What Does Sustainability Mean to You?

Linked Student

What Does It Mean?

Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is a concept that takes into account environmental, social, and economic factors, and aims to balance these elements in a way that is both equitable and responsible.

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  • Environmental Perspective

From an environmental perspective, I think sustainability refers to the ability to maintain and preserve the natural resources and ecosystems that support life on earth. This includes reducing the negative impacts of human activities on the environment, such as pollution, deforestation, and climate change. It also includes using natural resources in a way that is sustainable, meaning that they can be used without depleting them, and ensuring that the earth's ecosystems can continue to function and support life. In practice, this often involves implementing practices such as renewable energy, recycling, and resource management. LEED certification is an example of a rating system that focuses on sustainable buildings and communities.

  • Social Perspective

From a social perspective, sustainability means the ability to meet the needs of present and future generations in terms of social well-being, equity, and justice. This means ensuring that all members of society have access to the resources and opportunities they need to lead fulfilling lives, and that the distribution of these resources is fair and just. This includes ensuring access to basic needs such as food, shelter, education, and healthcare.

  • Economic Perspective

From an economic perspective, in my opinion, sustainability means the ability to meet the needs of present and future generations in terms of economic prosperity and stability. This means promoting economic growth and development while also ensuring that the natural resources and ecosystems that support life on earth are not depleted and that the distribution of wealth and opportunities is fair and equitable. Economic sustainability also means creating systems and institutions that are resilient and adaptive to changing economic conditions, such as market fluctuations and the impacts of climate change. In terms of the built environment, this may mean designing and constructing buildings and infrastructure that are cost-effective and efficient, and that provide long-term economic benefits, such as energy savings and reduced maintenance costs.

What Inspirational Examples Can We Learn From?

Following are some examples of specific projects, products, services, and features that promote sustainability and a sustainable built environment:

The Eden Project in Cornwall, England

A sustainable community, featuring a visitor center and botanical gardens housed in giant biomes that mimic Mediterranean and tropical environments. Some of the key features of the Eden Project include:

  • Renewable energy systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines, provide all of the project's electricity.
  • Water conservation systems, such as rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse
  • Sustainable transportation options, such as electric vehicles and a bike-sharing program
  • Educational programs and workshops on sustainable living, gardening, and conservation.
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The Eden Project also includes a number of sustainable design elements, such as green roofs, natural ventilation, and the use of non-toxic materials. Additionally, it also serves as a model for sustainable community development, promoting social cohesion and community engagement.

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  • The Bullitt Center in Seattle, WA

A six-story commercial building that is considered one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world. It is designed to be net-zero energy, meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes. The building was completed in 2013 and is the first commercial building in the world to be certified under the Living Building Challenge (LBC), which is considered one of the most rigorous and ambitious sustainability programs in the world. Some of the key features of the Bullitt Center include:

  • A super-insulated envelope that reduces heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer
  • Large south-facing windows that allow natural light to flood the interior
  • A rooftop solar array that provides all of the building's electricity
  • A rainwater collection system that provides all of the building's water
  • A composting toilet system that reduces water consumption by 90%.
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They all have different focuses, some more on energy efficiency, some on green infrastructure, others on the health and well-being of building occupants, and so on. But, all of them are considered as best of the best in their respective area of focus.