradable, so there’s no fear about it creating waste that will fail to breakdown. 

There are also alternative fabrics blossoming in the new sustainable textile space. Bamboo fabric is one of the most promising: it grows very quickly, reaching maturity in two years, and it doesn’t require fertilizer or pesticides to grow quickly and well. 

Bamboo textiles are also made without harmful chemicals, making them a sustainable powerhouse. They are also naturally hypoallergenic, moisture-absorbent and quick-drying. The fiber is also very smooth and does not require any chemical treatment to achieve this. 

Small wonder SynZenBe features such wonderful bamboo textiles

There are also many more developments in sustainable textiles, and this is one of the most exciting and happening areas in sustainability right now. 

Sustainable Certification Industry

The rise of organic certification is another encouraging trend for sustainability. As one indication of the rise in popularity of organic agriculture, consider that there were over 14,000 certified organic farms in the United States in 2016, up 56% since 2011.

What about sales? In 2016, the value of certified organic goods sold in the United States was nearly $7.6 billion, compared with $3.5 billion in 2011. 

American consumers are warming to organic, with about four in 10 (39%) of U.S. adults reporting that most or some of the food they eat is organic. 

With this increased demand for organic comes increased demand for organic certification. At present, there are 48 different USDA-accredited organic certifying agencies based in the U.S. itself, with numerous others based in foreign countries or else authorized by recognition agreements between the U.S. and other national governments. 

To qualify for organic certification, a farmer or rancher must show that they have abstained from prohibited synthetic pesticides, synthetic herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers, as well as bioengineering and ionizing radiation. They must also demonstrate use of sustainable practices to conserve soil and water.

Once an agricultural producer has implemented a plan to address these requirements, they may procure the services of a certifying agent, who will conduct an on-site inspection. 

There are important benefits for growers who choose to adopt organic certification. For one thing, the added costs associated with getting and maintaining organic certification mean that growers can pass these costs on to consumers in the form of premium prices. 

Crucially, this also means higher profits, since organic consumers attach a very high value to organic produce and are willing to pay more than with conventional agriculture. 

Not only can growers charge more, they can also sell their produce in some of the fastest-growing markets in the country. With the demand for organic produce growing, going organic means tapping into a burgeoning market. 

An additional consideration is that in many cases (though by no means all) organic producers will be selling locally, and will be able to participate in local markets. 

Another benefit is that current U.S. agricultural policy is strongly encouraging of organic agriculture, and the USDA Farm Service Agency actually offers several options for growers in need of financial assistance to acquire or maintain organic certification. 

Of course, there are also other, less quantifiable benefits: organic growers have the satisfaction of knowing they are participating in a style of agriculture that can improve water quality, lead to more conservation of energy, increase biodiversity, and contribute to the health of the soil. 

Certification Industry

Certification Industry

There are also more and more opportunities for organic growers and certifiers to partner together. Organic certifiers and organic growers have been turning the Costa Rican pineapple market on its head with organic pineapple. 

It is also becoming easier to maintain organic compliance and high production, thanks to a high-tech revolution led by drone technology. Drones enable a high level of soil and field analysis, which can tell farmers, among other things, when and where a weed problem has become an issue in need of correction, and how to best irrigate.

The Flower Industry rarely synonymous with environmental protection

Sustainable flowers are another promising development, with a new wave of flower growers involved in movements toward sustainability which are revolutionizing the flower industry. 

Take Alaskan peony growers, for example. In little more than a decade since its founding, the Alaskan peony grower community has come to include more than 40 farms, which between them manage to sustainably grow and ship more than 200,000 stems per year. 

In 2015, a number of them banded together to form the Alaskan Peony Cooperative. Their flowers are much in demand throughout the United States and in foreign markets like Canada, Taiwan, and South Korea. 

The peony is typically a late spring to early summer flower, but Alaskan farmers hit their harvest peak later, in July to August—perfect timing for the wedding industry. The farmers of the Alaskan Peony Cooperative are now having to adapt to climate change, but they are confident they can do so in keeping with their sustainable principles.

Another group of florists committed to sustainability are the farmer florists, who combine sustainable flower horticulture with wild-foraged greenery. 

Farmer florists are passionate about nature and about flowers, and they farm flowers and arrange them in breathtakingly original cut flower arrangements, often incorporating wild greenery, because it is their passion. 

A revolt against bland, mass-market retail flower offerings, the farmer florist community is mutually supportive and has an almost “cultish” hobbyist mentality. 

Farmer florists embody an ecological consciousness which resonates with their audiences, whom they often reach through platforms like Instagram. The movement has been credited with the runaway success of the book Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms, by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai.

