Taking a Closer Look at What Sustainability Means

Taking a Closer Look at What Sustainability Means

By: Alexandra Lowe, Volunteer Services Assistant
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With the up-coming Sustainability Opportunities Week, I found myself asking what sustainability really means. Typically I associate the topic of sustainability with the environment. You know, recycle, reduce, reuse? But as I was looking organizations participating in the fair, I realized that sustainability encompasses a few more areas that just the environment. Sustainability affects everyone, in many different and meaningful ways.

Sustainability affects everyone, in many different and meaningful ways. After doing a bit of research, I have compiled four main areas that sustainability tends to describe:

Environmental Sustainability: Many of us can probably list off many areas that deal with environmental sustainability. As I said before, recycling and making that we rethink our consumption in order to reduce our carbon foot print are huge areas. A lot of environmental sustainability can include buying local and organic food, taking the bus or riding a bike instead of driving, and powering off lights and electronics when they are not in use. So whether you can engineer, market, or teach environmental sustainability, I highly encourage you to consider it as a career option!

Economic Sustainability: I am not going to get into supply and demand curves, but economic sustainability refers to the ability use resources to maintain a long term. This is a huge area for business – any company you work for has to be economically sustainable in order to keep paying you! Finding out how to use your resources more effectively is an excellent quality in all kinds of different careers.

Social Sustainability: Social sustainability deals with anything regarding creating and maintaining a quality of life. This can be anything from labour laws to general human rights, and can be locally or internationally based. By striving to maintain a social balance, we are allowing everyone to be equal which is a key topic in this day and age.

Cultural Sustainability: This area includes the appreciation and maintenance of various cultural values. Cultural sustainability can be seen in a variety of different ways. My favorite demonstration is through food festivals (yumm the Greek festival!). But in all seriousness, cultural is what gives life so much meaning and we must make sure it is appreciated and maintained in order for it to be sustainable. This is especially important in Canada because of our large multicultural background. So keep on eating… er… I mean appreciating!

So there you have it, a quick brush up on the four categories of sustainability! Each of these areas covers a huge amount of what is considered to be sustainability yet they all differ significantly. Sustainability is all about maintaining a balance in order to make tomorrow as good, if not better, than today. What can you do to ensure that this will be the case?

Posted on January 22, 2013