The farmer florist movement has grown through workshops, which are hosted by farmer florists who are willing to share their secrets with people who want to join the movement and grow beautiful flowers of their own. It is a stark contrast with the world of retail flower competition, which tends to be cutthroat. 

The Sustainable Flower Industry

The Sustainable Flower Industry

The farmer florist movement is still relatively small, but it has already made an impact out of all proportion to the numbers of florists in its ranks. In a modern era in which so many people feel cut off from nature, the farmer florist movement resonates as an attempt to get back to nature, repairing our bond with the natural world. 

Another sustainable florist movement designed in opposition to mass-market commercial flowers is the Slow Flower movement. Florists in this movement reject imports of flowers grown in foreign countries with questionable labor and environmental safety.  

Slow Flower florists use sustainable organic practices and emphasize seasonality, offering different flowers during different seasons in order to respect the cycles of nature rather than importing them from overseas at great environmental and human cost.

The Alaskan Peony Cooperative, the farmer florists, and the Slow Flower movement are all concerned with bringing the industry back into connection with nature. The flower industry is changing in more sustainable directions as a consequence of these developments.

Why is it better to buy Fair Trade and Sustainable Coffee ?

Organic and fair trade coffees

Organic and fair trade coffees

Sustainability is an issue that affects the coffee industry as well. Commercial, conventional coffees have undergone a shift in cultivation away from traditional shade-grown methods to more intensive styles of farming which create greater environmental impacts

On top of this, coffee production is likely to be hit relatively hard by climate change. With increasing temperatures, the amount of arable land available is going to decline even as pests and diseases thrive over a wider area. 

Clearly, sustainability has never been timelier for this industry. Fortunately, the news is not all bad: there are producers who are committed to making a difference. 

Groups like the Rainforest Alliance are working to make a difference in the communities that produce coffee, particularly with regard to providing training, technical assistance, and market access for coffees grown with more environmentally friendly methods. 

The challenge has also been taken up by the National Coffee Association (NCA) of the United States. The NCA is committed to innovation for sustainability across the supply chain, from the coffee farms to the consumer’s cup. 

Organic and fair trade coffees are increasingly common ethical options for indulging one’s morning habit, and many roasters are getting in on the action.

For example, take Acoustic Java, located in Massachusetts: dedicated to high quality standards as well as to ethical, people- and environmentally-friendly coffee, Acoustic Java’s coffee is fair trade, organic, bird friendly, shade grown Rain Forest Alliance-approved, and empowers women producers. 

Or take Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters, a small-batch, artisanal coffee roaster which prides itself on its status as a highly sustainable, low-carbon impact coffee producer. 

And then there’s Kickapoo Coffee Roasters, based in the southwestern Wisconsin town of Viroqua. In 2015, Kickapoo’s owners converted to solar power, with a little help from a federal grant offering a 30 percent tax break. Kickapoo is also a member of the organization Cooperative Coffees, an association which sources both fair trade coffees and organic coffees from producer cooperatives around the globe.

North Carolina-based roasters Counter Culture Coffee opted for wind power instead of solar, buying wind-energy credits from Arcadia Power and carbon credits managed by a conservationist cooperative, AMBIO, located in Chiapas, Mexico.  

Other coffee producers have emphasized the involvement of the coffee farmers themselves. Cafédirect, for example, is certified Fair Trade and invests a third of all profits into the farming communities, where some 90 percent of the farmers are shareholders in the company. 

Equal Exchange, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based company, has a 25-year history of worker ownership. It is also a provider of organic fair trade coffees. The company is famous for having over 100 worker-owners, each of which holds an equal share and voting rights in the business.

Higher Ground Roasters, located in Leeds, Alabama, combines a commitment to quality and environmental and labor protections. All of their coffee is 100% Certified Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade Grown. Members of the Farm to Cup movement, the coffee world’s equivalent of Farm to Table, Higher Ground is working to create positive relationships across the supply chain through partnerships with non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting the environment. 

Sustainable coffee

Sustainability and Coffee

Sustainability in General

Everything To Know About Lyocell: Origin

What is sustainability, in general? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is based on a simple principle: everything we need to survive and thrive ultimately depends, whether directly or indirectly, on the natural environment. 

A great deal follows from this. If everything we need to survive and thrive ultimately depends on the environment, then we need to conserve the environment so that we can continue to enjoy it and benefit from it. 

Moreover, if we depend on the environment, perhaps we ought to take care of it out of a sense of love for it. This ethos of affection and a desire to better harmonize ourselves with nature is what animates the movement for sustainability. 

With the increasing concern for sustainability, the organic, fair trade, and green movements have all flourished. 

In general, a product or service may be called “green”, or at least greener, if it is less harmful to human health or the environment than other products that serve the same purpose. 

Compared with the products they substitute for, many green products tend to pose lower, or no, impacts associated with a wide variety of environmental and human health ills: exposures to chemicals which are toxic or hazardous; air pollution; water pollution; climate change; stratospheric ozone depletion, and disposal of wastes. 

A good standard to follow if you want to make sure you are actually purchasing green products is to make sure that your purchases meet the standards set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, the Guides to the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims or “Green Guides”

While some naysayers perceive green products and services as more expensive, in actuality some are cheaper. Quality still matters: if you buy a high-quality green product or service you will likely have a better experience than if you were to buy a low-quality version. 

Depending on what you are buying and where you are looking, you may also find that some green products and services have higher up-front costs, but last longer and provide an overall better experience, not to mention the satisfaction of doing something good for the environment. 

If you want to identify a green product, it’s a good idea to not simply look at the words associated with the marketing, i.e. “earth friendly”, or “biodegradable” or even “eco-friendly”, but instead look and see if it has been certified. 

Different certification standards for different types of Sustainable products

the Energy Star standard to secure environmental protection by means of energy efficiency.

Energy Star logo

Energy Star

For example, if you are looking for energy-efficient homes, building products, electronics, and appliances, the Energy Star standard applies. This is a standard created as a joint project between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy in order to secure environmental protection by means of energy efficiency.

 

 

 

 Green Seal certification is a much more general-purpose standard, one which applies to the lifecycle. In essence, a Green Seal Certified product is relatively environmentally friendly, as measured by its adherence to rigorous scientific standards.

Green Seal certification logo

Green Seal

Green Seal certification is a much more general-purpose standard, one which applies to the lifecycle. In essence, a Green Seal Certified product is relatively environmentally friendly, as measured by its adherence to rigorous scientific standards.  A Green Seal may be found on practically anything, from a coffee filter to a hotel, so you may encounter one of these almost anywhere.

 

 

 

FSC is a non-profit organization,

FSC logo

Forest Stewardship Council

As a bonus, the FSC is a non-profit organization, one which is not affiliated with any government. They have been working to ensure responsible forestry around the world since 1993.

 

 

 

The LEED certification focuses on whole building sustainability

LEED certification logo

LEED

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification standard created by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, though it has since gained international recognition. It is designed to promote green building and design. 

The LEED certification makes use of 5 categories and has strong associations with both business and residential buildings. A strength of the certification standard is the way in which it focuses on whole building sustainability, and this can be used by diverse professionals and government agencies.

USDA Organic Product is a certification standard which probably needs no introduction. The USDA Organic standard is issued by the National Organic Program, which is itself implemented by the USDA.

USDA Organic logo

USDA Organic

USDA Organic Product is a certification standard which probably needs no introduction. The USDA Organic standard is issued by the National Organic Program, which is itself implemented by the USDA. 

The ethos of the organic standard is sustainability: the animating idea is to address biological, cultural, and mechanical processes in order to conserve biodiversity and foster cycling of natural resources. The key things that are generally prohibited from organic include synthetic fertilizer, irradiation, and genetic engineering. 

The Sustainable Agriculture is Organic and GMO Free

Agriculture has received a great deal of focus with regard to sustainability efforts, and for good reason: modern agriculture is industrial agriculture, characterized by large-scale farms growing monocultural strains on a vast scale, typically using great quantities of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers which pose far-ranging environmental impacts on the soils, water, air, and climate. 

However, a growing number of farmers have partnered with a similarly-growing number of scientists, working together to forge a distinctive new path toward sustainability: environmental, economic, and social sustainability in agriculture. 

These three facets—environmental, economic, and social sustainability—are all core and integral parts of the overall package that is sustainability in agriculture. Together, these are the three core facets or three great pillars of sustainability in agriculture.

Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture

Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture

Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture

Environmental sustainability in agriculture starts with the idea of taking good care of the natural systems and resources that are required to sustain agriculture. 

The soil is one such resource. Sustainability in farming means taking good care of the soil, conserving it against erosion and minimizing use of chemical pesticides.

There are some well-known techniques, backed by decades of scientific study and practical experience, that contribute to sustainability. 

For one thing, rotating crops and pursing diversity of crops has a variety of benefits for the soil and for the crops themselves. 

Soils tend to be healthier when they are subjected to well-planned, complex, multi-year crop rotation, and intercropping—growing a mixture of crops in the same plot of land—can also be very beneficial. 

Another interesting benefit of these practices is improved pest control: because pests tend to specialize on particular types of plants, intercropping and to some degree crop rotation limit the ability of any one pest to succeed, particularly compared with large-scale monoculture in the same areas year after year. 

Planting cover crops, such as clover or hairy vetch, during off-season times when the soils would otherwise be left entirely fallow, contributes to soil health and fertility. These crops have the effect of protecting soil health from erosion, adding to and replenishing nutrients, and even keeping weeds in check, meaning there is that much less need for herbicides.

Reducing tillage, that is to say traditional plowing, or eliminating it altogether is another method for reducing erosion and improving the health of the soils. The trouble with tillage is that it has a tendency to cause a great deal of soil loss, so no-till or reduced till methods mitigate these problems.

Conventional, industrial agriculture relies on the application of pesticides to keep pest populations under control. Sustainable agricultural alternatives to this include mechanical and biological controls, collectively known as integrated pest management (IPM). These methods are able to successfully reduce pest populations while minimizing the requirement for synthetic pesticides.

The innovations in Sustainable Agriculture

Another innovation in sustainable agriculture pertains to the relation between plant and animal production. Industrial agriculture separates plants in their fields from animals, despite the fact that so many livestock are excellent sources of fertilizer in the form of manure. 

A smart, well-planned integration of the right kinds of livestock and animal production can result in greater efficiency and profit on the farm. 

A conventional, industrial agricultural field will typically consist of nothing but one crop in one area, but this is another area in which sustainable agriculture is making changes by adopting agro-forestry. 

Farmers who mix trees or shrubs into their operations have the ability to provide shade and shelter to protect plants, animals, and water resources, and the trees and shrubs themselves can potentially serve as sources of additional income. 

Still another area in which sustainable farmers have been innovating is with regard to marginal areas at the edges of their fields, uncultivated or lightly-cultivated tracts of land which can serve important functions for the health of the fields. 

In particular, riparian buffers and prairie strips are valuable for these purposes, because they help to control erosion, and thus have the effect of keeping nutrients in the area and reducing leeching of nutrients through agricultural runoff. These areas can also be important for pollinators and for other biodiversity. 

What connects many of these ideas and practices is a broader theme of diversification. Instead of the monocultures and factory-like approaches of industrial farming, sustainable farmers shoot for diversification and complexity. 

These efforts are part of a broader trend toward making farming more efficient, with better conservation of resources and better agricultural products.

Over the course of the last 70 years, farms have nearly tripled production while essentially holding constant such resource inputs as land, energy, and fertilizer. 

Part of the difference is better equipment, which has made it easier to do things like implement no-till and reduced till approaches. Another part is smarter seeds, seeds which have been optimized through careful selection to make more efficient use of resources. 

Farming has a variety of impacts which are being mitigated through sustainable agriculture, but in one area farming already stands out as exemplary: it accounts for only 9% of greenhouse gas emissions.  

innovation in sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture

Farmers are also contributing to efforts to make their footprint smaller still, notably through the production and use of renewable energy. Farmers are even converting waste into energy, thanks to the remarkable expedient of methane digesters. 

These efforts, including ethanol and biodiesel, have paid off: in 2018, the U.S. was able to reduce the output of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of removing some 17 million automobiles from the roads.

Sustainable Energy : Source for Tomorrow

The ultimate expression of the sustainability movement is renewable energy. While the other aspects of the movement that have to do with textiles, coffee, flowers, and organic agriculture generally all speak to the ethos of sustainability, it is in the area of energy that progress is most needful, and it is energy that most speaks to the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions by replacing them with something else.

Essentially by definition, sustainable energy sources are renewable: unlike fossil fuels, they will not run out once we deplete a giant pile of them. They are also called “alternative” because they are alternatives to fossil fuels. 

These sources of energy are not necessarily free of environmental impacts—wind, for example, requires manufacture of turbines, and turbines can still kill birds—but they are much, much better for the environment than fossil fuel alternatives.

Solar energy is an inexhaustible Sustainable Source of Green energy

Solar energy is one such source

Solar energy

Solar energy is one such source, and it is most commonly captured through photovoltaic (PV) systems, which make use of the sun’s energy to generate electricity. There are also solar hot water systems, which circulate water through flat-plate solar collectors, and mirrored dishes that concentrate the sun’s heat to boil water in conventional steam generators. 

There are also new commercial and industrial designs which make use of the sun’s energy for larger-scale projects, such as ventilation, heating, and cooling. 

As we have seen, some of the businesses featured here make use of solar power, notably Kickapoo.

 

 

 

Wind power : affordable, clean and sustainable

Wind power is another sustainable alternative

Wind power

Wind power is another sustainable alternative, one favored by Counter Culture Coffee. 

Technically wind can be thought of as a form of solar energy, because that is where the energy comes from: the sun heats and cools the atmosphere unevenly, leading to wind which can be captured by turbines and turned into electricity. 

Geothermal energy is another source, one which is derived from the earth’s heat in specific areas. The heat can either be sourced close to the surface at some locations, or else taken from heated rock or water reservoirs deep below the earth. 

Geothermal sources of energy tend to be fairly limited geographically, but where they exist they can be part of large-scale commercial utilities or smaller-scale operations. They can be used to heat buildings, grow plants in greenhouses, even aid with industrial processes such as pasteurizing milk.

Another source of Renewable, Sustainable Energy

Hydrolic Energy

Hydroelectric systems, or hydropower, are another source of renewable, sustainable energy. This form of renewable energy relies on dams, which certainly have negative environmental impacts, but hydroelectric power has the advantage overall of being fairly friendly to the environment compared with fossil fuels as well as being very reliable. 

Hydroelectric power depends on dependable waterway sources, and may be either “pumped-storage” hydropower, which relies on dams and lower and upper reservoirs, or else “run-of-river”, which funnels a portion of river flow through a channel without a dam. 

Power from the ocean

There are also two types of power from the ocean: thermal energy resulting from the heating of the sun, and mechanical energy from the motion of the tides and waves.

There are a few different systems that can be used to capture ocean thermal energy with help from warm surface water temperatures, and convert it into electricity. The tides can also be harvested as ocean mechanical energy, as can wind-driven waves. 

Bioenergy from Biomass

There is also, of course, bioenergy from biomass. Some forms of bioenergy come from the burning of biomass directly, producing heat which is used to create steam, which can be captured by a turbine and used to generate electricity—this is commonly done in manufacturing facilities. 

Ethanol and biodiesel represent another approach, the conversion of biomass to a fuel which is burned in a vehicle. 

Hydrogen fuel cells represent another approach, one which produces hydrogen gas which can then be burned, producing electricity and water. This technology is still being developed, and has far to go, but ultimately holds the potential for great promise in the search for renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Geothermal energy is another source, one which is derived from the earth’s heat in specific areas. The heat can either be sourced close to the surface at some locations, or else taken from heated rock or water reservoirs deep below the earth. 

Geothermal sources of energy tend to be fairly limited geographically, but where they exist they can be part of large-scale commercial utilities or smaller-scale operations. They can be used to heat buildings, grow plants in greenhouses, even aid with industrial processes such as pasteurizing milk.

Conclusion: Toward an Ethos of Smart Growth

sustainable enterprise

Sustainable building

The businesses we have profiled in this article are all arguably examples of a new ethos of sustainable enterprises, sometimes referred to as “smart growth”. In essence, smart growth refers to a broad range of development and conservation strategies which are designed to promote better economic growth. 

In the past, economic growth was pursued by enterprises without the same kind of regard for the environment, the hidden costs and the externalities that now occupy such prominent places in the modern consciousness.

Indeed, it would be accurate to say that smart growth is about a more conscious kind of enterprise: a type of enterprise that is dedicated to better use of resources, to reducing our impacts on the environment, and to generally promoting human flourishing.

After all, this is how we came to have things like organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee, and clothing made from recycled plastic—or bamboo. People decided that the environmental impacts of modern industrial society imposed costs—economic, environmental, and spiritual—that were simply too great to justify the benefits gained thereby. 

Smart growth is concerned with the conservation of resources through reinvestment in existing infrastructure and rehabilitation of historic buildings. 

It is embodied in the design of neighborhoods that position homes near shops, offices, schools, houses of worship, parks, and the like, giving residents more options to walk, bike, or take public transportation. 

Smart growth is mixed land uses, compact building designs, a variety of types of housing, walkable neighborhoods, and natural beauty interspersed with human habitation. 

Smart growth, then, embodies the essence of everything under discussion here: an attempt to achieve greater harmonization between human activities and nature, the demands of enterprise and our desire to see beautiful natural spaces conserved. 

The journey toward sustainability

The journey toward sustainability

There is a growing awareness that human activity must change, must become better in line with nature and with fairness and equity toward all peoples. 

This is the animating ethos of sustainability, an ethical turning away from greed and exploitation, away from cynicism and despair, and toward a sincere effort to reduce the impact of human activities on the earth and on each other.

There is far to go on the journey toward sustainability, and a great many things that have yet to be done. As the examples provided by this article demonstrate, however, a growing number of people are approaching the challenges with determination and hope, and they are overcoming them with the persistence and perseverance of those who know that we must win the future—not only for ourselves, but for all of humanity and all life on earth.

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